At the end of 2020, I started learning 3D design using the open-source Blender creation suite. The last time I tried a 3D graphics tool was eight years ago when I used 3D Studio Max during a short-lived interest in 3D printing.
I don’t find 3D modeling that engaging, but using Blender procedurally to create abstract artwork caught my attention. In particular, the fantastic work of a Blender artist, Midge Sinnaeve, inspired me to spend the next several months learning the tool to create art.
I’ve created a persona for my art called NoRulesJustFeels. I’m still very much in the skills acquisition phase and have so much to learn, but I enjoy experimenting very much.
Due to the recent interest in NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) to sell digital art, I applied to several NFT sites. However, most of these use the Ethereum platform, which has a considerable energy consumption and very high fees.
I stumbled on a new NFT marketplace called Hic Et Nunc (HEN), based on the Tezos platform. Hic Et Nunc is Latin for “here and now” and is pronounced “heek et noonk .” There are so many aspects of HEN that are refreshingly different than other NFT sites that I decided to write this post to share what I have learned.
On March 1st, 2021, HEN was launched by Rafael Lima as an open-sourced project to experiment with creative economies. The site has already surpassed 100,000 objects covering a wide range of visual art, interactive art, and animations from a diverse group of artists worldwide.
Unlike other popular NFT marketplaces, HEN has no gatekeepers, and anybody can join. Artists also have the right to remain anonymous both for selling art and for exploring the gallery of art. HEN also encourages experimentation both in terms of the kinds of artistic expressions and the pricing.
I was personally attracted to the open nature of the site, the low fees, and its growing reputation of being a more environmentally friendly NFT solution.
NFTs are a way of tracing the ownership rights of digital objects by storing the transactions in a decentralized blockchain that is publicly accessible. HEN utilizes the Tezos blockchain for trading NFTs.
The actual digital art piece isn’t stored in the blockchain since it can’t store large files. HEN stores the associated digital assets on IPFS, a decentralized storage platform. Think of IPFS as a distributed file system that charges a nominal fee to store your files.
To create an NFT, an artist need to go through a minting process which creates a record of the art information in the blockchain. HEN utilizes “smart contracts” programs that automatically manage the minting, selling, and buying processes to ensure the artist is paid for each sale and receives royalties for resels. This system eliminates the need for intermediaries and fosters a direct relationship between creators and collectors.
I’m not a blockchain expert, but what I’ve learned about the Tezos platform has impressed me. Tezos seems to be a next-generation blockchain without the most significant limitations of the existing blockchain implementations such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Development and research for the Tezos protocol are funded by the Tezos foundation and currently has 1,176 USD M in assets. HEN received a grant and additional funding from the foundation to help with development.
The Tezos proposition paper was published in September 2014, and the foundation was established in April 2017. Currently, there are fewer decentralized applications (dApps) on Tezos than Ethereum, which is an excellent opportunity for developers to contribute dApps.
Tezos has a formal governance system that runs on the blockchain. All Tezos coin holders participate in the network’s development and encourage a democratic structure that eliminates control by a small number of holders.
Tezos is upgradable or “self-amending,” which is a unique feature and eliminates the complexity and delays that other blockchains must endure to add or change capabilities. Token holders vote on protocol upgrades without the need to fork or cause splits. The Tezos blockchain has network updates every three months and has successfully updated itself six times already.
There is a broad interest and use of Tezos, such as Ubisoft, BMW, and various local governments worldwide. OpenSea, a large open NFT marketplace, has announced that it will support Tezos, which will expand the market for artists.
Low carbon footprint
Tezos transactions are fast and inexpensive since it relies on a proof of stake model to update its blockchain instead of the energy-intensive requirements used in proof of work blockchain networks like Ethereum and Bitcoin.
The Tezos platform uses significantly less energy (millions of times less) and doesn’t require growing power as it scales.
For HEN, this means that it is cheaper and greener to create, sell and buy NFTs.
Artists have become more outspoken about the environmental impact of the popular NFT marketplaces and have advocated for clean NFT solutions. Some artists have put their sales on hold or moved to cleaner solutions. Unfortunately, the existing platforms seem to have done little so far or are waiting for promised future blockchain updates that might take a long time to address the issue.
The current cost to mint on HEN is 0.08 tez (the cryptocurrency for Tezos), equating to around $0.30 USD (see current exchange rate). This cost is substantially less than Ethereum based NFT marketplaces, where their average gas fees are much higher and recently spiked over hundreds of USD.
Average prices on HEN tend to be much lower than other NFT platforms, and it isn’t uncommon to see costs that range from 1–10 tez. You will also find free giveaways sold at 0 tez. Artists on HEN tend to charge less but mint a larger number of editions to make their money in volume, unlike other NFT platforms that focus on limited editions at higher prices.
HEN charges a 2.5% maintenance fee to cover running costs. The fee is paid by the buyer and deducted from the list price. This fee is substantially lower than other NFT marketplaces, which typically charge 15%.
For beginners to HEN, there are several ways to get free tez to get started which is a great way the community welcomes new artists.
The HEN website design is very basic, which I consider a plus. A simple dropdown menu provides access to most of the site’s features.
To sell your art, you need first to set up a Tezos wallet to pay the platform fees. I started using Temple as my wallet but later ran into some technical issues and switched to Kukai, which I recommend.
Next, you need to add funds to your Tezos wallet. If you already have an account with an existing crypto exchange like Coinbase, Binance, or Kraken, then use that to buy tez (symbol XTZ) and send it to your wallet address.
If you don’t have an existing account with a crypto exchange, there are a few ways to get free tez to get started:
- @tezosnftfaucet on Twitter: Follow the instructions in their account description.
- HEN discord: Follow these instructions and send a message in the #tezos-fountain channel.
You don’t need to have a public profile associated with your Tezos wallet address but recommended to help you build a reputation. However, updating your profile can take up to 72 hours, so I filled in this form and uploaded my first art once the profile was public.
The uploading process is straightforward, although the first time was a bit confusing learning the meaning of various jargon like minting and swapping. It only takes about 5–10 mins to upload and sell your art, and most of that time spent waiting for the blockchain transactions to complete.
Here are the main steps you have to follow using the menu options:
- Sync: connect your Tezos wallet to the site.
- OBJKT (mint): upload your art file and fill in the description, number of editions, and royalties.
- Manage assets/swap: set the number of editions to sell and the price.
Unfortunately, the site doesn’t always provide good feedback on when things are ready to go to the next step. So, a tool that I find helpful during this process is the TzKT Explorer, which shows the transactions based on your wallet address. I typically wait a few minutes after each completed transaction before moving to the next step.
A refreshing aspect of HEN is its diverse community of well-known and less-known artists with a wide range of backgrounds.
On both Twitter and Discord, you will find artists that support each other by buying and promoting each other’s work. The atmosphere is casual and not competitive. There isn’t any pressure from the platform to sell yourself and announce the prices of your art, which is standard on other NFT platforms.
By using HEN, there is also less criticism of the environmental impact of NFTs. The low fees also make it possible for artists worldwide to earn an income.
But it’s not just artists buying each other’s art, but also collectors who seem to be coming primarily from the Tezos platform.
The artists on HEN seem very excited and want to contribute to this new platform. Creative coders are also attracted since HEN supports web-based interactive art, which other NFT platforms don’t support yet. Mario Klingemann even created NFT’s as bug fixes for previous versions of his interactive art since it’s so cheap to mint.
The platform encourages experimentation and allows artists to post research or more minor works up to a significant release.
The platform also encourages experimenting with pricing. You can build a nice collection for a few dollars or even for free. Some editions are available as giveaways for 0 tez, which is a great way to promote your work. I’ve created a mesh logo for HEN for 0.01 tez rather than 0 tez to avoid bots.
Some artists are also doing exciting things like selling the same work at different price points. For example, for an edition of 100, sell the first 10 for free, the next 40 for one tez, and the rest for ten tez.
HEN is a fun way to start selling your art and building a collection of other artists’ work that you can resell on the secondary market.
There is also a growing number of projects and partnerships on the Tezos blockchain. VCs are showing interest and have invested in some startup dApps for Tezos.
The number of contract calls is now several million, driven mainly by the growing interest in HEN.
For HEN, in particular, it is still very early days, but I have some thoughts about the next steps.
There seem to be two somewhat competing goals for HEN:
- Support it as an open-source project: this encourages experimentation and attracts developers who want to help expand the capabilities.
- Run it as a product: even though HEN provides the basic capabilities of an NFT marketplace, it lags behind the competing NFT marketplaces in several ways, including limited discoverability, limited browsing options, lack of social features, limited sale options, and performance issues.
The HEN community recently organized a “hicathon” to task working groups consisting of volunteers to tackle issues and feature requests. Relying on the community for feedback and resources is a great way to support the open-source project. It might make sense to assign a dedicated developer relations manager to design SDKs, organize developer resources and evangelize the platform. Developers could test experiments in a sandbox, and those that show promise considered for the public platform.
There is a desire from both creators and collectors for HEN to become a viable alternative to the existing NFT marketplaces. Therefore it might make sense to both fund and staff the project with a dedicated team to focus on HEN as a product. The team could include a product manager, project manager, engineering manager, UX designer, and staff to handle marketing and legal aspects. Their goals would be to ensure that HEN is a competitive and sustainable NFT marketplace.
These two approaches would complement each other and allow for a more focused use of dedicated resources to ensure that HEN can compete and grow with other NFT marketplaces.
As an artist, I’m continuing to mint my art on HEN and am excited to see where the community takes the project.