The creatives building Peterborough’s crypto art scene

Peterborough is emerging as a hub of the growing digital art scene, according to one of its best-known supporters.

The work of Jason Duckmanton (35) will be familiar to many in Peterborough; dark, but not off-putting, and the characters retain an innocence.

No one will be surprised that one of his influences is Tim Burton, along with other academic inspirations including films by Studio Ghibli and American artist Alex Pardee, whose work will be known in many dark album covers. and gothic.

Jason, who lives with his wife Dannii and daughter Kassie (6), has always drawn in primary and secondary schools in Spalding, passing his GCSE in Art and Design a year earlier before studying multimedia at Stamford College and get into animation.

From there he went to Lincoln University on the Hull campus, where he also studied illustration, and first bought a digital tablet, affording it by “living on cookies and potted noodles.” “.

“I wanted it to become a career, but I thought it was just an idea because the level back then was so high. So I knew I should do more commercial work.

“After college I started working in web design, creating websites for Bauer and Emap, which I had learned in college.

“I did this for a few years and always tried to put illustration in it, and in 2007/08 I went to the Overground Festival at the Green Backyard, where there were street artists painting. made a big mural that people liked, and met lots of local artists.

“I thought Peterborough was more of a business place and I didn’t realize how much artistic community and creativity there was. I joined the Blok collective and it opened my eyes – so from 2008 I started going back to my digital stuff in my spare time.

“I had an idea in my head of dark children’s stories and exploring the character, but I was never able to find a writer for the stories, so instead I just made the illustrations to sell them. I did a market stall with Metal when they first opened

“Dawn (Birch) from Art in the Heart spotted them, and soon after she invited me to place my work in the Westgate shop, that’s when I started selling objects as a hobby. “

The Baker family have several works by Jason on our wall, including Heartstrings and a series of works based on the children’s rhyme One for Sorrow, which was on display in 2015 at the Peterborough Museum – the work was hastily completed so that he was preparing for the birth of his daughter, and around the day job.

But now Jason has stepped into the world of NFT – Non Fongible Tokens, or perhaps more commonly known as crypto art.

Digital files are still a new concept and many are cautious, but purchasing items digitally – downloads, video game additions and the like – is now commonplace.

Now, in the last couple of years or so, the provenance of owning a digital artwork authenticated by its creator has become widespread.

The scene has its detractors. Many are skeptical about the ownership of a JPEG, to put it bluntly. Others just say you can “right click” and keep the photo as your own file, missing the point completely.

But it has plenty of benefits, including the benefits of cryptocurrency and the fact that the work can appeal to other artists and communities across the globe, and help build followers.

One of the pioneers of the movement is Lee Mason of Peterborough, who can be found on Twitter as a metagist, and he has used his knowledge in the field for the benefit of other local artists.

At this point Jason was not selling any artwork as Art in the Heart had closed its doors and he said, “I had only heard of Bitcoin around 2019, and I thought it was just something for traders in stock Exchange.

“Then last year (Peterborough poet) Mark Grist, who I was working with on a project with Paper Rhino, mentioned that Lee was selling NFT art to earn passive income. had no idea what it was.

“When I heard about the residue – a 10% resale fee that you can collect if your work is purchased in the future – I thought it was too good to be true.

“I still had a few works that I had never published, so I joined a discord (online discussion forum) hosted by Lee, and it blew me away. He came in so early and was showing us his cryptowallet and how much we could earn. I thought I missed the boat because he had been doing it for a year, but I still wanted to know more.

In early 2021, Jason started using Twitter for the first time in ten years, which brought him in touch with other crypto artists, while improving his animation skills. The movement in Jason’s work is subtle; Sometimes a subject’s hair blows gently, or maybe there is a movement of the hand. Many were originally still images, which have been edited.

The first to be purchased was a digital animated version of In Love and Death – the two skeletons falling through the air, followed by a Beetlejuice-inspired tribute to Tim Burton.

“I released them that same day and there were a lot of artists, locally and around the world, who were interested in the Discord group I was in. They invested in it and they sold out.

“The 25 Lydia Beetlejuice sold for (the equivalent of) £ 400 each, and the In Love and Deaths were mostly sold.

“I was walking around Castor at the time with my daughter during the lockdown and got a message from Lee telling me to check my wallet. I looked and could literally see him go upstairs. – I think it was £ 2000 this morning My head was in a daze

“Lee was great putting me in front of people and guiding me through the process.

“It used to be that you would never know who bought your work, but now, thanks to social media, I can talk to them, thank them. I wish I could have done that with prints.”

But the biggest buzz was yet to come, when his work was exhibited in Times Square in New York with other crypto artists.

Lee’s kudos to the industry had an influence in securing an invitation to ten artists, from Peterborough and the UK.

Out of the blue, the invitation came for the artists to attend in person, although the complexity of travel and quarantine created a number of challenges that initially put him off. In the end, the danger of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – prevailed.

Jason chose The Cardinal (below) as his work to exhibit, and the trip was organized via a trip to Canada, using money from previous sales of his projects.

Cardinal

“I’m generally against the risk, but I saw the potential in it all, so I went. Other artists came through Barbados, but I went to Canada alone and had to stay alone. in a hotel for two weeks – but he let me catch up on work!

“I got to New York and when I did, I just thought ‘how am I here without getting sick?’ I had gone from isolation for two weeks to hundreds of NFT performers in Times Square, with banners everywhere going from party to party.

“Some of these kids did so much with NFT and were so generous with it. It reminded me of how I imagine the punk era, or maybe the ’60s, with pockets of cultural explosions. was a time I never will. Forget it. “

Back in Peterborough, Jason has a positive opinion of the city’s art scene. As is the case in many cities, the main critics are those who live there, and his friends from elsewhere have visited and are blown away by everything from the cathedral to street art.

He believes that more promotion and more art stores on the main street could be a way to further improve the offer.

A final word on NFTs: “Peterborough is starting to be known as an NFT hub. When I talk to eminent artists from elsewhere, they know the city

“I keep thinking that this can’t go on forever, and yet it just keeps growing. It’s a real community and you want people to be successful, especially after all this disconnection.

“And it’s not too late. You hear on Twitter people saying that they’re all going to be okay financially because they think it’s so early in the game – and it is.”

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