NFT craze helps Dallas digital artists sell their work

The NFT craze is a huge opportunity for digital artists in North Texas, who often have have struggled to sell their work and expose it beyond social media, where it can easily be captured with a screenshot. Essentially art stored on a digital ledger known as blockchain to verify authenticity and ownership, so-called non-fungible tokens have turned their works into unique digital assets that can be bought and sold.

Magdiel Lopez, a digital artist who designs posters that are mostly posted on his Instagram account with over 100,000 followers, has sold a handful of his works as NFTs.

“My collectors were all followers before this NFT trend happened,” Lopez says. “These people really appreciate my work and they want to own it. A JPEG can be an original copy of a work that belongs to a person, such as a painting. Digital artists finally have a way to do some of the practices that used to be reserved for physical artists.

McKane’s NFT combines pollution data at marine sanctuaries with his own photo of a mangrove tree to take stock of ocean ecosystems.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

Lopez believes art has already been digitized for many over a decade.

“Most people haven’t seen the mona-lisa in person,” Lopez says. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t recognize it or take advantage of it. You may even be able to enjoy it better than in a museum, where you may have two minutes before you have to move because there are people behind you. You can probably get a better experience on your phone.

Oil painter and digital artist Kelsey Heimerman also makes NFTs.

“Digital assets aren’t going away, and NFTs allow you to grow in this space,” she says. “It’s something the world craved. I think there will be a day when a collector’s home will be total white box space, and he’ll hand you a pair of Google Goggles to view his entire art collection.

She’s also thrilled that artists get a percentage – usually 10% to 15% – every time their NFT is resold.

“It’s a liberation of artists who are excluded from the wealth that their creations actually make,” says Heimerman. “Before, we could sell an original painting that could then be sold for a million dollars, and we would never see any of that money.”

Along with Lopez, muralist Michael Shellis and designer Temi Coker exhibited NFTs earlier this month in a physical pop-up gallery.

“There’s a whole market out there that’s even more greedy than the physical paint market for these NFTs,” says Shellis. “NFTs are going to change art for good. We now live in front of screens. I think it will be a rare thing to walk up to a wall and look at a physical painting. Anyway, we always look at our phones, and now you can own art on your phone.

“It’s like this digital arts renaissance,” says Coker, who helped create the Oscars statuette this year. “It’s immortalizing digital art.”

Underwater photographer Jeremy McKane, who makes art that addresses environmental issues, is now using NFTs as a tool to raise awareness about marine pollution. For his latest work, McKane combines pollution data at marine sanctuaries collected by drones with a 3D digital master of his photo of a mangrove, a shrub that helps stabilize coastal ecosystems.

“Our environment is leaving at an unprecedented rate, largely because of what we can’t see. The data I pull from these drones identifies the pollution, digitizes it, and injects it into the JPEG as hexadecimal, causing a problem and at some point won’t allow it to open.

In other words, his NFT mimics how pollution destroys coastal ecosystems.

“I think constraints breed creativity,” McKane says of the recent rise of NFTs, which he’s been aware of for years. “And COVID was a constraint that a lot of artists felt. They couldn’t create like they once could.

With an image that changes based on environmental variables, McKane’s work may be an example of NFT eventually becoming generative art.

“If it changes or adapts, it becomes a true living work of art,” says McKane. “I think that’s where it’s at.”

McKane acknowledges that there are many unimaginative NFTs out there, and some people are just interested in a cash grab.

“The real impact, which is why we create art to begin with, is to change perceptions about how we see the world,” he says.

But Lopez thinks the money is reason enough to be excited about NFTs.

“A lot of digital artists are thrilled to be appreciated,” says Lopez. “There’s a lot of validation that comes with the money.”

Marilyn M. Davis