The Digital Art World, an Overview by Bruce the Goose
Can you let us know more about your path? How did you become interested in the Digital art world?
I’ve been a relatively creative person for most of my life. I have always held artists in high regard for their ability to create something timeless, while often also making a statement that can be understood universally, regardless of any communication barriers such as language. I’m not very skilled at traditional art; I can’t draw or paint very well, and don’t have the grander vision to create a piece like Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’. Digital art not only removes those limitations, but opens up an entirely new scope of possibilities regarding what can be created, or portrayed visually; while at the same time providing access to a global audience and the ability to connect and interact with that audience in real-time.
I never really considered that digital art could be worth dedicating myself to. (I had assumed that any potential career opportunities would either be beyond my skill-set or rapidly filled by someone better qualified). Until discovering the rapidly growing sector of ‘crypto art’, digital art that can be freely bought, sold, and displayed over peer-to-peer networks with its authenticity being immutable and transparent.
When we first spoke, you talked to us about blockchain, could you explain how it works? In layman’s terms, a blockchain is a globally distributed transaction ledger and computational network. Every interaction with the network is recorded and permanently visible. The network is hosted by hundreds of thousands of individual users who leverage spare processing power (or build powerful computers specifically designed for the purpose) to passively solve cryptographic algorithms to verify the origin and the destination of each transaction. For context, Google, all of its subsidiaries, and every service they provide, is hosted and controlled by Google LLC. If ever the company decided to shut down, they could very easily revoke access to their networks. With it, every youtube video, every google drive account, Gmail, etc. etc. would become inaccessible.
Similarly, any central bank (or even the federal reserve) could be closed and could just as quickly disallow access to any funds they manage. Most people’s first thought when hearing the term ‘blockchain’ is usually bitcoin, which, while indeed a groundbreaking innovation, was solely intended to allow global access to a financial system on a peer-to-peer network. Instead of someone needing to pay multiple processing fees, potentially wait for approval, or have a transfer be denied, they can send money directly to it’s intended recipient with a single, minimal cost to process the transfer—all without any controlling entity approving and having control over the transaction. A multitude of blockchains and cryptocurrencies currently exist, and the technology known as ‘smart-contracts’ that was introduced by Ethereum, is capable of nearly any type of digital process. Essentially- though the exact details are far more complex- it’s a very advanced, self-executing system of ‘if this, then that.’
How do you see blockchain technology becoming integrated for creative individuals and the art industry?
Innovations in the blockchain industry are currently moving at an incredible pace, with more and more benefit to creators of all kinds surfacing every day. The digital art sector is a perfect example. However, some people don’t seem to understand the value of owning a digital artwork. The argument of “but I could just copy+paste”, the concept of real, provable scarcity of a digital asset, which is also able to truly be owned, is rapidly changing the way people perceive digital content. Quite recently, Christie’s auctioned an NFT for over USD 130k. That is only one example of a growing number of 6 figure sales in recent months. While those prices are far from typical, an increasing number of artists are gaining the ability to focus full time on their passions instead of spending 40-60 hours a week at a job at which they’re unhappy and underpaid.
Additionally, it opens the door to a global audience which is collectively active 24/7. While a traditional artist is likely to spend at least a couple of years selling their work for a small percentage of its potential value in an attempt to gain visibility and grow an audience. From there, it’s often a matter of who you know, or how much you’re willing to spend. If/when they have the opportunity to put their art on display at an exhibition or gallery, which is not a guarantee of anyone purchasing the work, and if they have an established fanbase. It’s unpredictable how many of their supporters can or will be in attendance. For digital artists- before blockchain solutions- if someone plagiarized your work, there’s very little that can be quickly or easily done to provide definitive proof. By leveraging blockchain, the origin of a piece can be authenticated in a matter of moments. This can be done by anyone with access to the internet and the identifying information of the token. For example, if someone wanted to sell an edition of my recent work ‘Happy Little Trees’ and the potential buyer was sceptical of the piece being advertised as a BruceTheGoose. The seller could easily find the entire transaction history of that specific token, then verify the originating wallet address, the date, the time, and several other details. With very few exceptions, all of my work is tokenized from the same wallet address, which can serve as a digital signature, a timestamp, and verification that it is my work. For the sake of clarity, I’ve done just that. The following is the transaction record for the creation of 1 of the 10 editions of the mentioned piece, publicly visible here, or by searching the token id or transaction hash at any other block explorer.
You took a deep dive into our Digital Twin, the new tool from the .art Domains for online certification of artworks using the DNS system – what are your thoughts on it? How do you think we can use this tool especially about blockchain solutions?
If I’m not mistaken, the Digital Twin program utilizes both DNS and ENS, meaning that for every artwork registered by the program there is also a permanent, publicly accessible record of when and by which ethereum address the registration took place. I think that it’s a great program, providing collectors with several benefits. By combining proof-of-ownership with a publicly accessible digital representation of the artwork (even before considering the additional benefit of ENS), one can display any artwork from nearly any location or device. Additionally, it could serve as an easy-to-understand introduction to blockchain’s invaluable benefits for the art industry. If I were to recommend anything to improve it, it would be to leverage the widely accessible information and resources to add an additional source of hosting for the digital representation. While it is improbable. ICANN can remove, restrict, or modify any content served from the DNS network. By hosting the images/information from digital twin on a network like IPFS, it becomes permanently immutable, with a unique identifying hash address.
I see it is inevitable that most, if not all, artists will eventually realize the variety of benefits that come from owning a .art domain. Obviously, the domain itself, which (assuming another artist doesn’t share your name and has already acquired it) can efficiently serve as a basic portfolio website, a one-page curriculum vitae, or a more complex site with numerous pages, features, or even individual subdomains used to display specific works with the details of their creation. For artists familiar with the blockchain industry (though it takes a bit of research and unrestricted access to DNS settings for your domain) a .art domain can be configured to resolve both a website and a public ethereum address. This means that if/when I take the time to learn and implement the configuration, brucethegoose.art will serve as the URL for my website and provide an easy to remember public address to which someone could send Ethereum, any ERC-20 compliant token, or any ERC-721/ERC-1155 compliant digital asset. As another attractive potential benefit, which has a surprisingly low level of awareness, there is a service cleverly named EthMail, which can be used to send email to/from any registered ethereum address, without any required registration or manual activation; meaning, with a bit of time and a small amount of necessary research, yourname.art could serve as your website, your cryptocurrency address and your email address, all of which could also be configured, and maintained at a very minimal cost.
The digital art world is quickly evolving. What would you like to see in the next few years?
I find it very hard to imagine that more than a small percentage of artists and collectors will remain solely in what the crypto art world has begun referring to as the ‘old-world’ art economy. While physical art will indeed never become obsolete, I do believe that it’s only a matter of time, and a short time at that, before all forms of art are preserved, bought/sold, and even “gallerized” digitally. The potential of digital media, and the benefits provided by leveraging blockchain, are nearly infinite. Performance art, street art, ice sculptures, and other creations that are inevitably temporary, can have provable scarcity and permanence. If not originally, then surely as a supplementary form of display and a method of authentication. With the increasing rate of advanced technology of all kinds, but especially in (AR, VR, and AI) it’s undoubtedly an exciting and opportunistic time to be an artist.
The more time I spend fully immersed in the NFT ecosystem, the more I come to realise it’s really an entirely different world. Things that seem perfectly normal to me are utterly foreign to most of the world. Some of which probably sound like it came out of an obscure sci-fi novel. Thinking of how best to answer this question caused the realisation that in the “normal world” it’s unlikely that most people have given any thought to the concept of the digital renaissance, which in my day-to-day routine is a fairly common term. I previously mentioned cryptovoxels, a VR sandbox world, (which is wholly maintained via blockchain) is 100% owned by the users who spend time in it. Anyone can buy/sell a plot of land on numerous open markets (most often on as a secondary sale; the world can be added to, but it happens rarely and steadily sells out within a couple of hours) and the owner of a land ‘parcel’ has complete control over its use. While there is, of course, a diverse selection of strange and beautiful places to visit; from night clubs completed with neon lights and dance music to a 20-foot tall unicorn who poops rainbows; I would estimate that well over half of the utilised properties are home to art galleries. While I can’t say for sure, as I’ve not heard of any attempts, I would assume that if one were to spend an entire day travelling from gallery to gallery, they would be able to see less than half of all the art on display. Suppose that hasn’t already made your head spin. In that case, it’s worth considering that at least 2 other VR worlds that exist entirely on blockchain, are wholly player-owned and enable the owners of the individual locations freedom to build anything that they choose. I’ve spent very little time in Decentraland, and have yet to experience Somnium Space, but have heard that both are primarily utilised for building art galleries.
Talking of evolution of the digital world, can you tell us more about the web 3.0?
Web 3.0, to people who don’t raise an eyebrow at the term, is a simple way to redefine how the world uses the internet.
For context, web 1.0 refers to the early 90s; when the internet was a familiar concept, but far from being thought of as a necessity. Websites were primarily static. You couldn’t go online if your mom was expecting an important call. When we needed to find information on a specific topic, the best solution was to ask “Jeeves”.
It may seem a bit overdramatic, but it’s the reality we all (well, most of us) live in. In Venezuela, accessing Wikipedia over a standard internet connection is impossible. In China, you can’t get to Google. The internet as we know it, this glorious public library of all the information you can imagine, is censored, restricted, and monitored by the powers to ensure that we don’t take notice of the strings and realise we’re all subject to the whims of the puppet masters.
Web 3.0 is being built to solve these problems; the internet wasn’t meant to be a way to harvest our private data. History, global news, misdeeds of government officials, etc. should be impossible to censor or manipulate. Once upon a time, Google’s mission statement not only contained but emphasised a straightforward motto: “Don’t Be Evil”, somewhere along the way not being evil must’ve seemed like an obstacle blocking the path to excessive wealth because you can no longer find that statement anywhere in their user agreements. Using decentralised networks such as blockchain, IPFS, and numerous others, the content published to Web 3.0 can’t be removed, censored, restricted or modified. Alternative social media platforms are rapidly gaining traction as people realise that private interests control what we can and can’t see online. Our information is bought and sold to companies around the world. Decentralised video networks are growing in popularity as a result of a growing number of YouTubers being demonetised or outright removed from the platform, along with all of their full video catalogue; in some cases being a culmination of almost a decade of their work, gone, without any way to challenge the decision or recover their content. New tools are steadily becoming available to make it simpler for ordinary people without much technical know-how to host websites, blogs, and even use private messengers over networks that are owned, controlled, and maintained by their users. ENS, mentioned in a previous answer; provides the top-level domain .eth, which utilises the Ethereum network to register wallet addresses, but can also resolve web domains to navigate to content stored on IPFS and other distributed networks; they are not owned by ICANN, and therefore can’t fall victim to domain seizure. The ENS developers and executives cannot access your domain configurations; you have actual ownership and control of a .eth domain name for as long as the NFT controls it remains in your wallet. The .crypto and .zil domains function in much the same manner, with the added benefit of being developed with web-hosting in mind. Every day brings us closer to mainstream adoption of all the solutions discussed through this interview, and closer to a decentralised society that is genuinely governed for and by its people.
The artworld is often referred to as opaque and not so diverse – how do you see the Digital art world? Is there room for more diversity? What is your expectation of it?
I can’t honestly claim to have any substantial experience in the old-world art economy, so can really only form an honest opinion based on what I’ve experienced during my creative journey. Based on what I’ve heard, read, or previously aware of, I think that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the mainstream art world. Galleries charge outlandish fees for space and again for sales commissions, artists working on games, movies, sales publications, etc. are paid a small percentage of what their work is really worth, freelance artists offer commissions for next to nothing to sell enough to cover a couple of bills, and no one seems to bat an eye because “that’s just the way of things”. I think the most universal issue plaguing the art economy is a lack of appreciation. Suppose more artists were encouraged to value themselves more instead of thinking that selling fantastic work for a few dollars is more beneficial than not selling it. In that case, I think it would inevitably lead to higher quality overall and make it more common for artists to think of a creative career as a realistic goal. I feel like that’s universally true of creative people of all kinds as well. Nevermore so than now, when more and more people’s daily routine becomes increasingly digital. The people who create 95% of all digital content are lucky to collectively see 2-5% of the value it generates. That said, I feel as though we’re closer than we’ve ever been to tipping the scales; at which point things will steadily improve and the term ‘starving artist’ will be a rare exception instead of the general sentiment. As for diversity, I consider myself incredibly lucky that my motivation to pursue art came about based on encouragement from an incredibly supportive community in the crypto art space. Diversity is everywhere in this space; be it diversity among individual artists, or diversity in the art itself. Every day I have the privilege of being surrounded by amazing people, and it would take a severe amount of effort to avoid seeing incredible art continuously throughout my day.
What are you currently working on? Any projects that should be on our radar?
I have an enthusiasm-driven habit of ‘putting my fingers in all the pies’ as they say. I’m working on a variety of things currently. On a personal level, I am most excited by my upcoming collection launch on Terra Virtua. It is an innovative digital collectables platform with Desktop/VR/AR compatibility as well as plans to add social features to their customizable VR environment. I’m also working on a piece to be deployed via Async Art. If everything works as planned, the piece will be made up of several dynamic layers. The (future) owner of each being able to cycle them through their available display states with the background automatically changing to reflect real-world changes. What will they be based on, I am not entirely sure yet. It will likely be either change with the seasons or the phase of the moon.
I am always working on several projects at the same time, here are some examples – feel free to stroll the linked website or enter a conversation with me on social media.
– I’m one of 18 artists for an upcoming digital collectables series called CryptoTwerpz, trading cards poking fun at mainstream and crypto celebrities, which is heavily inspired by Garbage Pail Kids.
– I’m in communication with the team at Drakons.io (a blockchain-powered creature collecting/breeding/battling game) to create collectables that will be independent of the core game.
– I’m one of around a dozen ‘community artists’ who are proposing our creations for inclusion in Aavegotchi.
– I’m also working on building a multifaceted platform that, in short, is intended to serve as a landing pad from which users will be able to discover, learn, and navigate the diverse world of non-fungible tokens.
– Earlier this fall I was also part of discussion panel (about the trash art movement*) at the first annual CryptoArt Week, a series of discussion panels and VR gallery tours. readers should be able to see information and highlights at cryptoartweek.com
My most important project remains the Nifty Pride Foundation. It began as little more than a spontaneous idea; having placed on offer on a voxel-art pride flag on OpenSea (the top digital collectables marketplace). The artist contacted me over discord to offer to give me one at no cost. At the time, global Pride weekend was around a week away, and it struck me that we could potentially host a pride parade in Cryptovoxels; a user-owned VR sandbox world. Seeing that the world has been on hold, so neither of us would be able to attend parades locally, we decided to give it a go. I’m still absolutely amazed and even somewhat befuddled when I think of the rainbow whirlwind that week turned into. At most, we had 8 days to plan, promote, find a venue, etc. and I assumed it would be 3 or 4 avatars in-world waving pride flags for a few minutes before getting bored and wandering off. Instead, we were offered a massive space for a venue, which we have since been granted control of until the end of Pride Month 2021 at least. The owners of nearly every property in the surrounding area decorated with rainbow décor and relevant art. The idea for a parade evolved to become a parade, a live art auction and gallery exhibition that featured over a dozen artists, (many of whom donated their work outright to show support) and we even had a live DJ. Through the course of the event, nearly 100 people signed the guestbook, and half as many couldn’t find it in the crowded area.
We were able to use proceeds from the donated work to purchase a land parcel of our own. We’ve erected a permanent art gallery to showcase LGBTQ+ creators. My application was accepted for a grant from a very enthusiastic collector, which we’ve primarily utilized to buy art directly from LGBTQ+ creators (all of which is displayed in the original venue), as well as to create fun challenges and contests with significant prize money available. Over the next few months remaining on the grant, we’re hoping to officially register as a non-profit and allocate a portion of the grant to fuel an outreach program in an attempt to educate and empower creative minds in the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve also created our own branded digital art storefront, and will gladly publish, promote, and sell an artist’s work if they aren’t familiar with the crypto art world, or can’t afford to launch a storefront of their own. We don’t charge any fees initially, nor do we take any sales commission that isn’t voluntarily donated.
Any piece of advice would you like to give to the new digital artists?
I’ll offer a few pieces of advice, starting with the best advice I’ve gotten during my journey so far.
Create something today, even if it sucks. It may seem silly or sarcastic, but it really is terrific advice.
As for advice that’s not merely me repeating it from someone else, I think some of the most important things to keep in mind are the following:
There will always be someone better than you, but that shouldn’t be discouraging, it should give you something to aspire to. If you’re always willing to learn, you’ll continually be improving.
Never let anyone convince you that your art isn’t good enough. For one thing, who are they to make that decision? Art is a matter of perspective, and everyone’s perspective is unique. Secondly; Pleasing everyone is impossible, the only person who needs to see the beauty in your creation, is you. As artists, we inevitably hope that everyone appreciates our work, but we shouldn’t let someone else’s artistic vision stand in the way of our own.
Lastly, but possibly most importantly, I speak from experience when I say that as a creative person, it’s likely that the most dangerous thing I’ve done is to take myself too seriously. Have fun; don’t ever forget art is a passion, not a chore.
Bruce the Goose definitions & Examples:
* Non-fungible token – a cryptographic token that functions similarly to cryptocurrency; with the difference that NFTs are recognised at the source-code level to be unique digital items not interchangeable.
For example, if I loan someone $10 and return two five-dollar bills instead of a ten-dollar bill, I have no objection because US dollars are a fungible asset. Every $1 bill holds the same value as every other $1 bill, as opposed to non-fungible; if I let my partner wear my coat because they’re cold, I want my jacket returned, not a different one as a replacement, making it a non-fungible asset.
*The Trash Art Movement – At its core, trash art is a statement about creative freedom and the fact that everyone sees art differently. Early this year, a well-known member of the NFT community referred to one of the crypto art platforms of being saturated with what he considered low-quality art, calling some specific works ‘basically just trash’. As a response, one of the most established artists in the sector added a glitch effect to a stock photo of a trash tote, then tokenised and sold it, which then led to a wide variety of artwork using trash cans, dumpsters, etc. as the subject matter, and has become a topic of ongoing debate in the NFT art world.
Who is Bruce the Goose
I think of myself as an experimental artist, by which I mean that I don’t feel as though I really fit into one particular category like illustrator/3d artist/abstract artist/etc. I genuinely enjoy exploring new tools, styles, and mediums; so it’s rare that I use the same tool or method as I used for the last piece I created. Relatively often, I start a work without an established end goal in mind; sometimes it’s because I’m experimenting with a new tool or style, and sometimes I’m genuinely just having fun and letting the art determine when it’s finished. I really think those are the most satisfying pieces to create; there’s no feeling that can replace that spontaneous realization of “oh, ok! It’s done!”
Aside from art, I occasionally create electronic music, write a blog somewhat sporadically, and do a fair bit of creative writing; oh, and a podcast that I think I’m several weeks behind on lol. [no one’s likely to be too upset, I think I have an average audience of around 7] I also collect digital art when I have the means, and almost exclusively buy directly from the artist to best support other creators.
To continue this conversation with Bruce the Goose please contact them via social media: Twitter/Insta/Github/Etc. : @xbrucethegoose