~/topics/Breaking into NFTs: A Guide for Artists
Updated May 27, 2021

🌠 Breaking into NFTs: A Guide for Artists

This presentation is open source (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Breaking into NFTs: A Guide for Artists

Video (pre-recorder/rehearsal with additional content)

Hello World!

Thank you to the wonderful folks of ARTogether for organizing this event.

ARTogether - Breaking into NFTs


Technology enthusiast, Distributed system engineer (I make lots of computers talk to each-other).

I have an affinity with blockchain due to academic research (10+ years ago). Consensus, the math underlying blockchain technology.

I have little interest in cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

Reducing blockchain to cryptocurrency is like reducing music to guitar playing. The universe of music is bigger than guitars. The universe of blockchain is bigger than cryptocurrencies.


Technology can improve people’s lives, or worsen it them. Often it does both at the same time.

The widespread adoption of the lightbulb made it easy to see in the dark. But it also made it harder to see the stars.

Same goes for any other technology. Agriculture, the steam engine, antibiotics, radioactivity, the internet, smartphones, …

Nothing is inherently “good” or “bad”.

Same is true for blockchain. Polarized opinions pro/against blockchain miss the larger picture.

Trusted Intermediaries

Before jumping to the future, let’s talk about the present.

Today, we depend on a number of service and companies to do anything.

To buy toilet paper, use Amazon which puts you in contact with a seller. This is convenient and secure.

To talk to your friends, talk to Facebook, they will relay they message for you.

For better or worse, this is the state of things.

These companies have a huge amount of power over us.

A Wild Blockchain Appears…

I’m excited about blockchain because I imagine uses that shift this power un-balance.

It can help us connect more directly to each-other, without a company as intermediary.

The most famous example is Bitcoin. A currency that exists outside of the system and outside of the control of governments and banks.

I am optimistic, but also scared. Blockchain can be used for things I don’t like:


Illustrates the potential of blockchain, when put to good use.

Curaçao citizens re-bootstrapped their economy on the blockchain in 2020

Tiny economy, not gonna happen in the USA. But still an interesting case study.

DAOs, Escrow contracts and shared treasury

On a personal note, I do use blockchain to work with and for strangers on the internet.

Bitcoin vs Ethereum vs Blockchain

Bitcoin is a single-purpose blockchain. It does exactly one thing: transfer Bitcoin from one wallet to another. Nobody controls the network, everyone can participate. Everything is open-source.

Ethereum is a general purpose blockchain. It can be use to create all sorts of decentralized applications (dApps). Currencies, voting systems, games, many kinds of NFTs, …

Blockchain is a method of building decentralized applications. Dozens of variants exists. With different tradeoffs and advantages.

Elephant in the room: Blockchain is bad for the environment! 😑

It is true that Bitcoin (not blockchain) is responsible for a lot of CO2 emissions.

I like bitcoin but choose not to invest in it, because I don’t want to feed the beast.

Bitcoin vs Ethereum Power Usage

This shines the light on a larger problem in our society: we are not paying the true cost of the pollution we create.

Every cup of coffee we buy, use, and throw away, generates waste. Nobody is paying for the true cost of disposal.

The same is true for everything else we do.

Bitcoin just makes it very easy to calculate this cost because it’s a simple transformation from electricity and (CO2) to money.

Similar amounts of electricity are wasted posting avocado toast pictures on instagram. But that’s a lot harder to calculate. And so harder to point the finger to it.

We need to address this problem at the root, if we want to make a difference.

Bitcoin is just a symptom.

Later on: ways blockchain can be good for the environment.


A 3-letter words known to cause FOMO and anxiety among artists.

The NFT craze

Nowadays, NFT is synonym with “little bit of digital art sold for a ludicrous price”

Great example: “Nothing Fucking There” QR code in NYC.

Nothing Fucking There

Business model works like this: create something unique and tell as many people as you can. If even one or two people fall for it, you’re rich.

A billboard in NYC is very expensive. They only need 1 shmuck to make it worth it.

Reminds me of the “I am rich!” iPhone app

I am rich!


Auctioning one-of-a-kind NFT is an option.

“Stay Free - Edward Snowden”. Raised $5.5M for charity.

Stay Free - Edward Snowden

Public domain art, one person owns “bragging rights”.

Each NFT is inherently unique, even if you produce 1000 identical ones.

Just like each diploma awarded by a university is unique. We don’t need to burn a school down after awarding a single diploma.


NFTs can be really interesting for digital artists.

Interesting parallel with piracy boom of late 90s. Billions were wasted fighting piracy, nothing really worked.

Legal and convenient ways to watch movies became available (e.g., Netflix, iTunes). Soon after, piracy dropped significantly.

NFT could do the same for digital art.

Most people want to pay for what they take.

Your art is infinitely replicable at no cost. Preventing copies is a fool’s errand.

I would have paid for all the art I “stole” for this presentation.

NFT: Digital certificates

Think of NFTs as micro-certificates that anyone can create, send, receive.

They can be auto-minted when someone sends you money!

You don’t need to set up a store.

Some examples

NFT as token of appreciation

Proof of thought/care ❀️

More environmentally friendly than paper that need to be produced, moved, recycled. They last forever and take no space

Proof of presence πŸ™‹β€β™‚οΈ

Collectible, and carry bragging rights

NFT as receipt

Proof of donation

Donor can proudly display them on their homepage/portfolio.

Example: WWF Project Ark

Proof of purchase

Release an albums for free online, send an NFT to anyone that purchases legally. Later, supporters could get priority access or discount to concert tickets.

NFT as endorsement

Proof of service provided or achievement

More secure and environmentally friendly.


Can be used to build reputation that is otherwise hard to prove. Can be used as future reference

This is just the beginning

We barely scratched the surface of what is possible with blockchain and NFTs today.

Today is just the tip of the iceberg compared to what will be possible in a few years.

I am overall positive and very excited for what’s to come (and scared of the unintended consequences).

One more thing

Crypto art communities recommended by friends.



Women of Crypto Art (WOCA)


Defiant Pixel Society

Ask me for an invite

Clean NFTs


A recording of this presentation is available online if you want to rewatch. If you liked it, please share it with your friends!

I love to give introductory tech talks to non-technical audience. Pro-bono. (Blockchain, AI, Quantum computing, online security, and more)

Shoot me an email for questions/clarifications.