Are NFTs art? We ask award-winning graphic designer Varvara Alay

Are NFTs art? A photo of the artist Varvara Alay sat amidst some flowers and artwork
(Image credit: Flower Girls / Varvara Alay)

Are NFTs art? Ever since NFTs burst onto the scene the debate has raged. They certainly are artistic and non-fungible tokens enable artists to own and earn from their art in new ways. We've seen an explosion of new styles of artwork as digital and physical media combine in new NFT projects, too. 

Flower Girls is one of the biggest and most artistic NFT collections around and was founded by the award-winning graphic designer and illustrator Varvara Alay. Flower Girls proved a different kind of NFT; launched in December 2021 Alay donated 20% of the project's profits to childrens' charities and spent a further 5% collecting children's NFT art. Clearly, Alay sees NFT art as something that can change lives.

When it comes to the big question of 'are NFTs art?', Alay explains: "NFTs are a technology for proving ownership of any digital or, indeed, physical asset. However, they are particularly helpful in regard to visual art since an image or video can be attached to an NFT."

She continues: "For me personally, NFTs have allowed me to expand my art practice and integrate blockchain technology – I am able to work with talented blockchain developers who contribute to the story of The Flower Girls so that, through my art, I can interact with my audience in different ways – I can build a story that is ever-changing, interactive and immersive."

Are NFTs art? Represented by NFT art from Varvara Alay

The Flower Girls art has over six sextillion possible combinations of traits (Image credit: Flower Girls / Varvara Alay)

The Flower Girls collection (opens in new tab) is made up of 10,000 NFTs made from 950 hand-drawn elements that celebrate diversity and beauty. The project aims to reshape the crypto space and open it up to more female artists. This isn't a new message, when we spoke with art curator and NFT collector Tina Ziegler she promoted the same message, particularly on International Women's Day, when she shared how non-fungible tokens can revolutionise art.

Below Varvara Alay explains why NFTs can offer change and where she sees the future of this technology and artwork. If you want to try it yourself, read our guide What Are NFTs? to get an overview and learn how to create an NFT for free. If you're an NFT art collector then read my guide to the best NFT displays.

But read on below to discover what Alay thinks of NFTs and the future of art and graphic design. 

Are NFTs art; Varvara Alay and Flower Girls represents NFT art

To date Flower Girls has donated over $570K to children's charities, and plans on supporting more (Image credit: Flower Girls / Varvara Alay)

Are NFTs art? They're so much more…

How can NFTs help improve diversity and equality?

NFTs on a decentralised blockchain have the potential to open any artist’s audience globally. When every person has a chance to participate and connect with their ideal collector, diversity and equity across the space are natural byproducts.

In the NFT space, there is a strong community of diverse women who are building communities around art that reflects and supports these values – women-led projects, like World of Women, Meta Angels, Boss Beauties, Honey Badges, Women Rise, and many many others, are at the forefront of giving-back in direct and meaningful ways – this work is an important component of building equality and diversity on and off of the blockchain.

NFTs and crypto have crashed, what needs to change to make this work for the future?

The markets going up or down do not determine the viability of the technology, particularly for the future.

When The Flower Girls talks about “the future” we think of the children whose artistic ambitions we’ve supported and helped to nurture. The art collected by our team, much of which represents a snapshot of the effects of a global pandemic on children, has been preserved in the Arctic World Archive for tens of thousands of years. One of the artists we’ve supported was able to receive life-changing therapy thanks to her NFT sales.

Markets can be expected to fluctuate, but the technology and real world benefits will continue to make an impact.

Do NFTs need to do more than offer good art?

NFTs are an entire technology, but if the question is about art NFTs in particular… NFTs offer artists unprecedented ability to remain connected with, reward, experiment with, and co-create with their collectors. It’s not necessary to take advantage of that ability, but it might be a missed opportunity to ignore it.

Is there still room for 1/1 artists?

There will never be a day that the world has no room for people creating beauty. NFTs offer a unique platform for 1/1 artists to reach and be discovered by new audiences and a new generation of art collectors. 

My personal NFT journey is a suitable example: I joined the NFT Community on Twitter with zero followers less than a year ago, and have since collaborated with brands like Pepsi and Chicago Bulls, while my art has been collected by amazing individuals all over the world.

Flower Girls art by Varvara Alay

The Flower Girls NFT has many famous fans, including Brie Larson, Reese Witherspoon and Eva Longoria (Image credit: Flower Girls / Varvara Alay)

What do artists need to consider when launching an NFT collection?

In terms of a large, generative collection, artists should consider the amount of work and “salesmanship” often required to launch and then sustain a project with thousands of unique tokens - each representing art they’ve created. A successful NFT project also requires sustained innovation and community engagement.

Does your NFT represent your art, and is it hard to reconfigure your style to an NFT?

As a digital illustrator and collage artist, NFTs were a natural fit for my style, and they also enabled me to experiment more with animation and audio elements.

Would you do anything differently?

There’s no way we could have predicted the success that came from The Flower Girls, with over $15 million in sales volume and support from Gary Vaynerchuck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson, Reese Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, and many other celebrities. I was certainly not prepared for such a positive response, and it’s been a challenge to adapt to this overwhelming attention!

What do you say to people who oppose NFTs?

NFTs have allowed me to give back in ways that I had never imagined possible. In the first seven months since launch, The Flower Girls project has raised more than $600k for children’s charities, including Save the Children’s Ukraine Crisis Fund and the Malala Fund, and committed more than $100k to collect 750 NFT artworks from 144 child artists. I have also found a community that is endlessly supportive and has surprised me every day with how engaged, fun, and positive they are.

Are you planning bigger Web 3 projects?

We are excited to continue to grow The Flower Girls, create art, and support children!

You can follow Varvara Alay on her blog (opens in new tab) but her message is to join in, whether that's with Flower Girls or by creating your own NFT art. If you're looking to create your own NFT, then read how feature on how to make and sell an NFT.

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Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5.