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I always look forward to March. Spring is on its way, the art market is making moves, and like clockwork, I hear from galleries and collectors again. It is opportunity season, and my months of working over the winter and getting inspired for new art and stories get a chance to bloom like the daffodils emerging from the soil to showcase their colours again.

2020 was no different until it was. Despite the rumblings on the news that something was happening in China, I continued to fine-tune my ideas, draw up new stencils and have a range of styles so I could act on different opportunities I was eagerly awaiting. February ticked over, and March brought the usual emails and phone calls from galleries.

"We want to do a show this summer… We have a client interested in a commission… There's a brand who wants to do something with your art…."

That'll keep me busy for the year, I thought as I scheduled my calendar for the smorgasbord of art and travel I would be looking forward to in the coming months. No sooner had I started printing off new pieces to draw on my light box, the news hit.

Lockdown. Panic. A spreading virus. Growing death tolls. A global pandemic, the like of which we haven't seen in a century.

Just like that, the opportunities were gone.

The world had more important things to focus on. Galleries closed, people bunkered down, toilet paper was the new gold dust, and I had to rethink how I would continue to pay my rent in a world with other priorities. Art would have to take a backseat in a panicked world where hand sanitiser was now a luxury.

You can take the opportunities away from the artist, but you can't take away the desire to create. The world might be in lockdown, but my imagination and creativity didn't have to be locked away. I chose to find a glimmer of hope in the situation. I had no commitments or deadlines for the first time in a decade. As much as we were ordered to stay indoors, mentally, I was free to explore ideas and imagine new techniques that I now had the time to experiment with.

Instead of being stuck behind a table cutting stencils or locked in a studio painting layer after layer of the same art style, I felt like my hero, Leonardo da Vinci. Free to explore all of my interests. I didn't have to limit myself to being an artist. I could be an inventor, an engineer, or a writer.

Pandora's box was forced open, and I wrote my first novel, built a custom-made spin painting machine out of an old electric fan, explored new materials to paint on and invented techniques to make the artwork change colour on the canvas. After a couple of months of playing the mad scientist, I began to explore the idea of technology playing a bigger role in my art. I already used photoshop to develop my ideas, figure out engineering problems and explore colour combinations without wasting spray paint, so what else could I do?

This train of thought led me down many rabbit holes of investigation, hours of reading articles online and watching dozens of YouTube videos. The same three letters started appearing at the bottom of these research lines.

Non-Fungible Tokens. NFTs.

It seemed to combine many things I was already doing with my art but with many more bonuses. I was already breaking my artwork into layers in photoshop to understand how to cut the different layers in my work. Still, once you figure out the order, you have to draw it, cut it, paint it, and you only get a handful of attempts to get it right before the stencil is too thick with paint that it becomes unusable. What if I could generate a thousand different versions to pick from and explore new combinations?

Once the piece is painted, its trapped on canvas, immortalised as an object to hang on the walls of galleries or collectors. What if a piece of my art didn't have to be frozen on a canvas like Han Solo trapped in carbonite? What if they could move around and come to life like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story? What if a single moment wasn't canonised like a cell from a film, but a canvas could play the whole scene?

When a painting sells, the gallery takes their cut, and I don't know who the collector is, where it will be displayed, and if they sell it again in the future, I have no part in that transaction. What if I didn't need the gallery to sell the art? What if I could get a cut of all future sales and earn from a piece of art forever? What if I could build a community of collectors who show me where the work is being displayed in their homes, their profile pictures, or a digital experience like the metaverse?

NFTs answered all these questions and gave solutions to problems I didn't realise I had as a traditional artist, painting canvases and selling through galleries.

I could develop thousands of variations of a piece digitally that would take years to create physically. I could explore animation and see my work come to life in new ways. I could build multiple new income streams to invest in my art and other passion projects. It all seemed too good to be true, endless possibilities, a level playing field with other creatives, new kinds of art to explore and new people to inspire.

Like with all new innovation waves, you enter the wild west. A gold rush happened, and people clamoured to get a piece of the action. Like with most gold rushes, you get opportunists who only see the money and look past the engineering, the innovation, and the art of discovering the gold. You get people picking up rocks, painting them gold, flogging them to the naive, and disappearing with their ill-gotten gains.

The world of NFTs was descended on by the good, the bad and the ugly.

These three words could also be used to describe what was on offer. The artists from gallery backgrounds watched as the madness picked up the pace, trying to see through the chaos to catch glimpses of the phenomenal potential on offer. In a new frontier of people trying to sell this new kind of art, the values and qualities understood by traditional collectors and artists were missing in a void of ugly animals, pixelated nonsense and knockoff versions of anything that made a quick 10 X.

As someone who loves art deeply and studies artists like da Vinci, Warhol, Van Gogh, et al, I saw an opportunity to enter this wild frontier as someone who could bring in a world of knowledge, passion, history of art and techniques I had learnt over the last 15 years of being a full-time artist. If I was going to diversify and step into this arena, I would try and do some good and inspire as many people in the space as possible to spot the masterpieces from the gold-painted rocks being passed off as treasure.

Reflections was a painting I did for the first time in 2014, and it has evolved over the years, depicting different girls admiring different subject matters. It has evolved into other mediums in that time and has been created on canvas, silk screen print, digital colour-changing foil prints and giant building-size murals.

The only thing I had not explored was the digital possibilities.

My favourite Reflections variant, for obvious reasons, was the Mona Lisa tribute to Leonardo da Vinci. A love letter to my hero, an homage to the most famous painting in the world and an emotional snapshot of someone laying their eyes on it for the first time. Not everyone will admire da Vinci the same way I do, so what would it look like if I could write multiple love letters to artists spanning different centuries, styles and influences? What if I could also celebrate the diversity of humanity in the girl by reimagining her with varying skin tones, hair and make-up colours? Instead of a single da Vinci-inspired rod, I could cast a whole net encompassing a broader spectrum of art and identity.

It was a simple choice to launch with a collection that celebrated so much from art history and brought stories, knowledge and vibrancy into a space muddied with mediocrity and scams. A whirlwind of development and creation was matched by a flurry of hurdles thrown at me.

No one enters the unknown unscathed.

Like the early pioneers sailing across the sea to discover new lands, you will encounter shipwrecks. The first team I partnered with hit multiple icebergs as they navigated a stormy sea of crypto fluctuation and unpredictable markets before being struck by a hacker who managed to penetrate deep into the ship's heart and empty its Etherium fuel, leaving them stranded and penniless. A month passed before I was told the boat was sinking, and I managed to jettison the wreckage. With land in sight, I sat alone in a lifeboat without a paddle to complete my journey.

It was January 2022, and I had spent well over a year learning about NFTs, developing multiple collections and investing my money to build a community and market myself to a new audience. Several SOS flares were shot into the skies of discord, Twitter and Instagram, and the community I had built came to my rescue. A new team with a stronger, more battle-tested hull arrived and promised to complete my journey and deliver Reflections as an NFT collection.

Messrs Bearded and Mash, with their crew of a purple Viking, Latin firecracker Michelle and a collective of chameleons from a previous launch, propelled Reflections into the final stretch and, on February 12th 2022, launched 3,333 versions of the Reflections girl onto the blockchain and, completing their journey into the world of NFTs. Within hours, all 3,333 NFTs had been swept up into collector's wallets, not knowing which version they would reveal a few days later. After a few sleepless nights curating the final tweaks, signing off on all the artwork and feeling proud, we switched the button, and people got to see whether they got a pink-haired Picasso reflection or an all-gold Van Gogh variant.

The response was incredible, and the admiration for the work was instant. People discovered artists they were unfamiliar with and used them as a catalyst to research and fall more in love with the subject matter. One collector got a Warhol variant and realised he was only two hours' drive from the Warhol museum and used the NFT as an excuse to take his family on an art adventure. That experience sparked a love of pop art in the whole family now, and his daughters used Warhol as their artist of study in art class.

That is the power of art. It can inspire people to explore their creativity, learn more about history, and unite a family with a new shared interest. Reflections can be considered a successful art project because they ticked all these boxes hundreds of times worldwide.

We generated a million dollars worth of sales when we minted, and the subsequent success of secondary sales on Opensea generated an additional million dollars over the first month. We trended higher in the art rankings than Damien Hirst and shared dozens of conversations around the art on Twitter spaces and podcasts with massive audiences. We didn't just strike a vein of gold. We landed on an enormous reserve of it.

One of my biggest goals when entering this space was to bring physical art with me. In the aftermath of the Reflections launch, we offered collectors a chance to win over $100,000 of artwork in the form of ten brand new canvas paintings and over 30 giclee prints. I wanted to bring NFTs into galleries, and collectors of the digital would get to visit physical shows to see the artwork sitting side by side, the canvas and the NFT, equal on the walls of a gallery. I achieved this with my New York solo exhibition at Taglialatella Gallery during the week of NYC NFT. Coincidentally, I was also nominated and became a finalist in the Best NFT Artist of the year and Best Emerging NFT Artist of the year awards held in the same week as the gallery show.

The market continued to fluctuate, and original plans for follow-up releases were delayed and pushed back numerous times so no compromises would be made. The strains of distance and working with people on different sides of the world would be the next hurdle, and I took steps to establish my own team in the UK, which I could sit down with, share a studio with and not ruin my sleep patterns communicating with daily.

These changes allowed me to refocus my energy and address another dream I had harboured since I was a kid. I grew up wanting to work for Pixar. I wanted to tell stories, create characters, and make films; no one did this better than Pixar. My journey ultimately led me down another path, but my love of animation remained. A chance meeting whilst giving a talk at The Shard building in London with the team behind a new animation studio took me on a detour that resulted in an incredible collaboration.

Reflections at The Headcrash Hotel is a deeply immersive animated collection built with unreal engine that follows an infinite loop and takes the viewer on an easter egg-filled journey. Conceptualised, conceived and released in under six weeks, this collaboration was an intense technical, storytelling and marketing challenge, which taught us a considerable amount about the new team's ability to build and what is possible with the right collaborations.

Pandora's box strikes again, and what a masterpiece the animators created.

Reflections NOIR was a celebration of the original collection. After every gallery show, I take one of my favourite paintings and create a monochromatic variant for my collection. I have almost ten in my own apartment like this, and it is my way of commemorating a chapter in my career. NOIR was created to allow my growing community of collectors to experience what I do privately and hold a piece of that cathartic process in their own collections. Despite technical hurdles and the return of a hacker ruining the first attempt to launch NOIR, we released 999 versions to collectors as a free NFT to give something back.

Giving back is a theme in my life and career. Whether it's giving my time and resources to my non-profit organisation Art Is The Cure, spending time in Twitter spaces talking about the virtues of the artists who came before me or offering high-value art as utility for participating in my NFT journey, I want to use my platform as an artist to inspire people in as many ways as I can.

It has been a year since the first Reflections NFT collection launched, but it feels like this journey has been going a lot longer. A day is a week, a week is a month, a month is a year in the NFT space, and the pace of careers taking off, people earning millions and losing it all overnight is real. The NFT space is rocket fuel for artists' careers when administered correctly. It can also be profoundly volatile and explode at the slightest imbalance.

With the proper preparation, team, inspiration, enthusiasm and talent around you, the NFT space can be a rollercoaster worthy of any theme park. The peaks and troughs come thick and fast, and the ride isn't for everybody, but for those who can handle the adrenaline and the hurdles, it can be life-changing.

Starting my second official year in this space already feels different from last year. The space has evolved drastically, and the landscape has changed. It is still the wild west in many ways, but people are now smarter about the pitfalls, and with a more prominent spotlight on the potential gold mines, larger industries are setting up camp and stamping their mark.

Artists always find a way to discover gaps in the market and explore new locations, and that's where I find myself now.

The captain of the SS Art Is The Cure, a ship I have built and launched over the last 15 years and repurposed for this mission and a crew of people who are inspired and motivated to sail in new directions. I have endless ideas for new artwork, new blockchain seas to cross and stand at the helm, looking into the horizon, and I'm proud to say 'full steam ahead.'

To check out the 2022 NFT collections, click the following links.


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