Creating and minting NFT art with artist Steve Munro

Who are you?

I’m a modern pop artist exploring the theme of ‘the ordinary and everyday’; my work focuses on the things that form our identity yet are seldom given much thought

What made you get into making NFT art?

I’d got to a point in my career where I had so many online gallery representations that doing the admin for each of them was close to a full-time job which began to affect how much time I had left for painting. So, I decided to streamline things – dropped all of them except for two (Saatchi and Artfinder) plus my website and my NFT art presence.

With NFT art you can bake into the piece  a commission for yourself on the secondary market – for the first time, royalties were being addressed properly for the artist.

You can vary the percentage, even going up to 30%; so that means, in perpetuity, you will get royalties each time your work is sold on. So many people think that the common notice “10% of sales will go to creator” means that the artist pays 90% commission but that’s exactly not what it is!

Another factor is that I was continually being approached by galleries and while that is good for self-validation, the associated admin is alarming!

A gallery in Singapore promoted themselves as the first gallery offering NFT art and so that got me introduced to the idea. The push though came when a collector saw a framed print on my Insta page and, instead of contacting me about the piece they went through Tricera – a Japanese gallery I was with – and so now I have to pay commission on a piece that wasn’t with the gallery, plus bear the cost of shipping and insurance to Taiwan which ultimately cost me nearly 50% of the sale.

I was like, “why am I doing this?”

And so that’s what got me seriously considering the NFT marketplace

When did you start getting into creating NFT art (and also when did you generally start with art)?

March 2021 was when I got into creating NFT art, I was ploughing all my time into getting things ready for my drive to Sydney for Saatchi Art’s ‘The Other Art Fair’ (TOAF) and the drive allowed me to push a lot of thought-time into which direction I wanted to take post TOAF.

So, after the fair, I spent a week or so getting my head around it all and then I jumped right into the deep end (do it once, do it right); and now I have thirteen pieces on my Rarible NFT account and some now on my Kalamint profile; my goal is to ultimately have all my work on the blockchain platform. It’s also been fun learning new ways of presenting my work as digital assets – marrying my paintings with digital identities such as making the fish in my painting ‘The Freshwater Five’ dance, heaps fun 🙂

I decided to get real as an artist just over a year ago; almost everyone usually says in their bio that they’ve been “painting and drawing since being a child” but, to be honest, who wasn’t doing that as a child? To me it’s a redundant term.

I started this path just over a year ago and I’m really happy about what I’m doing, where I’m going

Are you a full-time artist?

I’m a documentary cinematographer doing most of my work with the ABC and a few Sydney agencies but something happened to me just over two years ago that totally spun me in a different direction and so I decided to transition into being a full-time artist; it’s all happened really fast and I’m incredibly happy with how things have evolved (but I still get imposter syndrome and think I need to keep sending ‘thank you’ emails to the person who just dropped three grand on one of my pieces; I’m like, “is this even real?”)

How much time goes into your work?

Usually about 12 hours every day – I spend the first couple of waking hours drinking coffee, reading, and bonding with my two black cats ‘Charlie’ and ‘Trouble’; and then I’m straight into the drawing, painting, admin side of things. I’m an intensely creative person so I need to be doing something with my art business every day and into the night but in the morning I’m not even human

Do you create your work digitally or the traditional way?

I’m a traditional artist – I draw and then paint using oil and acrylic

But I’m also a child of the digital age and the last month has seen my learning curve with creating digital works of art rocket; I’m also getting lots of creative fulfilment integrating the two – tangible and digital work as one NFT art piece. And it’s a lot easier for me now switching between using oil and acrylic paint and the digital work-space

When you sell NFT art, do you get the same rights over it as if you would the physical painting or are there differences?

I assume all rights to the work I create and that does include NFT art. I license my work for reproduction in other areas, but I never give away or sell my rights as an artist.

It’s interesting because I was having this discussion recently on the Rarible forum with someone who had the opinion that if they buy NFT art then they have the right to reproduce it as they wish because they automatically get to be the copyright holder.

Um, no, you don’t.

So, the main difference is that you get royalties each time the work sells on the secondary market. The traditional market has been discussing this for decades, but it never gets anywhere

Can you sell the same artwork multiple times on the same or different blockchains?

You can sell editions of NFT art in the same way you can already sell editions of your work but if I set a piece to be one of a kind then I’d never reproduce it, but it can exist in different online galleries

What does it really mean to own NFT art?

A NFT can be anything – it can be your house, your car, your art, and, of course, a digital asset. Because there has been an explosion of the platform with people buying digital pieces it’s assumed societally that NFT art must be digital to exist at all.

But that’s not the case. I have pieces that are tangible alone; tangible and digital combined; and, digital alone.

It’s a great new and wide-open landscape to explore and be involved with.

But if what’s being asked is referencing the digital asset then it’s the blockchain itself that is unique – it doesn’t make what the blockchain is attached to unique and it can be reproduced many times but it’s the knowledge that you own the uniqueness of the piece that is the value of the piece. It’s often said that millions of copies of Mona Lisa have been made but we all know there’s just one original

Do you just sell or also buy NFTs?

I’m a collector of art and my home is full of pieces from other contemporary artists that I like and admire – my love is for the essence of humanity; for example, you might show me a photo of a wide-open landscape featuring the edge of a cliff that will mean nothing to me, but as soon as you put a sneaker with someone’s leg laying down right in the bottom left corner then you’ve got me – I’m sold on the story and want to know more about who’s leg that is and what’s about to happen (in the image) but has already happened (IRL)

And so, this will also cross over to me for wanting to buy the work of other artists selling NFTs.

I’ve just come across a piece I love that I thought was digitally produced but, chatting with the artist, I learn that it’s actually a scene she’s created and then photographed! That’s her thing and it totally flips the concept of photorealism 🙂 You can see it here

Do you think it is a long-lasting industry?

Yes, I do. While there currently is an exceptionally large group of people jumping in for some action, I don’t believe that will last as – it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme; but there are so many others like myself who are in it for the long-term

A lot of people think NFTs are very overrated and ridiculous because you don’t actually get the physical thing. What is your opinion on that?

There will always be those that choose to not educate themselves before having a manifestation of negativity over change that is happening or about to happen

There is nothing preventing people like myself to sell their tangible work in a new marketplace and that, fundamentally, is what it is – just a new arena in which to sell your art but with lower commission and, finally, royalties on the secondary market

The whole thing about cryptocurrency mining being bad for the environment has been going around for a while, what is your opinion on that? 

Minting NFTs uses an equivalent amount of energy as one person living in Europe for a month

If that seems shocking, because it is, then one needs to consider just what is it about modern life that we have issues with?

We are shocked because we automatically equate that a person living in Europe for a month must use up a lot of energy, yet those of us that live a westernised lifestyle in the 21st century seem not to have a problem with how much energy one uses to live

But mining for the creation of NFT art, and the associated environmental impact, is at the forefront of the minds of those people driving the concept forward

Cheaper energy for processing power will be sought and that ultimately will lead to solar energy being used. So, offsetting the carbon cost will decrease in time as the server farms doing the mining move to renewable energy sources

Conversely, it is estimated that the servers needed to keep the internet happening generate a carbon footprint that is 2% of the total energy used globally. But those decrying NFTs for their current energy use will happily snap up any online gallery that pops up each week without considering just how much energy is used by being on and available all of the time; equally, they’ll change very little of their habits in respect of living a westernised life right now.

The environmental army have it right by being shocked about the impact of this new market, but it is changing, and it will change very quickly – ETH 2 is coming out soon and that directly addresses the environmental impact

Your personal Pros and Cons of NFTs

The economics of decentralised finance is the number one reason why any artist needs to be involved with this marketplace

Imagine, an identity on the internet in which not only do you pay less than 3% in commission, but you also finally get royalties from the secondary market!

It’s a no-brainer and reminds me of the Netflix/Blockbuster wrangle in which Netflix, in its early days, was offered to Blockbuster for USD$1M and Blockbuster replied, “no thanks, streaming will never catch on for two reasons – connectivity is no good and people love coming to a store to choose movies and buy popcorn”

How many of us got stressed by the local store not having the new movie we wanted to see and ultimately, by the paradox of choice, grabbed the nearest disc just to get out of the store we’ve been wandering around in for 45 minutes?

So, I think the online galleries need to wake up and get smart because this new way of life might see the ending of theirs

Two of the biggest cons are the current ecological impact and getting your work in front of the eyes of the people that might want to buy your work

The latter is currently the case anyway as we have a saturated market – especially in the “abstract” group – that’s keeping things incredibly difficult for those that want to be professional in their arts practice as a business

And just to end on that note, I must echo an earlier thought in being fed up with galleries earning more from my work than I do – how on earth did we let this happen and why on earth do we think “it’s just the way it is and we lowly artists have to put up with it.”

No. We don’t.

This article originally appeared in the Melbourne and Victorian artists (MAVA) blog and the interview was by Adriana Artmeier @adriana.artmeier

Shoot me an email with a request to use the image you need and I'll be more than happy to send one over

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