Teens take advantage of the NFT art boom

Last fall, Randi Hipper decided, as she put it recently, to “deepen the crypto space”. After hearing about NFTs on Twitter and other social media platforms, Ms Hipper, then 17 at Xaverian High School in Brooklyn, began posting her own digital artwork – cartoonish and self-referential pieces showing her walking around in a car. with a Bitcoin license plate or on the Coney Island Magic Wheel.

Ms. Hipper offers the concepts and collaborates with digital artists, including an Indian teenager who calls himself Ajay Toons, offering the works for sale through the NFT Atomic Hub Marketplace. An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital file created using blockchain computer code. It is purchased using a cryptocurrency such as Ether or Wax, and exists as a single file incapable of being duplicated, often just to be admired digitally.

“Right now I’m trying to make one drop per week,” said Ms Hipper, who now calls herself Miss Teen Crypto and has since turned 18. “I try not to overload my feed, my collectors.”

The 40-year-old digital artist known as Beeple may have made headlines last spring when one of his works was sold at Christie’s for $ 69 million, but NFT markets like Atomic Hub, Nefty Blocks and OpenSea are full of creators barely old enough to drive. They promote their work not through top-notch galleries or auction houses, but on social media.

“In the world of NFT, anyone can post online, sell themselves on Twitter and build an following from a young age,” said Griffin Cock Foster, who is 26 and lives in New York City. He and his twin brother, Duncan, founded the NFT Nifty Gateway Marketplace.

Duncan said, “The comparison I like to make is similar to how TikTok introduces people to a very young age.”

In June, Nifty Gateway made a drop called Nifty Next Generation. It featured the work of jstngraphics, a 17-year-old from Washington State, and Solace, an 18-year-old from Soledad, California. The two teens have been making NFT art for less than a year and first gained attention by selling through the online auction site SuperRare. The two artists’ works, priced from approximately $ 1,000 to $ 7,250, have sold.

“I was throwing random stuff around to see what was going on,” said Justin Bodnar (jstngraphics), who creates surreal landscapes and what he described as “Tron-style” art. “Then I got on SuperRare and things started to explode.”

Solace, real name Carlos Gomez, started doing NFTs on a borrowed iPad because he didn’t own a personal computer. “I saw how digital art was disseminated. He was seen by people and valued, ”he said. “I have come from poverty all my life. NFTs have changed my life forever.

Consolation and jstngraphics appear to be old compared to Benyamin Ahmed, a 12-year-old boy from the suburbs of London, who released an NFT collection last month. The “Weird Whales” project featured 3,350 pixelated whales, each with distinct features, some rarer and therefore perceived as more valuable. The collection, sold out and won Mr. Ahmed tens of thousands in crypto.

“I got interested in the NFT space because originally I thought it was cool as an inline flex,” he told the Decrypt website.

These unlikely successes inspired enterprising young people to join the NFT boom. For some, it’s a fun after-school pastime. For others, it’s a perceived gateway to a career as a full-time artist or crypto entrepreneur.

Magnus Aske was a 19-year-old sophomore at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, when he fell ill with Covid-19 last March, around the time of the Beeple sale. He spent his 10 days in quarantine learning all he could about NFTs and came up with a project involving collecting antiques from a foreign country (his classmate had connections in government).

“For me, it’s not even about the money. It’s working as a team, seeing something from ideation to creation and seeing a sale, ”said Aske, who is now 20 years old and studies finance and entrepreneurship.

Josh Kim is a rising senior at Colby College who founded Cubby, an online marketplace for students to sell their art. Mr Kim plans to introduce NFTs in the coming months, which he said will strengthen the site’s mission to help young designers “become financially successful” or at least make money. extra during their studies.

Indeed, for some teens, making NFTs and other digital art forms has become the new summer job, a modern take on grocery packaging or working in a fast food restaurant. A 15-year-old Brooklyn teen draws custom artwork for users of Twitch, the live streaming platform popular with gamers.

“It’s mostly to spend money,” he said.

Griffin Cock Foster compared teenagers’ experimentation with NFTs to “kids hacking with Napster in the early 2000s,” adding, “They had a glimpse of what the world was going to look like. Be careful what teens are hacking, at nights and weekends and in the summer.

The most popular and successful young NFT artist is Victor Langlois, an 18-year-old transgender who calls himself FEWOCiOUS, or Fewo to his fans. He makes digital art that tells about his difficult childhood and struggles with gender identity and its transition.

Last summer, Fewo started selling work on SuperRare and built an following there and on Nifty Gateway. Soon he caught the eye of Noah Davis, the digital art specialist at Christie’s, who held an auction of his work in June. The five-lot online sale, titled “Hello, I’m Victor (FEWOCiOUS) and C’est ma vie,” grossed $ 2.16 million, making Langlois a star in the art world.

“Victor has been alive as long as artists have been making art before arriving at Christie’s,” said Davis.

Understanding NFTs and their value as digital objects comes naturally to a high generation online, Davis added. “I consider myself rather digitally native, but I still remember the floppy disks. These are Victor cuneiform tablets. He grew up completely immersed in it.

For Ms. Hipper and others like her, Fewo is “such a role model for Gen Z,” she said. “He walked into the NFT and blew me away. The fact that he was able to create a platform, for me, is inspiring.

When the stock market was booming and Bitcoin surpassed $ 60,000 earlier this year, Ms. Hipper said, one of her NFTs sold for $ 1,000. These days, his art sells on Atomic Hub for as low as 125 Wax, or $ 21. She sees her pieces as tradable collectibles, similar to Pokémon cards, a common vision among young designers. Indeed, NFT works can sell for as little as $ 1.

Brent Lomas, who founded Queenly NFT, a site that sells the work of LGBTQ artists, is following the NFT space closely and said low prices are a deliberate strategy by young designers, who in many cases appeal to collectors. age.

“Part of it is to get virality,” Mr. Lomas said. “These kids are pretty savvy. They can look at other drops and model their work on them. If you are young and benefit from social media and the culture of memes, it is possible for you to go viral from your first drop, grab attention, and earn money.

Mr Davis said Fewo was selling parts for tens of dollars just last year. For a digitally savvy teenager, earning that kind of money to make NFTs is better than mowing the grass. It is “unique in our present time,” said Davis. “If you can make money at the movies for your summer vacation with your creativity, I can’t think of anything more utopian or American than this.”

Ms. Hipper estimates that so far she has earned “a few hundred dollars at most” because she has to pay her artists. But, she said, for now, money is secondary to learning the ropes.

“I wanted to perfect my skills, to know how to drop,” she said. “You have to know how to set up your store. How to create a model.

She added, “I just graduated from high school. My plan is to become a full-time crypto.

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