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Proof of work: Bitcoin artists on minting NFTs and OpenSea

“Art is not a thing, it is a means,” said American writer Elbert Hubbard. For Bitcoin (BTC) artists, the path draws inspiration from Bitcoin, its code, philosophy, and imagery. In some cases, it’s even inspired by memes. Bitcoin has become a “lifestyle” for some Bitcoin artists, inspiring the way they do business, accept payments, and interact with customers.

Cointelegraph asked Bitcoin artists what inspired them about 13-year-old Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention, and whether minting a non-fungible token (NFT) would complement their “way” of making art. After all, an NFT is a unique digital receipt to prove ownership of a purchase that lives on a blockchain. Surely artists will want to prove that they own the art they’ve worked hard on?

Lena poses with one of her works of art. Source: justlenasart

Lena, a bitcoin artist who recently moved from Germany to Dubai, who respects cryptocurrencies, started creating, painting and printing bitcoin artwork after diving down the bitcoin rabbit hole in 2018. She says that although she started her crypto career as a crypto-agnostic, Bitcoin changed her approach and eventually took over. It now operates a “maxi-style” bitcoin wallet:

“My mindset changed and I started working on myself, wondering what to do with my life because of bitcoin. Bitcoin has become like a lifestyle, so I should put all my savings into bitcoin .

When speaking with members of the crypto community, she explains that she is a bitcoin artist, to which crypto enthusiasts ask, “oh, so you do NFTs?” She told Cointelegraph that she replied, “No! Physical art!

“OpenSea is full of art that doesn’t look like art – I mean, art is always up to the person, but that was too much for me.”

However, countless artists make a living by generating AI artwork and selling it or minting it as NFTs on platforms such as OpenSea. The biggest stories of 2021 involved cartoon collective chimps – the Bored Ape Yacht Club – and CryptoPunks, other digitally rendered images or works of art.

In the bear market of 2022, the hype around NFTs would have evaporated. Yet big brands such as Starbucks continue to follow suit, while luxury jeweler Tiffany prompted a 1,700% increase in transaction volume following an NFT move in August.

When asked if FractalEncrypt (an anonymous Bitcoin artist) would release an NFT of their art in the future, they told Cointelegraph, “Absolutely not.” FractalEncrypt sculpts large, towering and time-consuming Bitcoin full-node structures that it has hidden in places around the world:

“I created NFTs in 2017/18 and the deeper I investigated them, the more disillusioned I became. They felt inherently rogue, and me to continue down that path would make me a rogue in my eyes.

FractalEncrypt explained that the link between the art and the token was “ephemeral at best and outright misrepresentation/fraud at worst.” They compare the issuance of NFTs to the issuance of tokens by centralized companies, which could be problematic and even contentious.

But that doesn’t mean that FractalEncrypt ditched NFT technology from the start. Like Lena, the two artists were curious about Ethereum-based technology when it first surfaced:

“An artist issuing an NFT token and selling it to others in the hope that it may appreciate in value puts the artist in the position of possibly issuing securities.”

Indeed, Wikipedia explains that an NFT is a “financial security consisting of digital data stored in a blockchain”. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission is focusing on certain crypto projects during the bear market. At the same time, the case between the SEC and Ripple (XRP) regarding the latter’s XRP token is raging.

One of FractalEncrypt’s sculptures. Source: Twitter

BitcoinArt, who has chosen to remain anonymous, is among the few bitcoin artists that Cointelegraph has spoken to who have also dipped their toes into the world of NFTs. He told Cointelegraph that he managed to sell a few NFTs of his bitcoin-related artwork, but didn’t like the medium or the concept:

“I made some great bitcoin images and i didn’t know how to mint them and someone told me to mint on opensea unfortunately they use ETH… But the good news is i sold my nfts through Twitter for SATs instead and I cut the middle man out.I hate ETH.

A recurring theme at this point, BitcoinArt prefers to have one-on-one interactions with potential customers; he loves the back and forth that comes from discussing works of art.

One of BitcoinArt’s pieces, an astronaut in the Bitcoin universe. Source: Twitter

Lena also prefers the personal approach; she connects with her clients and spends hours painstakingly sketching, painting and perfecting client visions. In Lena’s words, the time spent on her art is a reflection of proof of work, the consensus mechanism that underpins the Bitcoin protocol. She told Cointelegraph that the process of creating a work of art is unique and limited – much like Bitcoin – so there is no need for an NFT. Here, Lena makes a statement with one of her pieces:

Lena makes a statement with her art. Source: justlenasart

FractalEncrypt mocked the prescient “high time preference culture” in NFTs. Indeed, many of the biggest CryptoPunks supporters were quick to trade their allegiance to BAYC before jumping on the next shiny new collection.

Related: NFT art galleries: future of the digital artwork or another crypto mode?

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a movement. Lena said: “Bitcoin changed my thinking, Bitcoin changed me, […learning about Bitcoin] was a very, very meaningful chapter in my life.

Interestingly, a search for “Bitcoin NFT” on OpenSea yields over 70,000 items. For Lena, the door is still open: “NFTs could have use cases in the future, but in the current state of NFTs, that doesn’t seem right,” she conceded. OpenSea has suffered hacks and washout swaps, but pixelated image jpegs valued at seven figures continue to sell. “It’s like a bubble,” summarizes Lena.

Conversely, Bitcoin is down more than 50% from its bubbly highs of $69,000, and “tourists” have checked. Additionally, Bitcoin received as payment for an artwork will likely never be hacked or “emptied” from a wallet.