William Laurent mentions that artists in the NFT space can build a strong following by socially interacting with their collectors.
Blockster: What was your reason for joining the NFT community and tokenizing your artwork?
William Laurent: Well, the main reason was to get more visibility for my creations. And the canvas art space — I think it still needs to gain traction in the digital world, so I wanted to get my paintings in front of more people. And then, as I was doing that, I also started creating in digital format, using photography and digital mediums, and creating a new art style. So it’s both pushing myself as an artist and trying to get my art seen in more places, not just being in a gallery or not just being sold on the static internet.
Blockster: How many years have you been in NFT, and where did you previously display your work?
William Laurent: I’ve been in NFT less than a year.It’s been a recent phenomenon for me. Back in the late ’80s, or actually, in the mid-’80s to early ’90s, I did a lot of graffiti art. My art was exhibited in galleries and I had a good time and some success. With the actual physical art in the graffiti style, I got into a little bit of trouble with who I was hanging out with, went into more of a business career, and continued with art on the side. But now as I am going back into the art space, I find that the NFT ecosystem has given me a really good opportunity, I would say, to re-enter and come back into the art universe. So it’s very recent for me and I’m still learning, I’m still making mistakes. I have had some success, but I am still learning what works and what doesn’t work. And the marketplace is very strange. What I produce as an artist is not always the most popular thing in the marketplace. I like to produce NFT works that tell a story, not things that are generative works.
Blockster: What did your way to BitClout look like?
William Laurent: I was invited early. I think, within the second week. That was back in March of this year. And I was learning about the crypto space and learning about Bitcoin and Ethereum. And I bought some Shiba Inu coins, and they did very well. So I used that as my entry into BitClout. I had seen a video by Sheldon Evans. He was on a panel, and they were talking about BitClout and I said, “Oh, this is interesting.” I went in and I said, “Wow, this is decentralized social media where I can share my art, and I can get more, I can monetize.” People can give me tips, people can invest in me, and I said, “Wow, this is really the way of the future.” And you will see all of the big platforms — I think Twitter and Instagram switched to this model where artists or musicians or creators can receive tips from their fans. Because the days of the big companies owning our content are going to be over very soon.
Blockster: What piece of advice would you give to the other artists who want to be like you, who want to make NFTs out of their art?
William Laurent: Yeah, so I’m asked this a lot.I would say, first, understand what the marketplace wants and understand that with the marketplace, wants might not be what you are doing. And I would say, don’t change. Stick to what you do well. Stick to what you love and all artists feel that they are not appreciated, including NFT artists. But you keep building your reputation and keep sticking to what you do, and eventually, you will build your community. You will build your market. If you think about the most famous artists of the 20th century, they only needed 50 to 100 supporters or followers to really make it as an artist. And it will be the same with NFTs. Don’t expect to be appreciated as much as you think you should. Have fun, keep doing what you are doing, and keep going. I know it’s a tough road.
Blockster: Do you have some technical issues while making NFTs of your art or do you partner with someone who helps you to do this? How do you handle this?
William Laurent: Yeah, good question. Everything is done by myself. The project that I am working on currently, the series that I am working on currently, is called Desolators. Everything started with a photoshoot. So, I went out and did a photoshoot. Recently, when I was in Japan, I would go up to the mountaintop in Japan. There was this children’s playground or some other places where the sun was at a certain angle at a certain time of day that was perfect for photos. I would use those photos and create my work from those photos. So when you see my recent work, the digital work, it looks like it was done in Photoshop or something — zero Photoshop. It’s all done with actual physical photos. So all the work, pre-production, production, post-production, was all done by me. I had not partnered with anyone on any of my things.
Now, I will be collaborating soon with other artists, but that is still being discussed. But for everything, there was no help really, and you know the important part for the artist is just understanding the NFT universe. Where should they mint? Should they mint on Foundation if they can get in or OpenSea or Nafter? I mean, there are many, many places. And it comes down to where is my audience going to be, where is the social network that supports it, how much are gas fees right? So to mint on Foundation, you have listing fees, you have gas fees, you have a lot of different fees. So, it’s going to be changing all the time over the next few years. So, there is a lot of market research that artists need to do before they can get into the NFT space, I think.
Blockster: Do NFTs manage to make fine arts more democratic?
William Laurent: Yeah, they do. I can’t travel from the US right now to many places in the world because of Covid. There are a lot of places that are shut down, but I can access the work of an artist that I like if he is in Morocco or if he is in London. There is that accessibility for everybody’s art. And even NFT artists that are super, super-famous right now, are getting millions of dollars for pieces, are still coming out with series, and are pricing them so that people can access them from all over the world from any income level or any means. And you won’t really see that in the physical art space. So yeah, I mean, there is much more democratic opportunity — much more opportunity for someone to own a piece of art. It’s there, it’s on their phone that they have collected with authenticity. I can’t — I couldn’t go out and get an Andy Waldorf original or something like that, so it’s much more democratic.
Blockster: Well, it’s a kind of collection, and of course it’s the way to express your vision. And in the same way, you can monetize it.
William Laurent: Yeah. And people collect — you know, there are two types of collectors. The one collector collects things because they think they will rise in value and they can flip them. So I know people that make good money just flipping NFTs all day. And then the other is people that collect things because it is essential to them. It really strikes something in their heart, and it’s about aligned values. Their values match the values of the artist.
Blockster: Do you think that NFT can replace offline exhibition?
William Laurent: No, it will never be fully replaced. What you will see more are physical exhibitions that have digital photos in digital frames. You are going to see that a lot more. Even in people’s houses — before, it was home theatres, everyone wanted a home theatre; next, it’s going to be a digital art gallery. So, you know, the work of great canvas artists — that will still be recognized, that’s not going away. There are a lot of people that are going to be painting with oil paints and other mediums. And you know, I will continue that as well. But the digital world exists with physical art. So the online exhibitions will exist with the gallery exhibitions or museum exhibitions. And it’s going to be an interesting coexistence. The old offline model has changed, but it’s not going away completely.
Blockster: Completely agree. And do you have any NFTs you like most, or what is your favorite NFT artist?
William Laurent: So the artist that I like — again, this is the social aspect because I know them. I know them as human beings, I talk to them. There is an artist from New Zealand that you should check out. Her name is Meredith Marsone. She has a very similar journey to mine. She is a canvas artist, and she went into the digital space. Her canvas art is amazing, and her digital art is also absolutely amazing.
There is a photographer called Paul M.P. He is an Australian, and again, I know him personally. I have met him through the crypto space. He is pretty famous. I have collected a few of his NFTs, and he is the best photographer that I know in the world, but also I know him personally now.
Blockster: What is your ambition? I know that you have a lot of plans, partners. What is it going to be?
William Laurent: Yeah, so right now I am working on an online store, an online gallery. And we are waiting for me to have collectors collect my digital works, and have collectors collect my canvas work. And also I am going to be selling products, and we have already started making them — shirts, mugs, puzzles, iPhone cases, yoga mats with the actual characters from my digital work. So a few weeks ago, I realized that my digital pieces had characters. They were in the story, but I was able to get the character out of the story and put it on a mug. I am going to be developing these characters as a lifestyle, and that is going to require a lot of work and a lot of infrastructure. So I will be setting up that merchandising function as I go on in the next few months.
Blockster: And what about new NFTs?
William Laurent: New NFTs? So, I will continue with my Desolaters series. We are in number 15 or number 16. The goal is to have 100 of those. So I will create approximately 80 or 90 more in that style and then I am not sure. I will probably switch to something – I will probably be bored by then after 100 pieces, and switch to a style that is more interesting to me at the time. And in my mind, I already have so many ideas for canvas-based works. So I might switch my focus from digital back to canvas in – I don’t know when – in six months or a year or two years. I am not entirely sure. It’s a good question. As an artist, it is really hard – difficult – to have that sort of roadmap but I know what I am creating now, what I have created.
Blockster: So I wish you much more success. And of course, I know that you use Blockster. Hence, when we open the platform, I am sure that you will have much more success.
William Laurent: I know right now Blockster is in the beginning stages, but I am ready. I have created an art group already there. So, when people start joining up, I will be prepared. And the earlier I can get in, the more I can help other people, and the more we can begin building a real artist community there. This is why when I saw the opportunity to jump on to what Blockster was doing, I said, “Yeah, let’s go, let’s do it.”