FARGO — Two months ago, Kate Baldock had no idea what NFTs were.
Now, as she is preparing for what she believes will be North Dakota’s first-ever non-fungible token art release, Baldock is neck-deep in the world of digital artwork.
Her foray into the realm of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) began, naturally, with a conversation with a friend. “She asked me for coffee and she asked, ‘Do you know what NFTs are?’,” Baldock recalled. “I said, ‘No.’ I know what digital art is, but I’ve never created any digital art.”
Baldock, who traditionally paints “abstract and large-scale on canvas” for homes and businesses, thought it best to evolve with the times and take the plunge. “She asked me if I’d be interested in learning more about the field,” she remarked. “I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
That conversation led Baldock to team up with Dan Austin and Bill Inman, co-founders of DropClub, which will be facilitating the release.
Thus began a two-month blitz of learning, marketing and minting, a process which will culminate when Baldock’s “Colors Unleashed” collection goes on sale at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 21, on OpenSea, an online NFT trading platform.
NFT crash course
Baldock, who left the corporate world to pursue her artistic passion two years ago, had a steep learning curve when it came to non-fungible tokens.
She distinctly remembered the feeling of realizing there was a lot more to learn than she first anticipated. “My mind is blown,” she said. “I had no idea the scale of what is going on.”
Baldock isn’t alone. Many people are confused by the concept of NFTs, which use the same blockchain technology as cryptocurrencies.
In short, NFTs are digital tokens of ownership used for unique, non-fungible items, according to Ethereum.org. Technology news website The Verge analogized NFTs to baseball cards, which have differing values based on their rarity or other properties.
In Baldock’s case, five of her favorite physical pieces have been “minted” into NFTs as part of the “Colors Unleashed” collection. A total of 165 tokens have been minted for the five paintings; 100 for “Feather Friends,” 20 for “Jewel,” “Power of Pink” and “Tropical Paradise” as well as five for “Be Unique.”
Some of the physical paintings, Baldock explained, are in her personal collection, while others have been minted as NFTs with the consent of the owner. The owners of the physical paintings can buy one of the NFTs if they desire, while NFT buyers will also have the option to purchase the physical painting from her collection, she added.
Either way, buyers will have to keep the plastic in their wallets for this sale. Baldock’s NFTs can only be purchased using Ethereum, the world’s second-most valuable cryptocurrency by market capitalization.
Baldock can also earn royalties off the sale of her NFT artwork beyond its initial release. “It’s forever profitable for me as long as that NFT keeps going,” she explained.
'The options are endless'
NFTs are still perplexing to those who do not see the value of digital collectibles. After all, artist Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” NFT artwork sold in a Christie’s auction for $69.3 million in March, whereas the most expensive baseball card — a 1914 Babe Ruth minor league card — sold for less than one-tenth that in June, according to CNBC.
Why, then, would anyone spend any money — let alone more than ten times as much as a rare Babe Ruth baseball card — on an intangible item?
Baldock explained that NFT artwork can be used in a multitude of ways. Digital screens can be deployed to display NFT artwork, otherwise an NFT buyer can print a canvas of their piece or plaster it to a shirt or mug. “Whatever they want to do, the options are endless,” she said.
Why not save the picture of the painting or take a screenshot of Baldock’s work? While a user could do so, he or she would not have the full, high-quality file or actually own the painting, she explained.
Therefore, NFTs can provide a perfect opportunity for new art collectors or those with a limited amount of space to collect and display art. “It’s giving people more options with art. Maybe they can’t afford one huge original painting physically, but maybe they’re going to buy the NFT,” she said.
Owning NFT art also brings the possibility of appreciation in value. “Some people might see it as an investment opportunity with the potential for them to maybe make money off of it if they sell it or trade it,” Baldock noted.
Even though this will likely be the first time a North Dakota artist has released an NFT, the goal is to move far beyond the Fargo-Moorhead area.
The impetus behind Baldock’s decision to sign on to the sale was the ability to take her art worldwide. “I’m excited to reach more people with my art and I think that’s what turning my physical paintings into digital NFTs is going to allow me to do,” she said. “It’s going to allow me to let other people enjoy my art too and that’s my sole purpose in what I do.”
More importantly, she felt it was necessary to step out of what was familiar and embrace the potential of NFTs. “We don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said of the emerging technology. “That’s why it’s important to at least be open-minded to new ideas.”
While she said she would “never stop” creating physical artwork, she wanted to be adaptable as well. “Art is always evolving, so it’s good to stay with the times as an artist as I grow and pay attention to what’s new,” she continued.
Despite the sale’s potentially global reach, Baldock has decided to keep the proceeds local, teaming up with BIO Girls, a charity which works to build self-esteem and empower young girls. It’s a partnership she feels aligned with her artistic style as well. “(Working with) young girls and women and their self-esteem, that’s something that’s really important to me,” she said. “I think my artwork style goes along with that playful, happy, joyful life that we want for our kids.”
'A brand new opportunity'
Even though “Colors Unleashed” has yet to drop, Baldock is already setting her sights on another NFT release. She’s even brainstorming ideas for a theme.
It’s still a one step at a time approach for her, though, and Baldock admitted she doesn’t know what will happen at 6 p.m. on July 21. “I told myself I wasn’t going to get my hopes up because you just never know what’s going to happen sometimes,” the artist behind North Dakota’s first NFT release said.
She’s tried to temper her expectations, but she also couldn’t hold back her excitement. “It’s a brand new opportunity and a big business decision for me, but I do have my hopes up because I’m really excited and I do see the potential.”