East Croydon Cool talks…NFTs

East Croydon Cool talks…is a blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts.

We’ve read A LOT about NFTs this year and have become mildly obsessed with how this new type of digital asset is revolutionising the world (and seemingly making a lot of people a lot of money!) Seriously, if you’ve not heard the term, do a quick Google search now – EVERYONE is talking about them. 😉

Whilst NFTs can (and are) impacting many industries and disciplines, the area we are most intrigued by is digital art. Since Croydon is a breeding ground for creative talent, we want to know how our local creatives can benefit from the NFT revolution.

We reached out to various people across the tech, financial and crypto currency industries in Croydon but struggled to find the right person to walk us through it all. Then fate stepped in and BAM…here we are chatting NFTs with Marc Craig, a Croydon based street artist who has painted murals at a wide range of venues across the UK.

Lockdown saw Marc embrace the digital art world and start selling his work as NFTs. During a time that was especially tough for artists (not many people wanted to buy traditional art during a pandemic!), Marc found success in this emerging new market. He went on to set up an Online Gallery (Chopperchunky) through which he promotes other digital artists. His innovative approach to the situation was even recognised by Forbes.

We’re keen to get the NFT conversation started in Croydon and the below interview (our hardest one to date, with multiple back and forths and further research as we grappled with the concept!) gives a simple (ish!) overview of the NFT world.

NFTs have certainly piqued our interest – so much so that we’ve launched our own range of them (which you can see HERE).

We’re hoping to watch plenty of Croydon artists benefit from NFTs over the coming years and so to provide inspiration on some of the benefits of selling in this format, we’re launching Croydon’s first ever NFT exhibition!

Running throughout October, visitors will be able to explore work from 3 Croydon creatives. Hosted online by Chopperchunky Gallery, the ‘Croydon Creatives – the new frontier’ exhibition will showcase NFTs from Johnny Howl Club, Marc Craig and East Croydon Cool. Those wishing to buy an NFT, will need to open a Coinbase account and buy some Cryptocurrency.

The below interview with Marc provides an overview of the NFT world:

So then Marc, in simple terms, what on earth are NFTs?!
NFT stands for non-fungible token. Fungible means an item is interchangeable and replaceable with another identical item. For example, a £1 coin is fungible – it can be swapped with another £1 coin and is exactly the same. A non-fungible item, is something that is not interchangeable and replaceable with another item. It is totally unique. NFTs describe unique digital assets whose ownership is tracked on a blockchain. A blockchain is essentially a database where no one person/institution is in charge of all the information. Crypto currency also works on a Blockchain (i.e. it is digital money whereby no institution is in charge).

Previously, digital assets were very difficult to “own” (and therefore sell). Someone could make a piece of digital art, a meme, a tweet, an infographic etc and it could be shared and seen a million times but the creator was unlikely to be credited (and certainly unlikely to receive any financial renumeration!) When something (such as art) is created in NFT form, the creator/owner is recorded on the blockchain so all future sales can be tracked and managed.

How does that impact artists?
NFTs mean digital art is subject to the same forces as art in the “real life” market: scarcity and authenticity. The impact is considerable because the digital world (a world that artists and creatives operate in) has now been given the green light to recognise authenticity. Ownership of digital art has always been a huge issue so the emergence of NFTs is opening up huge innovation in the creative process with many in the industry already calling it the start of an “artistic renaissance.

How can local Croydon artists create NFT art? What format does it have to be in?
ANYTHING that can be translated into a digital format (for example JEPG, MP3, MP4, GIF) can be turned into an NFT. The only limitation is your imagination. The process is continuously reinventing itself in terms of potential. ANY artistic expression can be accommodated – poetry, dance, music, sculptures, photography, conceptual art. Basically ANYTHING that can be turned into a digital format can be turned into NFT.

What artists have had big success in the NFT world?
There have been well documented examples of artists having huge success in the NFT world. An obvious one is Beeple who managed to achieve dizzy heights of monetary success in the Christie’s exhibition. Beeple’s piece was a collage of 5000 photos he had posted online every day since 2007 and its sale in March of this year, helped fan the flames of NFT mania.

Other notable examples include Burnt Banksy, an artist who bought an original Banksy print, burnt it, filmed it being burnt and turned that film into an NFT which would be worth considerably more than the original Banksy!

Celebrities are also getting in on the game, with some doing one-off NFT drops that have garnered notable success. Here Are the Biggest Celebrities Who Have Launched NFTs – Decrypt

And Musicians too – Kings of Leon did an NFT drop of their album with extra bonuses hidden within the NFT purchase which shed light on how the music industry will become impacted by the concept.

How can local Croydon artists sell NFT art?
The process can seem complex initially, with lots of confusing terminology! But once you slow down and incrementally do each step, you will be ready to rumble and will be launched into the wonderful world of selling (and maybe buying!) NFTs.

In short, you will need a crypto exchange app (to buy crypto currency), a wallet (to buy, sell and store your NFTs) and a platform (to sell your artwork on).

Below is a simple guide to get set up using well known platforms that I have tried and tested, but the NFT world is moving fast and I’m constantly trying out new ones! Do your research and make sure you understand what you’re getting into! Check out a more in-depth guide here: How to make, buy and sell NFTs (cnbc.com)

STEP ONE: Create an Coinbase account (a Cryto-Exchange App)
This is where you buy your cryptocurrency. The most popular cryptocurrency you’ll need when buying and selling NFTS, is Ethereum (also known as ETH). You will need this to pay for minting (listing) fees and also for mining (transaction) fees.

STEP TWO: Get a MetaMask Wallet (a Wallet)
This is basically what you use to mint (list) your NFT on the blockchain and buy other NFTs. It also holds all the NFTs you have (both the ones you own and the ones you buy). There are various other Wallets including Ledger, Binance and Coinbase) but I find MetaMask to be the most user-friendly.

STEP THREE: Open an Opensea account (a Platform)
This is the platform/marketplace where you buy and sell NFTs. There are various other platforms including Rarible, Foundation and Superrare but I find Opensea (which is the biggest) to be the most user-friendly. It also has a mint free listing option. Minting is the process of putting NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain and mint fees can get expensive. But the great thing about Opensea is the mint free listing (as long as when you sell an NFT it is over 1 ETH (ETH being the currency of ETHEREUM)

STEP FOUR: List your NFT
Follow the steps to add your artwork to the Opensea platform. Then get promoting – spread the word that you are now an NFT artist and direct your followers to your OpenSea listing!

When you sell an NFT, you can send the sale back to your Coinbase account from your wallet. This is then placed back into your UK bank account via PayPal (which thankfully is a free process!).

If someone buys an NFT, what do they actually get?!
In simple terms, they are sent a digital file. Buying something digital that you can’t physically touch is something some people struggle get their head around. But people have been buying digital items they can’t touch for years! (eg buying an album on Spotify instead of at HMV). Ok, so perhaps that’s a little easier to understand as you can physically listen to it! But people are also happily buying skins (costumes) for their characters on Fortnite or badges on Candy Crush.

To dig a bit deeper – often people buy things to reflect their personal tastes and identity. In the 1950s, people’s homes became a reflection of their tastes and social standing, containing fancy new TVs or white goods. In the future, people’s wallets will also give a good indication of people’s personal tastes and social credibility– containing digital art, clothing, music, literature etc So whilst you “only” receive a digital file, the value of NFTs comes from exclusivity and scarcity (you are the only person who owns the original).

I will caveat this by saying that some NFT sellers are including more tangible products or experiences within the sale. For example, some artists may include a print of the artwork. Others may include a Virtual Q and A (whereby the buyer gets to speak to the artist online).

Social Media’s favourite entrepreneur, Gary Vee, recently launched his NFT project called VeeFriends in which his NFT artworks of animals come with a ticket to a huge marketing convention and a range of other activities including one on one time with the man himself.

What is the future of NFT art?
This is an incredibly exciting time and things are changing quickly! New platforms on new blockchains are opening all the time, offering a more dynamic experience in creating NFTs. This is enabling positive competition that is helping improve the NFT experience overall. Many people are taking the concept to exciting new levels and it is being influenced by the rapidly growing Crypto Currency market. The scope of use for NFTs is really starting to become evident. As such it is spreading into other industries and areas but at its core will always be the creatives. There is a growing and highly active global community of artists who are helping each other (especially on Clubhouse). The future for artists holds thousands of unique collaborations, upgrades to creative practice and additional sources of (potentially life changing) income. In addition to the ‘Croydon Creatives – the new frontier’ exhibition, I am also working on another HUGELY EXCITING project that I hope to announce in October…it should be something everyone in Croydon can get involved in – including charities, businesses and creatives!!!

How can Croydon’s creative community embrace the NFT world?
Ultimately, by keeping an open mind! NFTs initially invite resistance because they seem so alien to the normal ways of experiencing creative practice. But once you understand the concept of their creating exclusivity there is a liberation of creative thinking that lifts the bar of potential. The interplay between NFT and real world has been illustrated many times but here are a couple of examples of ways NFT projects could help both Croydon and its creative community:

*Using NFT art to raise money to create site specific murals (which would then fund Croydon based artists to create them).

*Offer locally based creative experiences as part of the NFT sale. You can attach anything to the purchase of the NFT for example, a screen-printing lesson with a local artist.

To summarise, Croydon is in an amazing position to be the first London Borough to not only embrace this exciting new way of creating, buying and selling art but to really be at the forefront of using to revitalise the town and helping it realise its true potential. So watch this space on 1st October when we’ll be posting the link to this new exhibition; the first of it’s kind in Croydon.

About Chopperchunky Gallery
The Chopperchunky Gallery is delighted to invite dynamic artists of numerous disciplines to showcase their work on an exciting new creative platform that incorporates a 3D virtual gallery space. With these unprecedented changing times transforming how we show our respective creative talents the Chopperchunky Gallery is committed to exploring this new frontier. For more information, see www.chopperchunky.com

About ‘Croydon Creatives – the new frontier’
Croydon’s first ever NFT exhibition will run from 1st to 31st October and showcase the work of local creatives Johnny Howl Club, Marc Craig and East Croydon Cool. 

About Marc Craig
Marc Craig is a UK street artist who lives in Croydon. Marc studied Contemporary Visual Arts at University College, Falmouth. He has painted murals at a range of esteemed venues, including Tate Britain, the Royal College of Art, UBS and the Banksy Tunnel in Leake Street. He runs a creative collaborative platform called Psychodoodlz, which works with charities, schools and mental health groups.

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