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For Sydney painter Yasmin Shima, making a regular income from her artwork seemed like something achieved only by major artists and Archibald prizewinners – until she started selling her works as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Shima began experimenting with the cryptographic tokens late last year after an operation meant she had to turn to digital art. Her first major collection, “Year of the Woman”, minted 10,000 copies and was bought by famous actors Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria. Shima is also one of the first artists to partner with Australia’s largest online art marketplace Bluethumb to launch a new NFT collection.
The NFT market has crashed by over 95 per cent since the start of the year with many collections rendered worthless, a situation artist Yasmin Shima admits has been “quite stressful”.Credit:Suppllied
However, the NFT market has crashed by over 95 per cent since the start of the year with many collections rendered worthless, a situation Shima admits has been “quite stressful”, though she is hopeful demand will pick back up again in time.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald spoke to Shima for our weekly series You, Me and Web3, which aims to examine, challenge and demystify the ideas behind the emerging industry by speaking to the people who live and breathe it.
Why did you start selling your artwork as NFTs?
I’m a traditional painter and come from a family of artists. I quit my last full-time job just before COVID to pursue my art, and I’ve been painting full-time for the past five years. I transitioned into digital work halfway through last year off the back of an operation I had which meant I couldn’t use my easel.
So I started to play around with digital, and I started to create a recognisable style and process because at that point I had been using a number of different mediums and I wanted one that I could be recognised for. And NFTs were a huge buzzword for me last year; I had lots of people coming up to me saying I should get into NFTs but I didn’t really know how.
I went and looked a few things up, and then at the end of last year, I minted my first collection called “Ride or Die”. That then got found by a friend of mine, and we eventually developed “Year of the Woman”, my first generative NFT drop, and helped me form a team of five of us to launch the series.
So my entry into NFTs was a bit of a funny one because I wasn’t able to do it myself, but through the support of people who were educated in the space, I was able to launch that collection. We minted on International Women’s Day, and I was on a Twitter Space with Eva Longoria, and she minted one of my works, and then Reese Witherspoon minted one after that, which was huge.
Artist Yasmin Shima with one of her Year of the Woman pieces.
So as an artist, what’s the advantage of making something into an NFT? What are the benefits of doing it over more traditional mediums?
As a traditional artist, I was looking to become more mainstream, so I was chipping away at getting commercial murals so I could be seen in public. And when I started doing NFTs I was just catapulted onto a platform where I was all of a sudden speaking with art buyers, celebrities, and other famous artists.
So that was the biggest thing for me. In my day-to-day work as an artist, I could go around and network at different venues, but in Web3 it was this massively amplified community. And you end up forming these networks, and you become really familiar with all the artists and projects. And that provided me with a platform to reach out to an audience I wouldn’t usually be able to connect with.
It’s also about authenticating the work. As a physical artist, you’ve got an art piece that might move around over its life but you as the artist would never know where it goes, and you’d never receive any royalties from secondary sales. NFTs have opened this whole gateway for artists to receive royalties in perpetuity.
One of the negative symptoms of the down market is that a large number of NFT users have simply left Web3.
On that topic, have you made more money from your NFT mint than you have from other, more traditional artworks? How does it compare?
My previous NFT mint (which is an ongoing NFT project) provided me with an income that, if I chose to, would be able to pay for my groceries and live off modestly, which has never happened before. A commission for a mural might be $5000 or $10,000, which would only last for a few weeks. So it’s been mind-blowing because unless you win the Archibald or something that just doesn’t happen for artists.
I really hope that Web3 can continue to do that for other artists and creatives so they can live off their passions.
Well the NFT market is down something like 97 per cent since the start of the year, which is a huge decline. What does that mean for a project like yours?
Obviously it’s quite stressful. A lot of projects have fallen away, a lot of them haven’t turned out well, and a lot of them have just disappeared. We as a team have been keeping in communication, and we’re constantly trying to find ways to pivot and be agile with the market being so bad; but one of the negative symptoms of the down market is that a large number of NFT users have simply left Web3.
I think there was such a hype with NFTs, and when the market goes down – be it with stocks or NFTs – people panic and get stressed. But as a team, we just stand by it. We’re here for the long run, we’re going to keep showing up, and the market will turn again.
What are your thoughts on the more ‘premier’ NFT projects like Bored Apes? Are they good for the space as a whole?
I probably can’t comment too much on that because all the projects are unique. But obviously, it was a huge project that’s now doing some crazy things, and our project is quite modest and not doing those crazy things. So I don’t want that to overwhelm artists who enter the space; you don’t need to be doing something of [Bored Ape’s] calibre or scale. I just want to keep focusing on my art and doing things with our project that support that model.
NFTs have not been viewed particularly favourably by the art community – many artists think they’re a scam or not worth the time.
I think that just comes down to personal experience. I totally understand artists who aren’t getting anywhere with NFTs – I have friends who are doing collections and getting a heap of admiration and recognition, but no sales.
I’m not saying this is the way you have to do it. I’m just saying through my experiences, this has been fun for me and I hope that other artists can find a break within this space because it can be a huge platform to showcase your work. Like any job or anything in life, you have to keep pushing. I have to keep working and showing up as an artist, there is always more work to be done.
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