A 15-year-old whose NFT art sales over the past year are now worth more than $1 million breaks down how he did it
Jaiden Stipp, a 15-year-old from Tacoma, Wash., created his first piece of digital artwork on a whim back in February 2021, a moving graphic of an astronaut-skeleton hybrid waving on the moon.
Fast-forward to today, and Jaiden has become a full-fledged NFT artist. Since selling his first piece for 20 Ethereum, around $30,000 at the time, he has created eight single NFTs of his artwork, and dropped his first edition sale in October, when he made a new NFT artwork available to 367 collectors in a special edition format. The editions sold out quickly and grossed over $350,000 in primary sales directly, he said.
Including secondary sales, which are sales between one buyer and another buyer that exclude the artist, Jaiden’s total art sales are now valued at more than $1 million, according to the website cryptoart. Jaiden says that his success has been an “unexpected but pleasant surprise” to him and his family.
How it all started
Before getting started in the NFT world, Jaiden was designing flashy logos and album covers for his friends and acquaintances.
“The most I had sold my work for was a $70 commission on an album cover that I made for a friend,” he told Fortune.
After seeing an intriguing post about NFTs on Instagram in December 2020, he signed up for an account on SuperRare, an online marketplace to collect and trade digital artwork. Because he was a minor, he says he had to go through a verification process.
“About a month later, I was accepted and did as much research as I could to figure out what exactly I was getting into,” Jaiden says. “My parents helped me set up everything, and a month after that I minted my first artwork.”
What is an NFT and how do you make one?
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, represent a unique digital asset that belongs to one person exclusively. While any asset could in theory become an NFT, they have so far often been associated with art, music, and videos.
To make (or mint) an NFT, creators need to upload the digital asset to a blockchain, an online network that stores cryptocurrencies. To do so, all artists like Jaiden need is a bit of cryptocurrency stored in a crypto wallet and a digitalized format of the work they intend to upload. To upload an NFT on the blockchain, creators need to have an account on one of the many online NFT marketplaces, such as OpenSea or the SuperRare platform that Jaiden uses.
Once an NFT has been “minted” on one of these marketplaces and put up for sale, cross your fingers and hope for some bids! Creators can set their own initial price and then choose who to award the NFT to after a bidding contest.
When Jaiden uploaded his first NFT piece of art in February 2021, he waited around a week and a half before selling it. Jaiden did not set a price on the NFT, and so he and his family watched different bids come in before deciding to sell for 20 Ethereum, which was then worth about $30,000.
Since then, 20 ETH has become the starting price for most of Jaiden’s work, even though bidding wars almost always ensue to drive the price up.
“Overall, I don’t really price my work myself. I let the collectors price it themselves,” he says, referring to these bidding wars.
And as long as creating NFTs stays this accessible, Jaiden sees no reason why new artists won’t continue to emerge.
“It was pretty easy for me to figure it out. Nowadays, there are even more articles and resources out there explaining how to make a crypto wallet and interact with the NFT landscape, so anyone can participate if they want,” he said.
In addition to his success in the digital world, Jaiden is also an accomplished painter. He believes that physical art can and should happily coexist with NFTs, and he likes to include physical pieces with all of his NFT sales.
“Personally, I include some sort of physical [artwork] with all of my single sale NFTs, whether it be through a print, a painting, or other items,” he says.
Building a community
Jaiden thinks his success has largely come down to his age, the unique style of his art, and a strong and passionate community following his work.
“The best thing to do for a newcomer is to do as much research as you can on the space and figure out how to build a community behind your work or collections,” he said. Jaiden currently has 14,000 actively engaged followers on Twitter, a platform that he considers an important hub for the NFT art community.
A new kind of art market
Young artists like Jaiden who grew up in a digital world are leveraging their technology and social media savvy to become successful artists outside the traditional art world.
NFTs are everywhere, and 2021 was undoubtedly a breakout year for the medium. Last March, the digital artist known as Beeple sold an NFT for over $69 million at Christie’s, one of the world’s leading auction houses. Since then, NFTs have officially gone mainstream.
Buyers shelled out at least $44.2 billion in cryptocurrencies last year to bid in NFT marketplaces, according to blockchain and cybersecurity research firm Chainanalysis. As of January 2021, almost 50,000 NFTs are being sold every day, according to transaction tracker Nonfungible.com, although that includes all kinds of NFTs, not just works of art.
Not everyone is convinced that the NFT craze will last, however. Other people in the art industry, such as American visual artist Cat Graffam, have criticized the technology for prioritizing monetary value over art. Artists like Graffam are unconvinced that NFT art will last long because of the unregulated high costs of artwork that is accessible to only a few collectors.
For his part, Jaiden believes that people will still want to buy, sell, and trade NFTs for the foreseeable future.
“I absolutely believe the current appetite among consumers will be sustained,” he says. “There may be some corrections in the market, but generally, people will still be interested.”
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