It was an honor to be one of 10 in the world to be involved with the initial Alpha Test of Facebook’s support of NFTs — digital collectibles — between June 27 and July 22. During the initial test period, I interviewed several NFT Artists from across the world who were kind enough to share their work, and time, to explain their Art in relation to the distribution and sale of Non-Fungible Tokens. Here is the content of those engaging conversations!
Ian Jones is an established Artist living in the UK. His fascinating blend of fantasy and antiquity have always spoken to me on a lizard-brain – but utterly human – level of fantasy pricking fact into fiction. Here is our conversation about his insightful NFT Artwork. Be sure to click on his NFT to be provided more information about the image!
BOLES: What are your learned, educational, influences when it comes to translating, and adapting the history of an image in your memory into a new moment to be shared as a purchasable NFT? What are the considerations? The context? The process of believing? What causes you to reject an idea and take up a different idea?
IAN JONES: My NFT projects differ from collection to collection, but rarely stray from my Neo Expressionist roots. I have 2 main collections currently. One is pure expressionism, full of colour and vibrancy, and the other contains images that have Darker, more brooding content. My NFT works are either existing images from my back catalogue that I have decided to release as an NFT version, or they are specifically created to fit an NFT theme/project. I would say my NFTs are probably an even split of new and existing work. I have well over 1500 pieces of work in my back catalogue. Rejecting ideas and constant experimentation is my usual Artistic practice so this is not very different in NFTs. In fact I actually endeavour to keep my NFT practice/strategy as similar to my real life Art business. I treat the two exactly the same.
BOLES: The price of NFTs have been falling. Art is always about the economy – either of spirit, or of the purchase price. ETH has been trending downward. Are you concerned about these economic tremblings in the crypto marketplace? Do you try to appease these trends in pricing, or do you ignore the value arcs with niche pricing so you don’t lose the motivation to press forward your work?
IAN JONES: Of course I would prefer it if Eth hadn’t fallen quite so much, but I wouldn’t say that I’m overly concerned about it, as I’m aware that this is the nature of the Crypto Art world. I see a lot of my peers drastically reducing their prices to maintain sales, but this is not something I plan to do myself. My work has a value that remains, despite market pressures and fluctuations, and in time hopefully that value will increase benefiting both myself as an artist and also my collectors.
BOLES: You have transformed pre-existing Artwork that lives in a physical, 3D world, and made it into an ethereal NFT. How do you decide what pieces to convert for electronic sale, and how do you manage the idea of ownership between the existing physical piece and the NFT? Are the rights different? Do collectors understand the difference? Who ultimately owns the IP (Intellectual Property) with your work? Are you concerned about the conversion of creativity?
IAN JONES: I think it’s an interesting question. I think most collectors in the NFT space are predominantly more interested in the NFT itself, rather than physical Art. I see the two as completely separate. I did release a few pieces that included the physical piece, but only 1 collector actually claimed the original work. And whilst all collectors are different, from my experience, most aren’t that interested in physical work. I think once a work of Art becomes an NFT, that is in its own right, an entity distinctly different to the physical piece. So in this marvellous digital age, it is possible for a piece to have 2 originals, the physical and the digital (NFT). Most of my NFTs are 1/1s helping to keep the two more similar. One common misinterpretation with NFTs is that the collector owns the IP. In reality the collector owns the digital NFT version of that piece but the IP, copyright, right to reproduce commercially, remains with the creator. Although I have no problem with a collector having a physical print made of an NFT that they own for personal use.
BOLES BONUS QUESTION: Describe your employment of color, and texture, as an expression into a flat NFT. Do you trick the eye or accommodate the mind? Where is your intention pressed? You sometimes use fanciful chalk and transparency in concert with a thick, heavy, darkness to create a series of NFTs. What guides your choices of faces, and bodies, and being, into comprehensive categories that you know will sell?
IAN JONES BONUS ANSWER: I think the process is exactly the same between the creation of a regular piece of Art and that of an NFT. As an Artist, it’s my job to trick the viewer’s eye and excite them visually and conceptually. This duty remains the same whether physical or digital. After all a canvas is still also just a flat, 2 dimensional plane. I love bright colours. This comes from my love of comic books and graffiti. I utilise lots of different tools and media in my work to provide a varied visual language full of contrasting marks. This is true for both digital and physical work. I sometimes use very dark backgrounds, simply to make the bright colours ‘pop’ even more. I wish I knew whether something will sell or not! Invariably, the pieces that I, the creator, gets most excited about, are the ones that hang around for ages waiting for a buyer.
My new friend iGBA from Russia and I met on my Discord server where he posted wonderful images of his NFT Art to spark feedback and conversation while he was momentarily in exile. The community shared great ideas about his work, and our emotional connection to it. In this piece of NFT Art – its video animation lasts only 8 seconds, the number of eternity – iGBA challenges us with the conflict of an adversarial existence: the sorrows confounding the war within us all. You may click on the NFT to get more information on the genesis of this Artwork. iGBA used software to translate my English questions in Russian and he then counter-translated his Russian answers into English replies.
BOLES: You are currently in Russia. Do you feel safe? Are you and your family okay? Can you explain how your philosophy of knowing, and your life experiences, combine to influence what you decide to create in your NFTs? Can Art save the world, or merely distract us from the reality crushing around us?
iGBA: Thank you for your questions. Yes, I’m back in Russia. I can’t tell you much about it. If I say too much, my family could get in trouble. My father lost his job because of his political beliefs. Even the word “war” is forbidden here. I am a 3rd generation artist. My mother was against art school. She drew on her sad experience. I was sent to a medical institute. My medical education and fascination with philosophy, anthropology and mysticism have influenced what I create. I use different tools and different techniques. NFT is a new art movement. We live in a time in history. Mankind along with technology is getting closer to the secret where technology merges with spirit. The blockchain system is like a matrix of the earth. I create an NFT and it can be printed or it is originally a digitized piece. It reminds me of the human body. Each of us is unique. The code is written in the earth matrix. And even when we lose our body our spirit (token) continues to exist in the universal matrix. Reminiscent of the NFT? We can destroy a physical canvas or delete a file, but it continues to exist as a token. And the real control of its fate is in the blockchain. As for my NFTs. I leave messages, they can be sensory observations. Experienced emotions of everyday life. Or secret “keys.” Art is everywhere. I don’t mean just paintings or sculptures. All technologies and inventions are also an act of art. Just like nature draws its own works. It is enough to look around.
BOLES: You have spoken eloquently about the – “duality of life” – that grey area between the dawn and the glowering of the day. When you consider the future against the past, where do you know your NFT Art speaks best to your audience in tone, composition, and intention?
iGBA: My Art speaks using tone and composition. I create many fragments showing diversity. And at the same time these disparate parts form a single image. Just as our planet has different parts, different peoples, landscapes, inhabitants – but we are one. If we go to space we see a blue planet. It is whole. But as we get closer, we can distinguish the details. As for Tone, it’s more of an emotion.
BOLES: As a creator, what are the perceptual differences between color and light you want your collectors to understand?
iGBA: I choose a color based on a feeling. If I feel that the color is not appropriate, I choose a new one. The process is like meditation. There are no thoughts, only feelings. They guide me.
BOLES (Bonus Question!): Tolstoy said, “As a man has two ways of avoiding seeing an object that is before him: either by diverting his sight to other more striking objects, or by obstructing the sight of his own eyes.” What is the one thing you want us all to see, and embed, in your Art, and why is that important to you?
iGBA (Bonus Answer): Different facets of a person: emotions, feelings, fanaticism, secrets. At first glance they are contradictory topics. But remember, I said above – if you look at the Earth from space, it is one. I, like all living people, experience emotions, feelings, worries. These emotions were felt by Socrates who lived thousands of years ago. These emotions will be felt by our descendants. But at the same time, looking at the starry sky, I think about the eternal, the secret. Through art I immortalize my thoughts, wanderings, fantasies.
I have known Gordon Davidescu for over a lifetime of centuries – or so it seems – as we conquered the world together, and set the universe on fire together. We wrote together, published together, danced together, and wept together. Gordon is also a valued member of the weekday Boles.tv live stream – arriving each day at 9am Eastern! – and Gordon’s first NFT was inspired by a conversation we had during that live stream. Click on his NFT to see all the details about Gorodn’s Art!
BOLES: For your first NFT, you chose to memorialize a story shared on the Boles.tv live stream about the death of composer Marc Blitzstein who was murdered in Martinique in 1964. What was it about that story that sparked your creative impulse to suspend Marc’s killing in NFT amber?
GORDON DAVIDESCU: As I heard you telling the story, I immediately envisioned it and how I would make it into an NFT. Something about the story was so compelling – the fact that this man was so wrongfully murdered and for no reason other than being himself!
BOLES: Describe the materials you decided to use in your NFT. They appear to be the tools of “found Art” that reflexively mediates the 19th-century American Folk Art Movement.
GORDON DAVIDESCU: In a sense they were very much found art — my children love to use construction paper to make crafts, and I always encourage them to save their scraps. I took a piece of cardboard that was the insert from a box of cat food (a case of the cups of wet cat food that have stiff cardboard inserts on either end to keep the cups of cat food from breaking out of the box) and then took scraps of construction paper that they had put into the scraps box and formed them to make the art.
BOLES: Now that you have found success in the first publication of your NFT, will you create more NFT Art? I know your family has some environmental concerns about the ongoing maintenance, and growth, of the Blockchain, but that is being addressed. Do you see any other warnings ahead – beyond energy consumption – for the verifiable “contract ownership” of a piece of Art?
GORDON DAVIDESCU: I think they are also concerned that it is also a big scam – and part of that comes into play when there’s the mention of having to pay gas fees in order to merely list an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain. I plan on making many more pieces of NFT art, and to fund the gas fees by selling special NFT art on the Polygon network and then converting that to Ethereum, and using that to pay for gas fees. I have some paint from the school supplies they were sent last year that were not fully used, and plan on using some of that to even try painting a few pieces. I’m certainly no Sabet talent wise but I will do my best to be my best Gordon Davidescu!
BOLES BONUS QUESTION: If you looked back into the history of the known world, what one event would you hope to capture in an NFT that would encourage us to forever remember and dare not forget?
GORDON DAVIDESCU BONUS ANSWER: I would say the death of Lepa Radic, the Yugoslavian freedom fighter who was executed by Nazis at age 17.
Janna Sweenie is my beloved wife of 34 years. We both publicly claim we are only 36 years old, so there’s a new math problem lurking in there somewhere. Anyway… Janna and I have been teaching American Sign Language online since 1995 with our HardcoreASL.com learning portal. We’ve written scores of books together, and now, we’re hardily treading into the tremulous, but fascinating, world of the NFT distribution of ideas.
BOLES: You have taught ASL online, and in person, and in writing, and on multimedia websites. What is the difference between those established teaching formats and teaching via an NFT?
JANNA SWEENIE: NFTs allow multiple pathways for learning, and all of them are dynamic. You can create an NFT for a classroom student, or for virtual private tutoring, or you can create a longer form NFT that is distributed to an entire class. It is all done with a multimedia NFT. You can attach unlockable content to that NFT – like, say a PDF file, or additional static images – that includes text assignments that support the NFT teaching. One enhances the other. Each teaches the next.
BOLES: So NFTs are about distribution?
JANNA SWEENIE: Yes. Decentralized publication equitably and securely right in the hands of the people where it belongs. Anyone can now become a protected publisher of content and not be too worried about getting ripped off. An NFT can be a speech, a shared idea, a learning module. NFTs don’t have to just be static images. You can make NFTs move with the flow of thought and teaching. You also defeat the established, mainline, publishing industry – that is pretty much closed off to many because of economic discrimination, intellectual bigotry, and social gatekeeping – with NFTs, you can now securely target, and defend, your original content. You can even get a cut of future NFT resales to build your annuity. It’s socialized inclusion of the many against the few.
BOLES: Are the days of right-click image stealing behind us?
JANNA SWEENIE: In a way, “yes.” If your NFTs are more than just a static image with added utility, then there is an inherent protection in the creative process. Your NFT can’t be successfully unlocked, and used, unless there is some form of verified transfer, or payment, in the process of end user acquisition, even with repeated resales. Everyone wins. Consumers have unique content that belongs only to them, and creators-as-publishers can be safe in the knowledge that their work is guarded by a decentralized blockchain. The overall “free” distribution of ideas is the real winner here, and yes, that bothers the established chain of command because it usurps their authority and exclusivity. NFTs are the new human, binding, contracts for us all.
BOLES BONUS QUESTION: Other than teaching, what other forms of content might be used for a protected NFT?
JANNA SWEENIE BONUS ANSWER: Well, you could sell a unique musical performance or a dramatic soliloquy – either as a 1/1 or as a shared experience for many people. Dying wishes could be NFTs. Final Wills and Testaments should be NFTs. A love letter, of course! Transfer of ownership with blockchain provenance. It’s really the way we’ll be memorializing personal experiences and guaranteeing business work in the future right now.
Alexander Grushchansky lives in Ukraine and is presently embroiled in a war with Russia that neither he, nor his country, wanted. I had the honor of meeting Alexander on social media, and we quickly became friends in both our shared love of Art, and in our complete, and total, dismay as an entire sovereign country is under attack – for no reason other than one man’s selfishness, and hunger, for a punishing, nationalized, Authoritarianism. Here is our tremulous conversation about Alexander’s life preserved in NFT Art. Be sure to click on the image to get more information about his NFT collection!
BOLES: Your NFT – that is a photograph – called “Graduation During the War” is both arresting and alarming! A beautiful family, dressed in their best clothes, proudly stand in front of a bombed building. Share with us the story behind that image and your craft, and your want to capture that scene for an NFT.
ALEXANDER GRUSHCHANSKY: This photo is from the collection of war diaries of Ukraine. This collection contains photos from the first days of the war, some photos made by me, some sent by the guys from the front, or to share with other people. Some of the photos I process to convey the experience of ordinary people who have come home to war. In this NFT are graduates who on their graduation party stand near the ruins of their school. This is not really my craft, this is a desire to pass on to future generations and the world that the war is not just politics, it is the lost lives of people.
BOLES: How has the war in Ukraine changed you as a man, and as an Artist? I know you do your best to help front line soldiers, yet your wife and children are also at risk every day. What is a day like for you? How do you keep the intention of your life alive through your deeds and shared Art?
ALEXANDER GRUSHCHANSKY: I have a large family, my wife and I have four children. My youngest daughter is 6 years old and I hope she will be able to go to school this year. The eldest is 20 years old and my son and daughter are studying at a technical college. For me, the war was a real shock. I remember the day we woke up to explosions in the next town, panic, fear for my family. People were leaving their homes, there was a traffic jam on the roads. The only good thing was that literally on the second day of the war, people rallied together. At our own expense and with our own hands we built roadblocks. We were on duty for free, and people brought food and hot tea. After the enemy was driven away from Kiev, I began by searching for missing people and evacuating them from the dangerous region, all of which we did for free. And I saw the terrible things the Russian army was doing. I especially remember the case when we rescued a civilian who had been held captive by the Russians in Irpin. That they abused and killed civilians is one thing. But I was horrified to learn from him that they were raping 12-15 year old girls. After the enemy was pushed back even further, I started volunteering at a veteran organization. Before that I was able to find time to draw, I drew art and made NFT. But now unfortunately I do not have time to draw, and I’m working on a collection of Ukrainian war diaries. I try to process the photos to convey how people feel. One friend of mine lost his house and lives in a hostel not far from me. One died defending his home. Many of my friends are at the front. We collect money, buy equipment, medicines and everything they need and bring them. We are repairing and handing over cars. I tweet some of our work on Twitter (@AGrusanskij). There is a great risk in such trips, but we all want to preserve our country and freedom for our children. My wife and children live in a region where it is less dangerous, but of course I worry about them. And we agreed that if it was very dangerous, she would go to my friends in Holland and I would stay here.
BOLES: What made you decide to publish your Art as an NFT? What are the benefits to publishing on the blockchain? What are the dangers? Describe the hidden values that few collectors realize are intrinsic in your work?
ALEXANDER GRUSHCHANSKY: NFT is an opportunity for a person to express what he has in the middle without fear of criticism or misunderstanding. I have only had two sales, and I understand that I am not a famous person, but I believe that time will pass and my collections will be of interest to future generations. And blockchain allows you to store these works without fear of losing them. One of my collections is called My Crazy Life. In it I really pour out all my emotions. Sometimes I think I’m going crazy, and the release of emotions in the image allows me to go on living. I must say that money is important, especially now when prices are going up, there’s almost no income, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to express my emotions, as if I shared my feelings with a stranger, it helps a lot. I go to bed late, because in the evening I have an opportunity to talk or to express in an image all that has accumulated during the day.
BOLES BONUS QUESTION: You shared with me an NFT you created that – detailed in the description – included the sale of your soul. What was your intention with that sale, and what was included in the sale price? How does one imbue a soul in a Non-Fungible Token? Is it appropriate for anyone – other than the Devil – to make an offer on the collecting of a human soul? I loved the NFT, and I would’ve purchased it if the price were not so astronomically high – but what would I have collected if the sale completed?
ALEXANDER GRUSHCHANSKY BONUS ANSWER: NFT – soul sale, refers to the collection, my crazy life. It is an artwork drawn at the beginning of the war, the idea of selling the soul is crazy, it came to me at a time when my friend died. I want to go to defend my country, and I understand that most likely it will be so. The only thing that scares me is that my children will be left without their father’s help. I am really ready to sell my soul for my children to live in a free country, to get an education, and I would be calm. The value of 150 Ethereum is insanely high, and of course I realize that no one will buy it. But if that happened I would feel safe at the front, and to a buyer I would give all my history in the war, I would give all my works as a gift. I have never been after the money, but now I realize that this amount would have helped my children and our organization as well. Although I understand that this is just a crazy idea that came from the emotions of hopelessness and fear for their children. And as for whether it is possible to put the soul into NFT, I think that an artist puts a part of his soul into his work, and here I am ready to give someone everything for the opportunity to understand that my children can get an education, and my wife can provide for them if something bad happens to me. I also thank you for the opportunity to say what I have kept to myself. I would also like to thank all those who help us and my country, and for the interest in my work. And also to everyone who helps me to fill my collection of war diaries of Ukraine, the money from the sale of these photos will go to help the defenders of Ukraine, because many photos were sent to me by different people and soldiers. I am trying to emphasize as well as to put meaning into these photos. Peace to you all, love life, appreciate your loved ones, they are the greatest happiness for us. Live so that you will be remembered with a smile after you are gone for a long time.
I met Ishita Banerjee of Soul Curry Art several months ago when I started digging into the meaning of crypto and the advantages of collecting NFT (Non-Fungible Token) Artwork. I was intrigued with her beautiful use of color in context and how she broke apart bits of the human psyche to express the chaos enflooding the world. When I approached her with a few questions about her work process she not only welcomed my inquiries she taught me how to think of NFTs as collectable Artwork in a whole new way. When Facebook approached me to be a part of their NFT Alpha and Beta test, I knew the first Artist I wanted to celebrate was Ishita. Please enjoy these series of Questions and Answers reflecting the reflexivity of the creative process.
BOLES: Your use of color and light arrives in soft whispers and then blazes of insight. Can you describe your process for creating a scene within a context and within a frame and then deciding how to refine it for clarity in storytelling?
ISHITA BANERJEE: My use of color is preempted by the mood and the association of the subject of my art. I often gravitate towards warmer tones first, working with high contrast colors when the intent is to draw the eye towards certain parts of the composition. My color palette draws inspiration from my South Asian heritage. Rich vermilion, turmerics, cerulean, peacock, and earthy tones play a very prominent role in my work, stemming from my roots that come from India. I deliberately like to use both the negative and the positive spaces of the artwork. Much like people and emotions, the positive and negative blend and flow in unison. I often start from the central points of my frame working outwards. My compositions are spontaneously made, in flow state. My own emotions and feelings merging and blending with my art. I also like completing the entire piece in black and white first. Chances are that if something works in b/w, it will work with color as well.
BOLES: How do you decide what to create? What is your winnowing process? Is there such a thing as a bad idea? What sort of structure of intention do you employ when planning a series of life captures?
ISHITA BANERJEE: My pieces are a reflection of our shared humanity. Moods, feelings and associations that link people in unique ways. Our shared human experiences form the positive spaces in the composition. I enjoy studying people. Trying to read between the lines, finding things unsaid and unexpressed in the nuances of our everyday. Deliberately seeking the broken and the bruised, I try to look at beauty in the unexpected. My own life journey and its ups and downs drive me to draw and paint in colors that come intuitively. I don’t think there’s anything such as a bad idea. Any idea, mood or feeling can be an interpretation. These interpretations can be translated into an artwork. I believe in explorations and growing with the art that I create. Oftentimes, it is the unconventional or abstract ideas that lead me to see things in a new light.
BOLES: Is there a difference between sales and taste? Would you create an NFT on commission even if the subject matter didn’t fit your aesthetic? Is there any sort of bargaining in that process? How do you decide the separation between a multiple sale of one piece versus the creation of a 1/1?
ISHITA BANERJEE: I think there is a difference between sales and taste. Taste is like an inherent style that stems from an individual’s own experiences. Some people might find bright colors tasteful, while others find taste in neutrals. Both can coexist. Both individual choices. Sales are a reflection of the current trends. Our exposure to marketing, what the market tells is current at a particular moment in time. It is an assimilation of what we are currently exposed to, in where we are in the world at this very moment of time. Driven by marketing and projections. Not everything that sells is necessarily tasteful and the opposite is true as well. Trends, marketing and sales follow cycles. Taste, however, is a constant. As an artist, no subject matter is too much. It is always open to interpretation. I like being challenged as an artist, to push out of what is my comfort zone. That’s where I grow the most. I would however, draw the line at creating something that is not aligned with my own value systems and purely for sales purposes. I look at my art as my legacy. Pieces and markers in my timeline. So I would have to love what I create in order to put my name to it. When I push out of the comfort of my own experiences, and create pieces that I feel are vividly a new approach, exploration or direction, I would offer those pieces as 1/1. I love surprising myself with my work. The pieces I offer as editions are also along these same lines. Not every piece I make makes its way to a marketplace to be sold. I am selective of what I want to say. I like to offer my art as smaller editions in order to be approachable. Art is to be enjoyed by everyone. I want my art to be accessible to people without deep pockets. I want my art to reach far and wide. I also want my art pieces to be instantly recognizable as a Soul Curry Artwork, and for that accessibility is important. Not everyone is a holder for life, so I think editions give people room to make a profit should they decide to sell in the secondary.
BOLES: How does Abstraction inform Realism?
ISHITA BANERJEE: Abstractions don’t exist without realism. Abstracts are an interpretation of reality, of an individual’s own experiences. I don’t think it can exist without a realistic starting point.
BOLES: What is the future of NFTs? Will the selling and collecting process change? What challenges do you see in ownership, IP, and secondary sales?
ISHITA BANERJEE: I see the technology of NFTs just at its infancy at the moment. We’ve just been exposed to the initial concepts of it. Ownership, provenance is here to stay. I hope to see collectors also make royalties as they become part of the NFT ecosystem. I see the future with wearable art, owned though NFTs. I see more artists explore with giving IP of their art to make it prolific
BOLES (BONUS QUESTION): Do you draw more curved lines over straight lines or do you draw more straight lines over curved lines?
ISHITA BANERJEE (BONUS ANSWER): I make my pieces in structure first, finding the harmony, symmetry, geometry and the alignment of the artwork is as important as the visual representation itself. After that, I love to break this structure. Either with organic lines, softened edges, threaded lines and superimposed forms. Our emotions, moods and feelings don’t follow a structure, so my representation of these subjects don’t follow it either. They flow and evolve in organic movement.