Generative Art & NFTs - An Artist’s Guide 

Written by
Lauren Mae

Generative Art & NFTs - An Artist’s Guide 

Written by
Lauren Mae

Generative Art & NFTs - An Artist’s Guide 

Written by
Lauren Mae

Generative art (sometimes called “algorithmic art”) is artwork that is created all or in part through code. It is the intersection where art meets programming. It’s a concept that has been around for decades but has recently seen a surge in popularity thanks to the development of NFTs. Creating generative art NFT collections has allowed artists to produce unique variations of their artwork from a single algorithmic source and provide collectors with affordable one-of-one (1/1) art pieces.  

This article outlines generative art and its origins before highlighting its place and importance in the NFT space.

What is generative art?

Generative artwork is art that has some form of computerized intervention. You may also hear generative art referred to as “code art”, “interactive art”, “fluid art”, “generative design”, “creative coding art”, or “algorithmic artwork”. 

Its first notable use was from Harold Cohen in the late 1960s. He used computer-controlled robots to generate paintings, according to Tate. The use of technology in artwork has been on the rise throughout the 20th century and appears to be a natural progression from Futurism, Bauhaus, and Constructivism. 

Generative artwork nowadays is often created through coding, using programming languages, such as Python. Code artwork is attractive to programmers looking for a creative outlet and artists looking to expand the capabilities of their work through technology. 

A computer can be programmed to generate a 1/1 artwork or a whole collection of pieces. The creator must design the components of the work then code an algorithm that a computer can follow to generate the final work or works. This is particularly beneficial for artists who want to quickly and efficiently build a body of work. Depending on the number of components and the parameters set by the artist, an algorithm can often generate a high number of final pieces. 

Left - the components making up the artwork, right - outcomes generated by an algorithm

The final outcome of generative art can be both in and beyond the creator’s control. For example, it’s entirely possible to compile components of an art piece and code it to do exactly what you want it to do. On the other hand, for a generative collection (which can have thousands of potential outcomes), the final pieces can be dictated ultimately by an algorithm and a computer’s provable randomness.

What are generative art NFTs?

Generative art NFTs are artworks created all or in part through code that have been minted on a blockchain. They allow artists to share their artwork among many collectors, be paid for their creative efforts, and create communities around their artwork. Generative art NFTs are frequently used by collectors as profile pictures (PFPs) on Discord and Twitter, as a badge of honor and to show NFT community membership.

NFTs allow artists to take ownership of their work in the digital realm. They can be 1/1s, form part of small non-generative collections, or contain 10k editions, like many popular NFT projects. To make artwork into an NFT, artists are required to mint their work (tying it to a blockchain) or permit collectors to mint it. Minting converts a file, such as a piece of artwork, into a digital asset (an NFT) that lives on a blockchain. The process allows artists to sell their work, collectors to prove ownership, and the work’s provenance to be publicly available.

Generative NFTs begin as generative art. An artist will design the components, set the parameters for a project then allow an algorithm to generate a collection of 1/1s. Blue-chip NFT collections, such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), CryptoPunks, and Doodles, are generative art collections that were minted into NFTs by collectors.  

As generative art NFTs are part of a collection, a community of owners can emerge around the artwork, which is most prominent with the blue chips. Perks, exclusive access, and merchandise are frequently offered to those holding certain NFTs. For example, BAYC owners were airdropped cryptocurrency Ape Coin and given access to an exclusive Discord server.  

The Bored Ape Yacht club generative art collection on OpenSea 

Any artist with an idea can create a generative art NFT project. The options are: learning how to write code for an algorithm, employing a developer to help, or using a no-code generative art tool.  

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Reasons to try generative art

Generative art is a way to explore a new creative process, develop new skills, and breathe new life into your artwork. Artists are always on the lookout for new mediums and pushing the boundaries of technology is no different. 

Makes artwork scalable 

Rather than spending time and energy creating a 1/1 artwork, generative art allows artists to create a body of work from a single creative outlet. A whole collection of works enables creators to provide collectors with a piece that is both special and unique – not only one piece for one person. Making these pieces into NFTs allows collectors to prove ownership of an artist’s work. 

Unlocks new creative direction 

Generative art speeds up the creation process. While the art creation usually involves trying out how a piece may look a dozen times before settling on a specific color or component, a computer can now take care of that. Thousands of results can be returned in seconds, giving the artist more time to delve into other creative facets of their work and potentially give rise to new, innovative ideas.

An example of how components of an artwork can be organized and generated by a computer 

Relinquishes control over an artwork 

Not all artwork has to be fully in an artist’s control and that’s the beauty of generative art. Indeed the artist creates the components of a generative piece or collection but an algorithm takes over to generate the final outcome. For example, a collection of works generated from a single source could output millions of possible combinations, yet if the collection is set to comprise only a few hundred, it is impossible to guess what the output will be. 

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How can I get started creating a generative art collection?

Research generative artwork 

Explore what is already out there in the generative art sphere. Artists have used the creative process to come up with innovative and interesting bodies of work. A couple of examples are discussed in the next section and there are further in-depth examples of generative art collections on the blog. 

Come up with an idea  

The first stage of the creative process varies between artists. For some, it’s scouring the internet and going to galleries. For others, it’s people watching or taking a walk somewhere new. Do whatever is necessary to eke out a new idea. Inspiration from other artists is always valuable.  

Consider the generative components 

Think about what aspects of the piece would be generative. What parts could be designed? How would they be segmented? What could be fed into the algorithm to generate the final outcomes? These are a few of the questions to be asked when creating a generative collection. 

Work on the design 

This is the moment where the framework is clear and it’s time to get started on the design with whatever tools of choice, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, paintbrush and canvas, and so on – creating a digital form of art does not mean being restricted to digital tooling; it is always possible to employ traditional methods too. 

Start building the collection 

Choose a no-code generative art builder to compile the artwork or create the code from scratch. With a builder tool, it takes the hassle out of making a generative collection. The artist is able to focus on the creation of the work and then upload the elements; the builder tool takes care of the generative element and final output. 

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What are some examples of generative artwork?

“Grifters” by XCOPY

A notable generative art collection is XCOPY’s “Grifters”. The crypto artist is most well-known for his “Right-Click and Save As Guy artwork after it received attention on BBC World News and sold for around 7 million USD. The “Grifters” collection launched on Async Blueprints in December 2021 and featured 666 Editions. 

“Grifters”, the generative art collection from XCOPY

“DecentralEyesMashup” by Coldie

The “DecentralEyesMashup” collection from OG crypto artist Coldie comprises 623 Editions out of a potential 3.3 billion unique combinations. It uses 12 Layers and generates portrait artworks of “the faces who shaped the early days of the decentralized revolution”, including Vitalik Buterin, John McAfee, and Edward Snowden. 

"DecentralEyesMashup" is an Async Blueprint collection from Coldie 

“Thousand Headers Coterie” by Alotta Money 

With 1000 Editions, “Thousand Headers Coterie” by artist Alotta Money denotes “multidimensional scenes summoning weirdos from the past, degens from the future, and Zombies for the fortunate”. The artist used 6 Layers with varying properties including character, landscape, and item. 

“Thousand Headers Coterie”, a thousand Edition collection from Alotta Money

Discover more generative art NFT collections

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Other frequently asked questions (FAQS) 

What is no-code generative art?

Historically, programming knowledge or the help of a developer would be required to create generative artwork but tooling is now available to help artists create without needing to know how to code. No-code generative art is algorithmic artwork that has been created in part by code, but does not require the artist to have coding knowledge to create it. This artwork can be built using a generative art builder tool, such as Async Canvas. 

What is code art?

Code art (another name for “generative art”) is work that has been created using code or elements of code. It doesn’t matter what type of code it is, as long as the piece has been programmed in some way, it is considered coded artwork. Code art can be a gateway into learning programming or, for programmers, a gateway into creating art.

Is generative art hard?

Generative art can prove a challenge for inexperienced developers and it will also depend on the complexity of the artwork and algorithm being created. Fortunately, with the availability of no-code generative art tools, creating generative art is easier than ever. Creators can get started making generative art for free. 

How do you code generative art NFTs?

Many generative art projects use Python, an open-source programming language. It is also possible to use openFrameworks A C++ toolkit or Javascript to generate artwork. However, it isn’t necessary to use any code when no-code generative art tools specifically for making NFT collections are available. 

How can I make generative art without coding?

Generative art can be created without code by using a no-code builder tool. A platform, such as Async Art, allows creators to build generative collections without needing to know how to code. Artists upload the design elements through an easy-to-use wizard and Async’s platform assembles the artwork into different variations through an algorithm. 

Where can I sell my generative art NFTs?

Generative art NFTs can be sold on many NFT marketplaces. It’s possible to find a no-code generative art builder tool that has an accompanying marketplace to sell artwork. Reselling generative art NFTs is also possible on secondary marketplaces. 

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See also:

Blueprints: The Generative Art Canvas Template from Async Art

Generative Editions and Provable Randomness