What is Art Blocks?

It seems there’s some sort of misconception towards Art Blocks- it’s not referring to an NFT collection or a type of NFT art. In fact, Art Blocks is a digital art platform built on the Ethereum blockchain that produces, sells, and stores generative art. 

The most economically successful Art Blocks project is the Fidenza series created by artist Tyler Hobbs. The collection recorded 42,164,650 ETH all-time volume on the OpenSea platform, and the artworks regularly sell for over $200,000. At the time of writing, the Fidenze floor price is 76 ETH. 

The collection, named after an Italian town, created 999 pieces of generative art inspired by the abstract expressionist painter Francis Klein’s artworks. It launched at an initial mint price of 0.17 ETH.

Art Blocks is a platform where artists can create and sell on-demand generative art. Each output is one of a kind, and buyers typically don’t know how the artwork will exactly look before buying it.

This programmatic, or generative, type of art uses algorithmic processes that make the art creation autonomous. Random factors are introduced into the code to make each art piece unique. 

Artists upload their algorithms to the Art Blocks platform and set the maximum number of editions to be minted. In some cases, collectors can pick a style from the options to generate the art. The artwork is minted in real-time on the blockchain as soon as it is purchased, and the output sent is a randomly generated art piece as an ERC-721 NFT, sent directly to the collector’s wallet. 

Well-known NFT profile picture projects, like Bored Ape Yacht Club or Crypto Punks, also use the generative art process to randomize the creation of the 10,000 NFTs in their collection.

To best understand Art Blocks, it’s helpful to know the basics of how NFTs work. 

Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, are tokens that are completely unique, and valued as such. So, Art Blocks takes control over the characteristics that make a project unique and gives it to an algorithm to generate. Since Art Blocks is built on the Ethereum (ETH) network, all the Art Blocks pieces are standard ERC-721 compliant non-fungible tokens. 

As such, an artist creates a piece of code that is uploaded to Art Blocks, and random combinations of the variables are generated. Most Art Blocks projects are created using a JavaScript framework that supports creative coding called p5.js.

Upon submitting their code to Art Blocks, the following sequence happens behind the scenes:

A seed, or randomized hexadecimal string is made. 

Each element in the seed specifies an attribute of the artwork within the parameters that are consistent with the artwork’s aesthetic. For example, the Chrome Squiggle algorithm wouldn’t just start randomly dropping emojis in the works, unless that’s what the creator specified in the programming. 

Finally, the end-product is created. The variations all come down to what the algorithm spits out– one could specify a yellow hue, whereas one could be green, and so on. 

The final NFT could be anything from a 3D model, interactive experience, or simply just a static image.