Known by countless internet users for his lovably relatable skeleton cartoon character, artist John Karel has charmed thousands with his playful, Y2K-inspired vignettes of everyday life. During a pandemic when sitting indoors and staring out our windows became an inescapable pastime, Karel's kaleidoscopic windowsill series offered a refreshingly fun and often humorous perspective on our domestic surroundings.
But funny plant GIFs are not the only thing that make Karel's work green, as the computer animator has taken concrete steps to ensure that his practice is as environmentally friendly as possible. Like many who jumped on the NFT train during the past couple of years, Karel has had to educate himself on the environmental impact of crypto, including how to mint his NFTs using methods that don't harm the planet. Originally minting his works on Ethereum, a platform that uses unsustainable Proof of Work (PoW) technology, Karel later made the switch to using Tezos, a Proof of Stake (PoS) platform that prioritizes sustainability.
As part of his commitment to reducing his carbon footprint, Karel has taken the steps to become a verified Conscious Crypto Creator, joining Arts Help's global movement to empower artists to use clean NFTs in the fight against climate change.
In an interview with Arts Help, John Karel discusses his journey with NFTs and how sustainability plays into his artistic practice.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself as an artist?
I’m a computer animator based in Philadelphia, PA. I specialize in low poly 3D animated gifs of skeletons and still lifes of everyday consumer objects.
What initially led you to crypto and NFTs?
My first involvement in NFTs was in 2018 on the now defunct platform Digital Objects. That experience was minimal, and it wasn't until late 2020 that I actively started minting my work and being involved in the NFT world.
Before NFTs I made a living off of commissioned work, but I also made and posted a lot of uncommissioned work to social media. NFTs seemed like a very natural way to sell the work I was already making and free me from relying on commissions.
Why did you make the change from minting your NFTs on Ethereum to minting on Tezos?
When I started minting on Ethereum, I was unaware of the environmental impact of crypto, but as I learned more I couldn’t justify continuing to use any PoW-based platform. I started using Tezos because it was one of the only available options at the time, and once I started using it I grew to love it.
Did you feel like you were taking a risk when you switched platforms?
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. My ETH work was just starting to gain momentum with some collectors, and clean alternatives at the time were almost non-existent. Thankfully in the year since I made that decision, the Tezos NFT ecosystem has continued to grow and become a very viable option, so any risk I felt then seems irrelevant now.
What are some of the misconceptions surrounding clean NFTs?
Within the NFT world I think there’s a misconception that ETH is where the money and investment is and any alternative won’t last. From outside the NFT world, I think there’s a misconception that all NFTs are harmful to the environment and that there are no such things as clean NFTs.
Many individuals are shifting from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake as we become more conscious of crypto’s environmental impact. What challenges do NFT artists face when it comes to making that switch? Do you think there are still factors holding some people back?
I think once anyone invests their art or collection to one platform or chain, it's difficult to quit it completely. When Hic et Nunc started gaining popularity last year, quite a few ETH-based artists and collectors started using the platform, but not all stayed and many that did still continued to use ETH. I think the fact that it's environmentally friendly is only an additional benefit to many, and not the top priority.
Do you feel that minting on a different platform has changed your experience as an artist? Is the Tezos community different to what you experienced before?
I didn’t use ETH for very long, so I can’t really say what those communities are really like. The Tezos NFT community, though, is extremely vibrant and diverse, most likely due to the fact that Tezos is so inexpensive to use and the platforms all tend to be ungated and open.
Where do you see your responsibility as an artist to advocate for sustainability?
I see my responsibility as an artist to continue to promote sustainable NFT platforms by actively using them.
What advice would you give to people looking to get involved in the clean NFT space?
To not hesitate and jump right in. The community is very welcoming and diverse enough that anyone is bound to find a place within.
Click here to learn more about the Conscious Crypto Creator movement.