Episode 291 — NFT & Crypto Art Explained — Rhett Dashwood (aka Mankind)
Episode 291 — NFT & Crypto Art Explained — Rhett Dashwood (aka Mankind)
Rhett Dashwood (aka Mankind) is an award winning Creative Director with experience in a broad range of creative media, including digital, animation, branding, print, film making and concept art. He has worked with the following studios and agencies during his 15+ years in the industry: Emery / Frost, Tribal, AKQA, Exit Films, DDB and many more. He is currently Creative Director of Dashwood.
As a Digital Artist, Rhett creates work under the name of Mankind. On his Instagram page (@Mankind), Rhett publishes his own art and curates the art of other digital artists. His YouTube channel is dedicated to everything art, including his expertise on crypto art and NFT’s.
In this Podcast, Allan McKay interviews Rhett Dashwood (aka Mankind) about the hot topic of crypto art and NFT’s, the history behind it and the post-COVID-19 surge; how to start selling your digital art and why the concept of a “starving artist” is on its way out.
Digital Artist Rhett Dashwood’s Website: http://rhettdashwood.com
Rhett / Mankind on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAwmF5bjdwVjyp8oixtsngg
Mankind on IG: https://www.instagram.com/mankind/?hl=en
Rhett / Mankind on Gumroad: https://gumroad.com/rhett
The NY Times Article on NFT’s: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/11/arts/design/nft-auction-christies-beeple.html
Allan McKay Interviews Beeple: https://www.allanmckay.com/285/
[05:23] Rhett Dashwood (aka Mankind) Introduces Himself
[07:04] Rhett Explains What NFT’s Are
[18:40] The History and Surge of Crypto Art
[23:37] NFT’s in Other Fields (i.e. Sports, Virtual Land)
[26:16] The Shifting Demographic of Cyber Art Collectors
[30:35] Commission on Crypto Art and the Concept of Scarcity
[45:39] Beeple and the History of His Art
[51:37] The Cliche of a Starving Artist and Why It’s on Its Way Out
[1:03:33] NFT Platforms
[1:07:36] How to Get Started
[1:15:47] Link to Rhett’s YouTube Channel Where He Further Explains NFT’s
EPISODE 291 — NFT & CRYPTO ART EXPLAINED — RHETT DASHWOOD
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 291! I’m sitting down with Artist known as Mankind (Rhett Dashwood) to talk about crypto art, NFT’s and everything you need to know to get started, to sell your art.
NFT’s are all the craze right now. I’ve had so many people asking me what my thoughts are about it. I just had Beeple on my Podcast (www.allanmckay.com/285) and he was just able to sell his art for $69 million. Whenever I don’t know enough about a subject, I bring on an expert. Rhett Dashwood (also known as Mankind) is a phenomenal artist but is also a collector. His YouTube Channel talks at great length about NFT’s.
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Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:10] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[1:18:13] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH RHETT DASHWOOD
[05:23] Allan: Again, man, thanks so much for taking the time to chat! Could you quickly introduce yourself?
Rhett: Sure! My name is Rhett Dashwood, also known as Mankind in the art circles or the world of crypto art. I am a digital artist.
[05:50] Allan: That’s cool! In fact, I want to ask you about that. It’s interesting that you’re going all in [with digital art] now. In terms of your background, what have you been doing in the past?
Rhett: I started out 20 years ago when the web was still developing with CD-Roms.
[7:04] Allan: It’s interesting to see where the trends switch over time. That’s super cool! I want to dive right into asking about NFT. I keep getting people asking me about that. Can you explain what an NFT is?
Rhett: It’s a lot to take on. I was in the earlier wave of people learning about it. I’m a crypto guy as well, ever since 2014. I’ve always been a digital artist. A general overview of NFT: NFT stands for “Non-Fungible Token”. Fungible means “anything that can be exchanged like for like”. That’s the opposite of that. It means it’s not necessarily exchangeable but it’s in the same asset class. If you have a theatre ticket, you pay different prices for different seats but they’re all [theatre seats]. In a digital sense, we have an equivalent of that. In [the digital world], we’ve gotten used to video games schemes or trademark, or copyrighted things. On the block chain, we have crypto keys that are non-fungible. These are new digital assets that you can prove that you have ownership of, and you can prove that there is scarcity of them. A number of such attributes explains this surge and experimentation. We’ve had it this whole time. Before, there was no way of proving that one digital file was different from another. They were all infinitely copyable. There was no worth of owning one over the other. But now, by attaching a certificate of authenticity to a file, you have a defining ownership. It’s a small shift that has a big potential for the future.
[10:44] Allan: I think you’re right. Essentially, this is the first time we have something physical in that sense. There has never been any value of anything digital and because of that, there was no exclusivity for it. Obviously, an original piece of art has an appeal. What do you think that appeal is? How does it become unique?
Rhett: You can attach the token — or the certificate — to any digital file. If we’re talking about physical artworks, I just went to an exhibition of MC Escher. [The pieces] were drawn or etched. But they were totally flat. I went to the giftshop afterwards and they had a one-by-one print of [one of the pieces]. I could not tell the difference! I paid to go see the original, but in the giftshop I could buy a copy for $10, and I could not tell the difference at all. The only difference was the authentic signature. There has been no place for animation. You can’t print out an animation. But now, people can have an original piece of animation. Interactive experiences are coming in as well. No one has been able to prove the value or the scarcity. But now, there is a way! And there is a collector there for it. The difference is that the purely digital presentation can be just for a screen. To have it in its original format is a really powerful thing. And I think creators and collectors are latching onto it. And creators are also becoming collectors. You may have been following these artists for years.
[15:47] Allan: That’s so amazing! Even with animation back in the day, the cell would become a collector’s item, but it had to be a source material. But now, there is this big shift. The art doesn’t have to be in physical copy. We can have ownership of something that’s in digital form. It was created on a computer and it has that blockchain tied to it.
Rhett: We take it for granted in the physical world, “This is one of one”. You know this is authentic. People also take it for granted that in the digital world that didn’t exist. But now it does this “one of one”. The value is in that authentic certificate. You feel stupid taking a photo of the Mona Lisa, coming home, printing it out and showing it to friends as the original Mona Lisa. People are starting to get that now with digital art because we’re more online. And it’s not an accident that with COVID-19, people are more on their computers and looking at things. This virtual world is a legit part of one’s life, more so right now than in a physical.
[18:40] Allan: It’s like when you mentioned earlier about moving to working on the web. With the internet, the world shrunk drastically. When did this all kind of start? In the last couple of weeks, it’s blown up. Has it been ramping up with Bitcoin?
Rhett: The idea has existed for years. But it’s been a slow grind, and then it feels like it happened all at once. I’ve been in it for a year. There have been NFT’s for a while, as well as the collective side of things. It’s more like a trading card mentality. But when the artists started to appreciate it, that’s when it really started to take off. I liken it to a gentrification of the suburbs: No one wants to live there, but they make it hip and interesting; they create a vibe — and the commercial people come in and gentrify it. [20:53] The artists bring the audience with them. They are the bridge for the technology and humanity. When they do their thing, that’s when the big wave happens. When I started to see IG artists to trickle over and their audience would follow them, it just spread virally across. I think that’s the real shift. And people can say, “I’ve been following and loving this artist for ages, and I get to collect their work now. And now I own their work and show my support.” But this wave has happened in the last 3 months. For a lot of us in the industry, we didn’t think it would happen this fast. I thought I’d be grinding for a year before I’d start to see a mainstream shift. But it was a combination of artists and the NBA Top Shots where sports fanatics could come in at the same time as the artists. Everyone enjoys this type of culture. It was a gateway into crypto. These are just the first cases. I don’t think crypto art or NFT’s are going anywhere.
[23:37] Allan: With sports coming in, how is that different?
Rhett: There is this thing called the NBA Top Shots. It’s like the digital equivalent of a trading card. The NBA did partner with a company called Dapper Labs, the creators of crypto keys. You buy these packs which are short moments in a game. You open the pack and you may get a rare moment. And these have different attributes. There is a secondary market and you can immediately flip it. And people have been making hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few months. I kick myself for not being in that. I’m a basketball fan but it’s not as huge in Australia. I could’ve been in one of the packs in the beginning. I get the attraction but I missed the boat with that!
[25:46] Allan: I wonder if you can buy a house in Second Life and flip it?
Rhett: You can also buy virtual land. It’s not Second Life, but there is Decentraland, Somnium Space, etc. where you can buy virtual land. People have been selling that for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
[26:16] Allan: That’s crazy! Who are the typical collectors buying other people’s artwork? And how does one flip it?
Rhett: I see it shifting to the types of collectors. Initially, the sci fi, 3D, Ready Player One type of art was attractive to collectors who were young people who believed in crypto currency — and now there are multimillionaires in crypto. It’s that cyber punk mentality of changing the world and being virtual. It falls into the visuals of 3D and virtual worlds. That aesthetic has been done really well. But that has been changing a lot. I’ve recently bought a work of an illustrator and I thought his work was undervalued. In the future, it might be valued more. You’ve got the Mark Cubans from Shark Tank, and these high end business people coming in. They aren’t just speculating. When they can attach it to something they really care about — it becomes really attractive to them. They seem like extravagant numbers, but they see an early market for something.
It’s hard not to talk about Beeple (www.allanmckay.com/285). One of his early works in October sold for $66K and people thought it was an insane amount of money to pay for a 10-second MP4 video clip. In the last few weeks, he resold it to someone else for $6.6 million. In a period of months! This space is still growing. Not everyone is going to be successful, but just like in any other market, there will be people that rise to the top. And if you get into those types of investments early, you’ll do well.
[30:35] Allan: My second question was more tied to the fact that the original person who made the art gets some sort of a kickback.
Rhett: That’s a really important part! Tied to those is about 10% in royalties. That’s why I give a shout out to the early OG’s of this. These royalties didn’t have to happen. A part of the reason it’s been so successful is because we’ve been in the bare market for crypto currency, for the past 2-3 years. These platforms had a lot of time to work out the details and the artists fought hard to get these things in place. At the moment, that is the case that — and it depends on the platform — if you sell on their platform, and you sell on the secondary market, you get a kickback of 10%. That alone is groundbreaking! I get emails consistently from other people selling my work.
[32:47] Allan: So in a way, there may be initial collectors that would have the foresight — and then resell the piece to the right people. They become an art dealer for you.
Rhett: [33:29] It’s not like you need the whole world to buy into what you’re making. You need some collectors. If you have a one of one piece, you just need to find one collector. If you find 2-5 collectors, you’ve got a competitive situation. I was lucky enough to buy one of Beeple’s editions before his work started selling. I bought it for $1,000. I made a video a month ago on how I just turned down a $40K offer for that artwork. Just wait! Just yesterday, someone sold a similar piece for $200K. I don’t know another space where you could get that return on an investment piece that quickly. I managed to bet on the right piece. And I’m not selling still!
[35:07] Allan: There is still that scarcity in place as well. The value will go down if you keep making reproductions.
Rhett: That’s the more exciting part of this whole new world: There is more value if it’s rare! If I release something every minute, people will lose interest in it. Those dynamics — not only of technology — and how you release and when, and who is collecting your work, a lot of designers and VFX people have never considered those before. That’s why it’s a brand new world. But those bring a lot of value to your world:
- Why you release;
- What you make;
- Why you make it.
Collectors care about all that stuff. I’ve seen an elevation in the type of things I see. I’m an everyday artist. I treat my instagram as a visual diary. Now I see people release things as NFT art and it’s becoming elevated. You better put your best foot forward. It’s helping people elevate the perception of what they’re putting forward.
[37:27] Allan: That, I think, is really interesting. These days, I don’t do personal art. Goro Fujita has motivated me into the everydays (www.allanmckay.com/180). What I find that gives people motivation is that they want to get likes on IG. What I’ve loved about Beeple is for everyone else to discuss his art. He doesn’t want to read his comments. That’s a healthy way to do it.
Rhett: A lot of people just want the money. Once they see they don’t get the feedback on subpar stuff, it makes them think about it. The popularity comes with a cost. The more popular the network, the more gas fee people will pay. It can get up to $100K to create something.
[40:10] Allan: You’re right: A lot of people hear about a success story and they want to get on that bandwagon. Once they realize it’s not that easy, they give up.
Rhett: They get their hopes dashed. They may think they’re at the same level, they think their work is valued at the same price. That is a valuable lesson. This is a new space. The great authors of their day didn’t become great film directors on the same day. You may be a great concept artist, but you come over to this space — and you have to learn the rules of the game. Sometimes, people find their collectors right away. Sometimes, it’s a bit of a hustle. Some of my work sold quickly, and other work just sat there. That’s where I started looking at other collectors. I started getting engaged in their content and I got known a bit. Eventually, my piece got sold but I had to work for it. People might have to struggle to get their work seen. Some of them are just now adding the follow option. Some of the spaces are starting to buckle under the popularity. I had an art dropped the other day on a platform called the Nifty Gateway. I’ve never done a physical gallery opening. I’ve sold, like, 350-400 individual pieces that day. There is no way I could’ve done it in one physical space. That’s the beauty of being digital: You have access to the whole world. That’s why the prices are so crazy! It’s because the access is so crazy, and so is the new technology. We’re in the Wild West situation right now. It’s going to take a while to arrive at a resting place.
[45:39] Allan: It sounds like the start of the internet. To pivot back to Beeple, do you want to talk about how it happened for him?
Rhett: The reason I collected him early, I believed he’d be the poster boy for this sort of thing. I used my educated guess. His story of coming into it with 30 years of work, the whole effort of the artwork; but he also spoke to the culture at the time. When I [looked at it] as a collector, I thought, “What type of things might have a historical impact and make a difference?” When war happens, people save art. Why? Because it has a historical differentiation and it makes a point of saying that something changed in that period of time. I was looking at memes and viral content, and internet culture. Something that’s a fine art meme is going to be something that people would point to. And that turned out to be Beeple. It’s played out much quicker than I expected. His first works were sold for $1. I missed out on that. Several months later, his piece sold for $69 million at a Christie’s auction. That’s how rapidly this space has grown! Much quicker than I predicted! Even now, all these viral pieces — like the Grumpy Cat — that was just going around for free. Now, someone will find value in owning the original meme. There are types of sectors for everyone. I have a brother-in-law who doesn’t understand art. Full stop. But he appreciates basketball. There are all kinds of tastes. If it’s of interest to you, it may be of interest to others. Not everyone is going to be Beeple. Just get your feet wet and see how you’re going to find your place in this world. There will be moments for other artists as well. The world is a big place!
[51:37] Allan: It’s so interpretive. You’d think of Exit Through the Giftshop. You will have people who exploit this. Do you think a lot of artists tend to have a starving artist mentality? They get stuck on the idea that art doesn’t pay.
Rhett: It’s a tricky one. We know how many starving artists are out there, and there are more of them than collectors. That will change. But at the moment, it is still hard to get onto these platforms. I think of it as music labels. You wouldn’t become a singer and expect Sony or Universal to pick you up the next day. They have a diverse selection of artists on these platforms. There are open platforms as well: Rarible and OpenSea. But that’s where the saturation comes in. There is so much to look at, both trash and treasure!
[54:50] Allan: Were you ever familiar with the Gallery Abominate? There was a 3D Cafe like space, open to the geocities of the artwork. You need people to curate this stuff, for quality control. You need to know the right people to fit the criteria.
Rhett: Obviously, it’s a good thing. But I want everyone to have a taste of what it’s like to have this success. I think there is a chance that we start to drop the idea of a starving artist. It is weird that we don’t realize the value of an artist while they are living. They do such great work and they can be so valuable. We can also flip on its head the reason why artists are doing their work. We’re doing it for someone else. It’s not the independent artist job, and they’re getting the minimum amount for other people to get successful. So there are all these artists who’ve been adding value to someone else’s IP, now they get to put that into their own work and find their own collectors. A lot of artists are being shocked. A lot of them are having imposter syndromes about being successful, especially when you’re doing your personal work and putting it on your IG. To go from that being unsellable, to having several people betting on it, people are having a really mental shift dealing with it. That’s huge to be able to overcome in a short amount of time. And we’re all helping each other out. It is a weird new space. You need to have this community to workout the space together. This is a shift in time and we’ll remember being in this time. People are having conversations they’ve never had before. So many stories are coming out! I was on Clubhouse the other day, and Snoop Dog came on asking about NFT’s. We’ll look back at this time.
[1:01:27] Allan: That’s exciting! Brings back nostalgia from the early internet! You don’t get that anymore. These days, everything is a bit more noisy. This is something new and we can relish in that. You imagine it’s going to stabilize more, correct? And there will be certain players?
Rhett: I think so. When people say “bubble”, there are different meanings for that. An IT could be in a bubble and it gets over-evaluated. But I don’t think it’s going to pop and disappear. It may come back and be undervalued for a bit. Just like with the internet, there was a dotcom crash. If you bought a Google at that stage, you’d be laughing now because the internet didn’t disappear. We’re just in a hype phase now. Once they come down and start rising, they will land at a level where we understand that we should’ve taken this more seriously. I’m not the one to say we’re at the top yet.
[1:03:33] Allan: You’re right! There is a spike right now, but it’s not a fad that’s going to go away. This is opening a lot of new doors we haven’t had before. Can you talk about what platforms are out there?
Rhett: Yeah, sure! The totally open ones are OpenSea and Rarible. Then you have the curated ones, starting from the older ones:
- SuperRare: They’ve got one of ones only.
- Nifty Gateway: They experiment with releases. They’re the number one in sales and turnover at the moment.
- MakersPlace and KnownOrigin: They do quite well.
- Foundation: It’s quite good, and creators can invite friends.
- Zora and VIVE: Those two are on a different blockchain altogether.
There are more coming up every day. I suggest taking the smaller ones seriously because it’s impossible to get onto the old spaces. It can be tough. Go for the smaller ones right now. I’ve seen a lot of success with new artists doing it that way.
[1:07:36] Allan: What time of art do people typically buy? Obviously people are selling all kinds of stuff.
Rhett: You can sell any digital file. The trend at the moment is an animated short loop. People are making some subtle differentiation to their artwork, so it has some animation. And then, animations in general are doing quite well. Great artists know that format and it’s not a narrative film but there is some interesting world being created. Even with Harry Potter movies, and they have frames on the wall. It’s art that’s moving. Those things are doing well at the moment. I’m watching people release their short films, especially sci fi.
[1:10:27] Allan: It doesn’t need to tell a story but that’s what’s great about great art: When I look at it, you can see a story. I love that Hemmingway anecdote about telling a story in 8 words or less. What are some of the pieces that you find captivating?
Rhett: Things that I value, I don’t think it’s the same as the price tag. Sometimes, I see the value is worth so much more. I often won’t bet on something because I’m afraid to insult the person because I think their work is worth so much more. This is why I tell artists to never mix the price tag with what the actual value of the work is. If you’re doing work that’s personal and it’s motivating you, if it doesn’t sell — it’s still valuable to you. Don’t just chase the cash because if you do, you’ll forget why you’re even doing this in the first place. What I’m looking for is something that’s undervalued. I look at lots of background things. I am an artist myself and I see people dropping things. I don’t own a lot of pieces, just a select few. I just hold them. I put out a Tweet the other day: “If you buy art you connect with, from an artist that you like, with money that you can afford to lose — then you’ll never feel like it’s a bad investment.” That’s what I try to keep to. If I believe in the artist and I like the work, I don’t regret the purchase. The only time I’ve gotten upset is when I bought something because I was expecting for the value to go up. I’m not a big collector. I’m an artist first. That’s my mantra.
[1:15:47] Allan: For anyone wanting to get into this space, where do you begin?
Rhett: There is the technical barrier you need to get past. And I do talk about that on my YouTube Channel. I’ve got some videos that teach you how to buy a wallet, how to buy some ethereum, etc. As long as you have enough money to pay for the transaction fees, you’re good to go. If you’re willing to set aside the time to do it, you can learn it in a day. But it can seem like a foreign language. When you copy and paste an ethereum code, it seems like magic. The crypto currency world is already a revolutionary act.
[1:18:27] Allan: This has been awesome, Rhett! Thank you! Do you have a website?
Rhett: I’m good. It’s mainly my YouTube. I’m just here to help people into the space. I’m on Twitter @Rhett and on Instagram @Mankind.
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Rhett for doing this interview. I had a blast and got a lot of great information from this Podcast! Please make sure to check out Mankind’s work and YouTube Channel. He’s put together some great resources that a go-to for anyone looking to do digital art.
Next week, I’m sitting down with Marty Neumeier, the godfather of branding.
I’ve released a brand new Branding 10X Course. I will be launching it soon, in April. More information to come: www.Branding10X.com.
I will also be interviewing Wes Ball, the Director of Maze Runner. I will be sitting down with so many more creators. Stay tuned!
Until next week —
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