Artists in the NFT space come from so many different backgrounds – Fizz Pop is no exception. Although he has a background in contemporary painting, Fizz Pop has always been drawn to working with different mediums. And while his work as a painter gained success in galleries across North America, he has spent many years trying to find a home for his more experimental art. Mixed media works including digital painting, photography, and other elements, were tough for the traditional art world to embrace – mainly because they were a challenge to accurately categorize.
So, when NFTs got on Fizz Pop’s radar, he was keen to see if that same work might find an audience in this new space. With less rules and an “anything goes” attitude, the NFT space offered Fizz Pop a new audience and new collectors. And this new base seemed to care less about categorization and more about experimentation.
I sat down to talk to Fizz Pop about his experience in the traditional art world, and how NFTs have given him a new avenue and audience for the art that never quite “fit” in that space. We also discuss why he thinks that continuing to create his physical artwork alongside his digital work, remains equally important in his ongoing practice.
How have NFTs changed things for you as an artist?
I think it gave me a chance to sort of reset as an artist. For instance, I had a 20-year-old digital project that I was never able to get off the ground. Galleries would tell me that it wasn’t quite photography or painting, and because it blurred the lines between these two established markets, they didn’t know how to fit it into their collection(s). I know that there are a lot of galleries out there that represent these kinds of digital works, so the opportunities do exist. I was just having trouble finding them myself.
When I entered the NFT space, I was able to carve out my own opportunities without this reliance on the galleries. I got to create and release the art that I wanted to, and my audiences started to find me. This shift is great because it has really put me artists in the driver’s seat.
You’ve now spent some time exploring this space – and really engaged fully it in the past year. What are some of the things you’ve learned?
One thing I’ve learned is to just slow down. There’s a lot of FOMO when something new enters the space. I’m no longer in a rush to jump onto the next platform right away. It’s better to see how things evolve before you get into something. There’s a real trend towards minting on your own contract, which SuperRare and Foundation have embraced. I think that’s a powerful tool for creators because they have a lot more control with Manifolds dynamic NFT’s. There are two main aspects to this – the creation of the work; then the decision about where you want to list it [in the market].
So, now I’m taking this opportunity to do what I call NFT spring cleaning. I’m burning things that are cluttering up my collections and pulling everything together into nice tidy collections. It’s going really well. I’m not a technical person – I work with computers, but I paint with computers. So, the more technical aspects of this space have been a real learning curve. It’s exciting to be a part of all of this though.
What are some new things that you’re exploring in the space? And how do you look at curating those onto different platforms?
I just launched a generative project using Async Blueprint a few weeks ago which is just me exploring the possibilities of the medium. I haven’t done video yet, so I’m thinking rather than burning stuff that’s already in nice clean collections, I’ll probably explore this new medium and mint it on OIX. It would be cool if, on the tech side, I could mint on my own contracts, so I’m hoping to see that in the future. I really think that minting independently is going to be what I’m focused on moving forward. If that becomes available, I think it would be valuable to have my foot in the door on a new platform that supports this.
Everyone lately has been thinking about utility in NFTs. Do you think that there has to be a utility involved?
There aren’t really any rules for this stuff, which is nice. There are some artists who have been in this space for two to three years now and they are really leading the way in defining things. But I don’t think there needs to be utility, no. Utility is an interesting aspect of the NFT space, but there’s room to do a lot of different things.
The generative project that I just launched is actually a great example of this. It has 300 potential unique mints of planets – and they’re not giant works, they’re quite a bit smaller than what I have minted on Foundation. The Foundation pieces are higher resolution. But, with these pieces, there’s an interconnectedness that, down the road, holders could benefit from. This might be a swap out for other pieces, or access into exclusive channels like discord. There’s a ton of potential, but again it’s all a big learning curve. As an artist in the space, the trends move so quickly, and you’re moving along with them and figuring out the potential for your own projects.
But it is quite exciting what you can do with utility. An established project like @fvckrender is a great example – they have these crystals, and whoever invests in them is able to swap them out for avatars. There was no knowing that this would be possible when the project started, but we’re seeing the same thing with projects like CryptoPunks and the Bored Ape Yacht Club. These projects have early investors that don’t know where they will go, or what’s needed. But as more people catch on and get involved in the project(s), things just grow.
What motivates to keep going in this space?
I like being challenged. I like exploring the potential of digital painting – there’s a mix of excitement and fear there that drives my motivation. You have to take risks to enter the space – there are financial gambles and career gambles, but the payoff when something works just fills you with excitement. This excitement is what motivates me to keep moving forward.
I’ve had projects that just kind of sat there and not moved, then I’ve had ones where they’ve just sold, one on top of the other. You never know what to expect. The currency is volatile. And the climate is volatile because it’s mapped over that currency. The whole thing involves a lot of gambling and risk. But above all, I’m loving the space. I love that there’s an opportunity to do so much. I love that, even when you operate under a pseudonym, people still latch onto your work.
Coming from the contemporary art world, where you have to present a CV with a list of gallery shows, and so on, this is so refreshing. It’s not about how many galleries you’ve shown your work in, or how deeply the art world has accepted you, people are just investing in the art that – in their gut – they just like. I’ve been lucky enough to have my work shown in some amazing galleries in New York, so I’ve had that experience. But in this space, people aren’t thinking in those terms – they’re buying work and holding it because they genuinely like it.
I agree. I think this is a great way to get artists into a sustainable place financially. And yeah, it’s this whole new career path [for artists] that just kind of evolved out of nothing really.
Yeah, and I think that’s long overdue. Artists now have this avenue to generate royalties and set themselves up for long-term success. I mean, last year I was really interested in how the real asset and the digital asset could be combined. I figured all we need is just one kind of globally accepted contract that could be used in any gallery or museum. We could combine that contract with any physical object and figure out how to link the two. I think this could be the bridge that the art world has been looking for.
I realize now that we’re still a long way off, but I think down the road we’re going to see this. There’s a graph of acceptance of the internet throughout our lives that has just naturally evolved. From dial up, to internet on our phones, and now we’re looking at what the future of utility in this evolving technology could look like. It all just continues to weave itself into the fabric of our daily lives.
The crypto space is still quite volatile and risky, and still difficult to understand for most. But years down the road, I think we’re going to see it integrated into our daily lives, making things like buying tickets or gaining access to certain things, much easier. All of these will be done through blockchain technology. Again, we’re really early in the space but there’s so much potential from a utility standpoint. It’s fascinating and complicated right now, but down the road it will all be very obvious.
So, you started off in this space not knowing what to expect. Now, you’ve just released a generative project. You’re finding failure in some things and successes in others. So, when you look at your experience thus far, what advice would you give to artists who have been creating for a long time, and now want to enter the NFT space? Should they go the generative route? Experiment with new trends? Or just stick with their own style and what feels right?
I think first and foremost, artists just need to believe in themselves. It’s similar to the contemporary art world in that respect. If you’re just looking to make money, that will fade. So, where is your motivation for the long-term going to come from? I think for artists who believe in themselves and know that their work is solid, they’ll find plenty of avenues to explore.
For example, right now I’m looking at how I can integrate AI into my work. I’ve had an interest in this for a while and I’m working hard to figure out how to integrate images together and connect pieces using AI. I’m fascinated by the images coming from people like Claire Silver, who have been doing this for a while now. I’ve even been collecting a few myself.
As for being an artist pre-NFTs, I had already developed a large body of work over about 20 years. I was able to take all these different images that I had worked on and start plugging them into all these different paths. It’s exciting to see the potential of your work expanding with all these new possibilities. For other artists, I guess it just depends what medium they’re working with. I think a lot of people took on graphic design jobs straight out of art school because it was a clear career path. And now those people are able to come back and explore their art in a way that could become a sustainable career for them. In cases like this, they might be able to start by monetizing their creative side projects and have those turn into something. There’s a lot of potential, but again, still a ton of risk.
For sure. That sounds like a great approach. Being that you entered the space fairly early on, I’m sure you’ve had other artists come to you with their own curiosities. How have you helped educate artists new to the NFT space?
I’ve been onboarding a few artists, but honestly, it’s a bit uncomfortable. Because of all of technicalities involved, it’s almost like financially advising people. You have to have a wallet. You have to know about security. There are hacks going on all the time. And if you don’t set yourself up properly, you could lose your whole life’s work in a single hack. It’s such a volatile space and I think you have to be prepared for it.
First of all, it might go nowhere, and you might end up paying all of these gas fees for nothing. You could be left to accept that. Or it could go the complete opposite route and you could go viral, which has its own set of challenges. I’ve seen artists get overwhelmed, trying to keep up with social media and the marketplaces, then just getting completely burnt out – resulting in real physical and emotional meltdowns. When this happens, it’s just too much too fast.
So, if you know what you’re doing and you’ve done that self-exploration that allows you to approach your work with purpose, then it’s a fantastic space to explore. There’s a lot of dedication that comes with it. I spend six to eight hours a day just working on projects to keep up. And it’s not just the projects – it’s social media, marketing and building your community.
That instant exposure and being able to stay composed sounds important. I think that’s something we see with Beeple – it’s why I think so many people are fascinated by his success. Prior to that massive sale at Christie’s, he had never sold anything for more than $100. That must have been like a shock to the system.
And he’s still doing that. Even after he made that sale, Beeple continued his routine of doing a piece a day. That’s a perfect example of knowing his practice and being confident in it. Whether he succeeded or not, he just always brought a great attitude to his work. An approach like this is important. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for hardship.
But, also to comment on the monetization – you know for years, artists have just been giving away their work on social media platforms. It was frustrating for me, so two or three years ago, I actually did a whole social media purge. I had gotten to a place where managing it all was just becoming too much. And, I’d get so many people commenting and liking, and none of that was converting into sales. Year after year, I was paying for paints, brushes, canvases and my studio and I was having to work odd jobs in galleries and behind the scenes in the art world, just to pay to make art. No one seemed to understand how much money it took to get art on people’s walls.
Absolutely. It’s kind of insulting when you think about it. After supplies, hours and pouring your heart into a piece, having someone offer what ends up being pennies an hour, is crazy. I don’t think a lot of non-artists think about that. They figure artists enjoy their work, so it’s not really work, but it is. Speaking of buyers, have you had success in finding collectors? Or just your communities overall in the space? What do you think about the social aspects of NFTs?
The communities shift from platform to platform. Like, last year there was this amazing community of artists participating in the exchange of their work on the Tezos chain. It was pretty much all artists just buying each others’ work. It was a really unique place compared to what I was seeing on the larger platforms like Foundation. The pricing was very different, because the motivation and structure around collecting was very different. It was like two parallel worlds and the Tezos chain was something really special that felt like it was just for artists.
There was a lot of freedom to mint, explore and experiment at a fairly low cost. Then the front end got pulled on Hic Et Nunc. But that was sort of fascinating as well because I had been wondering all along what would happen if a platform just disappeared. Would the art disappear with it? But it didn’t. The art that was on there still lived onchain. Someone just had to figure out how to index it and plug it all back in.
But yeah, after that platform pulled the plug, the community transformed into Teia and now there’s this massive conversation going on around how to progress from here. Things like zero gas fees and community kick back are part of that conversation. But each platform really has its own community, and I don’t think there’s really anything out there quite like Tezos. I think that’s why you’re starting to see it accepted on Rarible and OpenSea. I remember talking to OIX’s CEO, Dogu about what you guys were building and thinking, that’s exactly what’s needed in the space. Having to go back and forth from Twitter, to Instagram, to Foundation or OpenSea – it just makes sense to pull all of that activity into one space.
With all of these dynamic communities being formed, what would you say to artists trying to find their own?
For new Artists entering the space it is important to know yourself. I have to remember that I come from the contemporary art world, and that is my home. I’m not in the investor or the programming category. I’m coming from contemporary art and that needs to stay at the forefront of my mindset as my long-term career evolves. I’m not into the quick cash grabs. And there so many different arms to this crypto creature that’s it’s easy to get distracted and try to go down that path. I know how to buy and sell Ethereum. But, at the end of the day, I continue to carve out my roots in the contemporary art world, because that’s my home.
Coming from the contemporary art world, how do you think that space is doing in terms of adoption of NFTs? Do you see the advantages there for galleries and museums to get engaged? Or should they stay a whole separate thing?
Honestly, the common theme I’ve found in the conversations I’ve had with contemporary galleries, is that there is a kind of blanket rejection of the technology. From galleries and even other artists, I get that they still think it’s all some sort of pyramid scheme. They don’t see any real potential in it.
I think it takes some forward thinkers to see over the messy sort of investments and big collectible projects, to figure out where the contemporary art world can really plug into all of this. So, I’m finding that I’m kind of making my home amongst a lot of different communities right now. When it comes down to it though, I am a contemporary painter. I will always return to my studio and do actual physical paintings. I’m just finding ways now to merge those two worlds.
That’s an interesting point to keep in mind for artists who have built their work on different mediums [outside of technology]. I mean, if you’ve always enjoyed the tangible feeling of painting or drawing or sculpting, I think it’s important to not give that up. It doesn’t have to be about digitizing everything, because yeah – the physical world isn’t going anywhere. Displaying art in physical spaces is still going to be a thing, so who cares what the future looks like. If you’re an artist, just keep doing what you like.
Yeah, and as of the beginning of this year, you are seeing some galleries that are embracing this technology as well. Last year, these same galleries wouldn’t have given it a second look. But some big art names like Damien Hirst & Jeff Koons are entering the space and who knows what that’s going to look like? I think we’ll see more adoption as crypto becomes easier to obtain. That is still a real barrier to entry.
Where do you think the fear around entering into the NFT or crypto space comes from?
I remember trying to make my first crypto purchase a few years ago and Visa blocked my card. It was a huge battle to deal with that and I know that people are still having similar experiences. It makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong by just buying cryptocurrency. Financial institutions are still struggling to understand it, so they’re not backing it and that is a real barrier to entry for a lot of people.
And that all makes sense from an institutional standpoint. Decentralized finance is a very real threat to them. As the adoption of the new structures increases, there are going to be massive shifts in how we operate as a society. So, I get the blocks. They tell us that they’re trying to protect us, but in essence they’re really just trying to protect themselves. But all of it is inevitable. The same way that touchscreen technology was inevitable, this technology is inevitable. I love carrying around my collections and assets on my phone rather than having to find storage spaces for them. If I want to move somewhere, everything is in my pocket. This is really uprooting everything we believe in.
Speaking of uprooting everything we believe in, what do you think this technology is going to do to the existing art world?
My first thought when it comes to galleries, is how can they integrate it to create more reliable databases. Managing records for collections has historically been a real challenge in the industry. When I saw my first Ethereum contract, all I could think about was how much better it was than anything I’d ever seen in gallery databases. That contract is not only connected to the artist themselves, but the entire history of collectors and holder(s) of the work. This could make record keeping in the art world so much easier. It could also create an established system for every gallery, museum and collection in the world. Art could easily be transferred or borrowed between collections without ever losing track of it.
It makes it easier for everybody, not just them. But they also kind of lose that exclusivity to the artists in this space. At least, that’s what they perceive. But, as an artist in the NFT space, you have to sort of become your own publicity machine and personally, that’s always been the most challenging part of a career in art for me. If I could go back to focusing on my work and find a good reliable marketing engine to help promote it, there could be a great partnership there. In the end, I think that galleries and museums have inherent qualities that are necessary for an artist’s career.
So, maybe there’s a way to integrate and adapt so that galleries still have that relevance – it probably just looks different than the existing structure. Plus, I think it’s important for artists to stay engaged with the art community. There’s a dialogue there that’s crucial to their work. Otherwise, they’re just living in a vacuum of their own work and existence. This isn’t healthy and doesn’t help them evolve.
Yeah, I agree. I think that promotional aspect is still important. That’s why social media has been so successful. But we’ve also seen a lot of one-man-shows on social burning out, so I agree that’s there’s still a ton of opportunity on the promotional side.
This is again where I think that OIX might be filling that gap as well. Social media has become the marketing engine for these NFT projects, so to have that all combined in one space is a great vision. Whether it works or not is dependent on the community building piece. You can build the tool, but then you need to find people to use it.
Absolutely. Well, thank you for taking the time. Truly. I think that your experience and perspective is so valuable for other artists who still have some hesitation around jumping into this space. Much of that fear stems from the unknown, I’m sure. But some of that may also be rooted in the hesitation that they aren’t “digital” enough, or something along those lines. It’s cool to see an artist with such a broad interest in mediums find success in this space, while continuing to pursue their success in the more traditional space – and that there continues to be room for both. Anyway, I really appreciate you taking the time. Thank you, again.