This artist is being called NFT royalty and has sold art valued at more than $18 million. Here’s how he did it

February 8, 2022, 3:31 PM UTC

Artist Michah Dowbak credits his dad with his style. 

“My father is a stained glass artist, which meant I was always around color and light when I was a kid, and you can see how being around that really inspired my art style today,” he told Fortune.  

But Dowbak isn’t making stained glass. Working under the name Mad Dog Jones, he burst onto the NFT art scene in November 2020. Since then, between primary and secondary sales, Dowbak’s total artworks are valued at more than $18 million, according to the website Cryptoart, which tracks the total transaction value of every NFT created by an artist. 

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that are stored on the Ethereum blockchain. They can be bought and sold, but they are not considered a currency because they are not interchangeable.  

Dowbak’s work has been featured in Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips, an accomplishment that the artist’s friends have referred to as the “triple crown.” He was hailed as NFT royalty after he sold an NFT titled REPLICATOR for $4.1 million in August 2021. 

“I want to keep the design and aesthetic standards high and ensure that every new piece is compelling. I never want to release something that isn’t interesting or fresh. I want to push boundaries with every new release,” he told Fortune

Here’s how he built a career as an NFT artist:

A piece of digital artwork called “Xero Alley” by Mad Dog Jones.
Courtesy of Mad Dog Jones

Build a reputation in the mainstream art world

Before Dowbak entered the NFT space in 2020, he had already made a name for himself as an artist. 

He does not have formal training but began posting his digital artwork on Instagram in June 2018, and quickly gained traction. He then began doing collaborations with popular photographers like Daniel Mercadante and creating work for musicians like Chromeo, an electric-funk duo from Montreal. 

Dowbak says a lot of his NFT success comes from the “artistic cred” he already had. Dowbak launched his first exhibition in 2019 called AFTERL-IFE WORLD at the Diesel Art Gallery in Tokyo, which he said garnered a lot of buzz on the internet and in the fine art world. He debuted his first collection of NFTs the following year. 

“Having that success on Instagram and in the art world opened a lot of doors for me,” he told Fortune. “I didn’t start from scratch and become an artist the day NFTs blew up. I had already been working hard and been present in these online communities so when these new doors opened I had a lot of people already through them.” 

Enter online NFT communities 

While other artists like Scott Martin were introduced to NFTs when Beeple sold his digital artwork for $69 million in 2021, Dowbak had already familiarized himself with the space nearly a year earlier. 

He first became aware of NFTs in the summer of 2020. A friend sent him an email with a link to the NFT marketplace SuperRare, which piqued his interest. 

“By the time the first Fewocious and Beeple drops were happening, I was already in contact with Nifty Gateway,” Dowbak told Fortune, referencing another highly successful NFT artist. “I had my first drop with Nifty in November of the same year.”

Select a marketplace

To sell an NFT, you have to sell it on an online marketplace. 

Dowbak prefers not to be loyal to a single platform. Earlier on, he sold his NFTs on Nifty Gateway, but he acknowledges the rising prominence of the NFT marketplace OpenSea.

“Now anything can be taken from Nifty and sold through OpenSea,” Dowbak says. “There have been other releases where I’ve minted through Manifold and sold through auction houses like Phillips, Christie’s and Sotheby’s and more recently through OpenSea directly,” he said, referring to Manifold as a tool that artists use to mint their own work. “I believe in more of a decentralized approach. Not being completely attached to one platform is key.”

Mint your digital artwork

“Minting” is essentially how you create an NFT, and how something digital becomes a part of the blockchain. Once NFTs are minted they can be publicly purchased, sold, and traded. 

Minting can often be done on the marketplace you want to sell on. 

“My earlier pieces were minted through Nifty Gateway,” Dowbak told Fortune. “But since then I have moved to minting pieces through my own smart contract with Manifold.”

Smart contracts keep track of who owns an NFT and also records when the NFTs are bought and sold. Manifold Creator is a tool for artists to mint their own NFTs and deploy creator-owned contracts. That allows artists to publicly list their minted NFTs on popular marketplaces like OpenSea, while maintaining more control than they might have otherwise. 

Mad Dog Jones’s NFT titled Forever.
Courtesy of Mad Dog Jones

Price your NFTs

Entering into the NFT marketplace and knowing how to price your artwork takes practice and experience. 

Dowbak describes the prices his early work sold for as “modest,” around $3,000, but he has since been able to command six to seven figures for a single piece. 

“Bidding wars increased and my 1/1’s started selling for $250,000,” Dowbak told Fortune, referring to NFTs of which there is only one copy. “And then REPLICATOR sold for $4.1 million, which was insane. But I’ve always set the opening bid at $1 to allow the market to decide the price.” 

A celebrity endorsement is very helpful 

Part of the reason Dowbak has been able to create such a name for himself in the NFT industry is the celebrities that have embraced his work, one of whom is celebrated Formula One race car driver Lewis Hamilton. 

Dowbak created a custom real-life helmet for Hamilton, which the driver debuted to fans in an Instagram post on July 16, leading to over 1.4 million views of the design. Lewis also wore the special helmet for the British Grand Prix, a race that draws up to 3.5 million U.K. viewers. 

The helmet wasn’t an NFT but it drew attention to Dowbak’s art.  

But not everyone makes money on NFTs

Beware of entering the NFT market in hopes of making a quick buck. 

While many artists have become millionaires in a matter of minutes, the NFT art scene is not a digital gold mine where any novice can get rich quick. 

Scams are plentiful, from “wash trading” to Discord hacks, and it is incredibly easy to make an expensive blunder. Dowbak has done great and so have other artists, but the NFT space, as exciting and novel as it is, can also include financial predators.

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