Kai Morton is a 22-year old student at University of Maryland, Baltimore, where she studies Information Systems and minors in Entrepreneurship. Since getting into crypto art in February 2021, she is finding ways to incorporate her tech skills into the art she has always loved creating.
So, tell me how you got into crypto art.
I heard a little about NFTs in passing at a blockchain conference in 2019, but I couldn’t really wrap my head around it yet. Cryptokitties and Crypto Punks hadn’t come out long before that. But I didn’t understand it then, so it stayed on the back-burner as I was learning about other things in the blockchain space, until now.
Once I heard about crypto art on Twitter and then Clubhouse in early February, it led me down a rabbit hole, where I was looking for as much information as I could find. It was like, well, here’s the opportunity – might as well take the leap now and get well-versed in blockchain technology and the world of cryptocurrency. Since then, I’ve been posting my art and selling on a couple platforms. I was always making art and posting personal projects, but I hadn’t been selling or taking commissions since high school.
How has it been to sell art again?
Taking commissions when I was younger made me despise art in general. I hated it, because you’re making pennies and people are really demanding. It’s just stressful and you can’t have the opportunity to create what you want and get paid to create what’s interesting to you.
So, for a long time, I was just doing my own personal art and sharing it with my friends on Instagram. I then found out that people are interested in digital art and willing to pay good money for things that they’re passionate about.
What inspires your colorful style?
I have a lot of influences, but the main one is comic books. I am a big comic book collector; I’ve got a huge stack of them in my room. I just love anime and graphic novels. I’ve loved anything art/reading-based since I was a kid.
I have a couple favorite artists that have definitely inspired me to try new things.. Kaws is one of my favorite artists. Takashi Murakami is another artist I really love. They’re both very colorful.
In what ways will you be bringing the tech that you’re learning in school into your art?
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around what I can do. I have been working on two projects, including my latest series on Foundation, and also a much larger project that I’ve been planning for a while. I’ve been world-building, creating a bunch of characters and storylines for these series of art pieces. I’m hoping to make these a lot more ambitious than my usual art.
This ties in with computer science and programming because I’m making it a game with unlockable content for this series. So if you buy a piece, you unlock a code to enter on my website, then after you can play the game I created and coded myself.
There will be a leaderboard and the top-scoring collector will get a unique 3D-printed 1/1 piece.
It’s super ambitious, but it sounds really fun to try to experiment and see how it turns out.
That does sound like fun – Do you already know how to make your own games?
Yeah, I got into coding when I was 12 or 13 because I was obsessed with video games, like World of Warcraft and many others. I loved the art but I also wanted to build my own game. I didn’t understand what went into it at the time so my mom enrolled me in this video game making summer camp when I was in middle school and I loved it. I came home and was like, ‘this is what I wanna do.’
So I went down that path of coding and development, and I went the front-end design route in my schooling. I’m not a game design major but it finally feels like I’m getting back in touch with what made me fall in love with coding. This all feels like it’s coming full circle and it’ll be interesting to see what it can become.
What else about crypto art has inspired you?
In general, I love that it finally feels like digital art is truly valued. I have been doing digital art for a long time, but DeviantArt and Patreon were the only avenues where you could get paid for your work and make a name for yourself. I felt like the traditional world looked at digital art a lot differently so it’s really exciting for me. Digital artists who I’ve admired for a long time are finally getting the opportunity to get recognition and even the money they deserve for the hard work they do. That was something that really enticed me from the beginning.
I also just love the community. It’s so different from any other art community I’ve been part of. I used to be very into DeviantArt, but crypto art is so much more supportive and collaborative. It’s a really positive community in general – especially finding other women and people of color artists in the space. It’s been so fun to meet new people and hear the stories of why they create what they create.
Do you have any criticisms of the crypto art space?
One thing that’s frustrating right now is that we’re seeing a lot of people who have never been interested in or done much with art flooding into the space just for monetary gain, with no real vision in mind. These people don’t even value their own art. They’re just creating to make money which is discouraging for artists who work really hard towards their goals or to break barriers. That can be disheartening, especially when you see the money from whales and big collectors flowing in their direction.
Other than that, I also want to see more of these huge artists like Pak and Beeple valuing and helping out smaller artists. Some people will say that Beeple offering a one-dollar edition is helping out the community, but it’s not. It’s not direct assistance for artists. It’s not actually help.
These big artists don’t need to spend any money, but they can. Even one percent of what they make from a sale could help out so many smaller artists. It’s not just about money as much as it’s about sharing art on their huge platforms –if you get retweeted by Fewocious or Beeple, you’re gonna get bids just because you’re associated with that creator. Doing that would be amazing. It’s harder to see that when you’re outside of these big artists’ circles. You see them only communicating with each other.
It’s natural to stick with your friends, but when you know you have a platform and if you really care about the community, you have to step outside of your bubble.
Other artists are not less worthy of recognition just because they have smaller followings.
What has it meant for you to find your own community in crypto art?
It feels very safe. I’m in a lot of different group chats for people of color or women of color or women in general. It feels safe to talk and vent your frustrations and not feel like you’re crazy for thinking the way you think. It’s comforting to find others that think the way you do, especially as a smaller artist without a huge platform.
On top of that, it’s also just a very supportive community. A lot of these smaller POC and women artists really care about supporting each other. Not just retweeting, but also buying each other’s art.
You’ve collected some NFTs – Are those mostly from your friends?
Yeah, I think I have 13 pieces. Some are from friends and some aren’t. But it’s all artists of color or smaller artists. We obviously don’t have as much buying power as Pak or Beeple or Fewocious, but we can still help each other out and buy each other’s art. It’s a really nice cycle of support.