Fantom Community Spotlight – elle
How did you first get involved in the NFT space?
I have a background in art and design, but I’ve always been interested in the internet as a concept. Growing up with the internet, I developed a love/hate relationship with it over its evolution, and I ended up working in web design for a number of years. I have a lot of nostalgia for web 1.0 and a lot of disillusionment with web 2.0. I think that was why blockchain technology piqued my curiosity when I started hearing about it.
Like many people, I got into blockchain technology through Bitcoin. It taught me a lot of the basics but after I reached the point of running my own node, I got bored with it because I’m not really so interested in “storing value.” So, I started learning about smart contracts and other blockchains and other consensus mechanisms. This was all before NFTs were really a thing, so I wasn’t really thinking about it in relation to my art. I was just learning things with a vague ideal of it being about attaining a more decentralized web.
When Beeple happened, I thought it was interesting but for some reason I still had not made the connection between the tech and my own art. I’m not sure what made me connect the dots, but I was aware that NFTs were gaining momentum. Maybe I was just bored one day and thought I should actually try to put all the stuff I had been learning to good use. Just as I built a node to learn more about Bitcoin, I decided to build a NFT project to learn about NFTs.
When did you get involved in the Fantom Ecosystem?
After Bitcoin, I cycled in and out of several different blockchains. Fantom was the fourth one I got into, and that was in late 2020. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I was just trying different ecosystems and experiencing the UX of each. Eventually I began paring down all the chains I didn’t like for various reasons: too slow, too expensive, too convoluted, too boring. Fantom was one of the last ones left standing. When I experienced SpookySwap for the first time, the UX felt like it could actually work for “normal” people. I also just like the spooky themes running through the whole ecosystem!
The tech has kept me around, as has the art community. I’ll admit I haven’t explored a whole lot of other NFT art communities outside of Fantom (besides Tezos, where I have a small body of work). Before I launched my first collection in October, I took a look around at different chains to get a sense of what the communities were like, and Fantom really stood out as unique.
It was a bit intimidating because the art community already seemed so tight knit. I remember quietly sitting in on a Tombheads auction and thought it was weird and cool and not something I’d seen elsewhere. There was a scrappy underground quality to Fantom that appealed to my permissionless roots of making punk music and zines.
In that sense, Riot Goools was directly inspired by Fantom. Somehow it all came together in my mind that I wanted to make something that referenced my love of Riot Grrrl DIY culture (hence the 3 o’s in Goools) and my love of spooky, gothy vibes (hence “goools” as in “ghouls”) and to do it on a platform that represented both qualities.
What are some of your artistic inspirations?
I’m heavily influenced by manga and anime, music culture, net art, and old video game aesthetics—really, I try to be open to anything, so I’m all over the place!
I tend to weave all my influences into my goool art. I make references to Neon Genesis Evangelion, Sailor Moon, and Studio Ghibli; references to musicians like David Bowie and Sia; references to memes and old computer interfaces like my website design; and references to things like Street Fighter and the Gameboy. A lot of this stuff coincides with my nostalgia for web 1.0.
What projects or collaborations are you working on right now?
Goth Prom with CultNFTs
This is a loose ongoing collab that was really started by the community itself when everyone started creating stories about our two NFT projects hooking up. It’s not something I planned for at all! I feel like my role in this is just to keep the party going for the prom attendees through special art drops and good vibes for the holders of both our projects.
Communitees with OfficialNFTees
I was asked to be a part of their lineup to honor the pixel art on Fantom. Having spent a lot of time making t-shirts for bands that I have been in, it’s a total honor indeed to have someone want to make a goool shirt!
Banner Buddies Gen 2 with BannerBuddies
I’ll be doing something for their second generation. I’m not sure what exactly yet since Gen 1 just recently minted out, but there are some interesting minting mechanics in the works. Like everyone else, I’m interested to learn what role I’ll play in that.
In working with blockchain technology and NFTs in particular, what are some of the opportunities you’ve found as an artist?
The best and most important thing about using the technology is the ability to distribute art in a trustless peer-to-peer way without needing intermediaries to grant permission. This has always been a problem for artists, musicians, and content creators.
With this tech, the value of a piece of art can be reflected back to the artist without being filtered and diluted through third parties like mega corporations or institutions. Art collectors who want to support an artist probably also appreciate that fact as well.
I’m not really a NFT trader myself, but I like to buy and keep art from artists that I admire. It makes me feel good to buy their pieces and know that they are receiving the full amount. This creates more longevity for artists who are creating the very content that attracts a more mainstream audience to a platform.
Why do you think there is still some hesitation from artists to enter the space and engage?
I really don’t understand the hostility from artists. In my daily life, I’m pretty nervous about ever talking about NFTs openly out of fear that someone will overhear me and start attacking me for it. I’m around a lot of people who think it’s the worst thing in the world. So I’m at the point where if I’m not asked, I don’t bring it up with anyone.
I used to think the problem was just a misunderstanding based on bad or outdated information presented by the media. But when I tell people that I only use blockchains that utilize less energy than their credit card transactions, this doesn’t influence their existing perspective. They just change their complaint to something else like “NFTs are a scam.” And this is coming from artists who work full-time freelancing for companies that make big profits off their work but don’t pay them anywhere near a livable wage.
One of my main goals is to prove—to them and to myself—that it’s possible for NFT art to fix some of the problems of inequity that artists face in the legacy system. Hopefully I’m not actually as deluded about this as some of the haters may believe!
I feel like I’ve already been through this situation before. When I was little and learning how to make weird Sailor Moon fan sites at the tail end of web 1.0, most people just thought I was weird and wasting my time because the internet wasn’t going to be a thing. Now we’re essentially dependent on the internet for our survival. And now I’m making Magical Goools on the blockchain and hearing the same old naysaying again.
What advice would you give artists that aren’t familiar with the space and are looking for a starting point?
For artists that are curious, I would say that the blockchain is just another tool that they can use to get their work and ideas out there. Just like the internet, the printing press, and cave walls.
It’s a tool that will allow you to do what you want without having to make some of the compromises that have traditionally been necessary in order to make a living from art. NFTs currently are still in the discovery stage of adoption. If artists look at the current space and don’t see how they can possibly fit into it with their particular work, maybe that just means that’s an opportunity for someone to advance everyone’s understanding of what’s possible.
I believe there’s so much more we can do with NFTs, and it’s only limited by the creativity of the individuals that choose to use them. We’re still in the Sailor Moon-Geocities-Fan-Site phase of NFTs.
What kind of community do you hope to build through your work?
This is a really difficult question. NFTs occupy a weird space between DeFi and web3, which means the community is a mix of people with very different motivations. Some people are into NFTs because of charts and numbers and some (probably fewer) are into them because of the art itself or because they want to support a developing technology. Personally, I fall into the latter category and am more driven by the decentralized web technology aspect. But I know that both aspects are symbiotically forging the future of this unique space.
I believe the strongest communities form naturally, based on shared interests and values. I don’t really see myself as a community builder. Because I believe in decentralization, I don’t like the idea of being perceived as the head of anything. I’m just trying to put out art that represents my own values, and I hope that it resonates with other people. Maybe this will bring people with shared values together. And maybe all these people together will take those shared values and build something even bigger and better than my art with each other.
I see myself as just another contributor to a larger conversation and I hope I’m able to add something to it in my own way. If my contributions also happen to gain value for people who share my same ideals, that makes me happy!
How might a project build an informed and engaged community from day one?
I wish I knew! I think I did and continue to do everything backwards in comparison to more organized people in the space. I don’t even have a Discord. So maybe I am not the best person to speak on this. I just try to make the best art I can and keep trying to dream up new and interesting things to make as I learn more about using the technology.
I try to be responsive on Twitter and I try to share what knowledge I have with people who need help figuring things out. My DMs are always open to give feedback to other artists or general advice based on how I use the tech. I just try to put positive vibes out there and stay engaged so people can enjoy my projects beyond just riding the daily rising and falling of a line on a chart.
What other Fantom artists or collections are on your radar right now?
There is always a lot of debate about whether NFTs can be “just” art with no other utility. I believe they can be—or, at least, the art is the utility. Some Fantom NFTs that I personally own purely because I like the art are by cosmicfriendnft, SellekArt, and mazochist_LAF. There are so many more artists I want to add to my collection!
With all my fondness for web 1.0, it had a lot of shortcomings. It was difficult for creators to receive anything besides page views for contributing to the network, which was not very sustainable. And art and content is a major factor for mass adoption of the internet. Before the general population was even comfortable with online banking, people were onboarding to watch a gif of a CGI dancing baby or “All Your Base are Belong to Us.” Visibility is a utility.
Web 2.0 figured out how to monetize content, but it mostly benefited centralized third parties rather than the creators. I hope that NFT art means that creators have the tools to truly benefit from the cultural value they add to the system, where their work might be what attracts more users, users who may not care about TVL ratios or TTF speeds. Maybe that’s an overly optimistic view, but I’d just like to directly support art I love so that it can grow and attract more of an audience, thereby also benefiting the network as a whole.
I feel there is a similar trajectory with devs going from open source passion projects to working for tech companies to working in web3. I like unconventional projects that just seem like they are having fun experimenting and enjoying what they build like sweetango_zone, PocketPalsNFT, and lil_esper.
The NFT space seems to be providing a more sustainable opportunity to build these things, and that opens the doors to more innovation.
Anything else you’d like to share with the Fantom community?
I’m constantly impressed by everyone making art NFTs on Fantom. Every day, I see something amazing on my timeline that inspires me to put even more effort into my work. I think it’s amazing that the larger Fantom community—devs, collectors, organizers, supporters—have made it possible for artists to make and share their art using this technology and be adequately rewarded for their contributions.
Like I said, it’s still so early in terms of what this will all evolve into. I hope it’s all moving towards a place that’s an improvement over where web 2.0 failed us. I’m happy there’s so much talent and enthusiasm in Fantom and that it keeps attracting more good people.
Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has supported my art in any way, whether through a mint or just sharing one of my weird tweets. I never thought I would enjoy using the internet as much as I did when I was little, but that’s kind of what it feels like again. Thank you for being part of my web 1.0 web-ring and breaking my page view counter.