Michael Hafftka is a US based creator with works represented in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Carnegie Museum of Art, among others. During the bear market of 2022 he started creating NFTs and reached an all-time high in September 2022, selling his workTriptych for 30 ETH on SuperRare. Early 2023 he was accepted into the density of TungstenDAO.
Could you tell us about your story and how you got introduced to the NFT space?
I have been a visual artist since 1975. I have been experimenting with many mediums and was always excited to try something new. I first created digital art in 1996. I have some amazing works from that time. But the software and connectivity were still so primitive then that I got a bit frustrated and stopped with the digital.
At the end of 2021 when the world was abuzz with NFTs successes, I started looking into it again and discovered all the new applications and the grand variety of digital tools. I particularly like the Apple pencil, it seems to have been created by someone who really knows the feeling you get with real materials, like oil or watercolors, pencils or crayons.
What inspired you to start creating NFTs?
I am always inspired to create art, I thrive on it. The exciting part of NFTs is that it is a fairly new medium for me, at least new in terms of the applications and tools available. It seems there are endless possibilities, from reimaging my IRL works to creating 100% digital works. There are other aspects of web3 I really like which I am discovering as I go.
I think the decentralization of art is awesome, it removes the gatekeepers who keep artist hidden from the public. The meme culture, the Pepe culture, the Mfer culture, these are all exciting and I have great pleasure participating. It creates a lively artists community worldwide.
What was the first NFT you created?
My first NFT was created dumbly before I knew much, and I created it on Rarible with their contract. Later, when I started creating with my own contracts I offered the owner, who is a good fren, to burn it and that I will re-mint on my contract. He was happy about it, and the artwork 'The Monk's Daughter' can now be found at the Foundation.
Which tools do you use to create?
I have tried many, including Wacom Tablet, Xpen, Photoshop and Procreate. My favorite tablet is the iPad and my favorite application is Procreate and I still use the whole Adobe suite. I would love it if Apple comes out with a larger iPad, the small size (12") is the only disadvantage of it.
What are your biggest influences or sources of inspiration?
I have been an artist for so many years that the influences can fill up a page. I learned from many artists at different periods. During my childhood I observed Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. When I started painting, I learned from Paul Klee, Jean Dubuffet and Carl Jung. Later I learned from Francis Bacon, Francisco Goya and Rembrandt.
I love many other artists as well and they probably influenced me too. When it comes to inspiration, that is hard to explain. I don't think about paintings, I just create them. I like to see them as expressions of human experience, and other people say they recognize human experiences in the paintings. I think of myself as a realist, although not a photographic realist, more like an emotional realist.
What has been the most rewarding part of being involved in the NFT space?
I love creating non-stop, I never before was able to share so much of my work with so many people. I love it that I can get immediate reactions to what I have just created. Also, I have awesome frens in this space. Some are artists who understand what I go through and we can share thoughts about art, the process, and the space. Some are collectors, who have insight into my work and I enjoy their enthusiasm as much as my own, not to mention that they help me with their continuous support.
What advice would you give to someone starting out as a creator within the NFT space?
Wow, that is a tough one. It was very confusing for me at first and I made many mistakes. Everyone tells me I came up to speed very quickly but it didn't feel this way. If I were alone, meaning without my wife's help, it might have taken me that much longer. I got a lot of help from some trusted frens in the space, that made all the difference in the world.
But if I were to walk a newbie through it is hard to explain what exactly that means. I guess my advice would be: start following some in the space that you feel kinship with. Start relations by interacting with those people. Post public questions, people are generally friendly and helpful. Some advice I got early on was not to use many hashtags (so not to get shadow banned), and to use my own contract.
Other advice I got, which turned out to be most important, was to build a community of supporters by encouraging my few followers, keeping them informed on my plans and offering them utility tokens.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities within the NFT space in the coming 5 years? Culturally, artistically and financially?
I am no expert in anything but art. I definitely feel that NFTs and web3 will dominate the arts in the future, both the digital assets and IRL assets. I don't see a way around that. You wouldn't think of banking locally by walking over to a bank branch in your neighborhood anymore, and in the future, you wouldn't think of buying art from a storefront in your city.
I also think the NFT space is very much a reflection of humans and humans love games and entertainment so I expect in the long run art will be a smaller part of it, just as it is in life. More people go to the movies or Disney Land than to museums.
As a creator, is there something that you feel is missing in the current NFT space?
I think a community based on Twitter is difficult. It is difficult to keep track. It is easy to miss messages, or interactions.
What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?
The advice that changed my status from complete unknown and hardly selling NFT artist, to a recognized entity with a lot of support came from a very experienced collector who studied the web3 mechanics and guided me through on the steps I needed to take to create a community of supporters. That one collector luckily found me through another artist that helped me tremendously when I just entered the space.