This article is about my quest to own a digital collectable piece of what’s basically an idealized version of a relationship between two fictional girls. It’s gonna get weird and slightly personal. For context, you’re gonna need to learn a bit about me.
First of all, I’m not a big Bumbleby (Blake & Yang) shipper. In fact, I’m not a big shipper in general, that’s more of Kate’s deal here. I don’t mind the pairing and think that they look cute together, but that’s the extent of it. What I am a fan of is bees. I love the clumsy little dancing goofballs, I love the honey they produce and overall am fascinated by them and their activity in the ecosystem. It’s only a coincidence that I ended up writing for a website named after them, but that only increased my love for them. And finally, I am interested in tech – new trends and movements in technology, especially the internet seem really cool to me. I probably have the most fun trying to guess if a new hyped up trend is going to stay and become engrained in our lives or is just a new fad that’s going to die out and be left forgotten. Here’s a picture of a 3D TV for absolutely no reason.
And no trendy piece of tech has been more hyped up more recently than blockchain and all of the various offshoots that come with the technology – namely cryptocurrency and, of course, NFTs (non-fungible tokens). What’s a blockchain? You probably heard the explanation (or attempts at one) a hundred times already, but in short, according to euromoney.com, “the blockchain is essentially a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across the entire network of computer systems on the blockchain.”
So… Let’s say I live in a village and want to sell a loaf of bread to Abraham. We first have to confirm with every other person in the village whether or not I have that loaf of bread and then re-affirm with everyone that the transaction went through and I no longer have the bread, but Abraham does. While it would seem a bit bothersome to do for every transaction that would happen in the village, computers can do these tasks really fast and it comes with a variety of benefits, like being pretty secure and not allowing ‘takesy backsies’. NFTs are what happens if you store images instead of transaction ledgers on the blockchain. Well, not images but rather the URL links to those images. And it’s not just images, but also videos, music, domains or trading cards. You can collect, trade and sell NFTs for cryptocurrency. Since cryptocurrency is basically just blockchain but for money, its easy to see how influential the blockchain has become.
A screenshot of Visor, a video NFT by Mad Dog James, that sold in an art auction for $201,600.
A screenshot of CryptoPunk #7523, an image NFT that sold for $17.1 million at the same auction.
Everywhere you look, NFTs have vocal crowds both supporting and going against the trend. A lot of explanations tend to paint NFTs in either positive or negative light, even when keeping appearances of neutrality. I wanted to find out for myself, firsthand, what NFTs are, how they are made, sold and the possible impact that they could have. And to do that, I decided to buy an NFT about Bumbleby. The RWBY ship. Mostly because our chief editor thought it’d be funny (and good advertising of the website!), but also because it’d stand out from a lot from other NFTs that are being seen on the internet. And thus began my unexpected and enlightening journey to owning a Bumbleby NFT.
The main objective is to acquire an NFT about Bumbleby. I can do this by either buying one, or making one myself. Finally, if I fail at either objective, I will resort to something that’s at least tangentially related to the ship (like a Yang or a Blake one, or just the bike or the animal, you get the idea.) The budget is $150 USD. Seeing as some NFTs go for millions I have a feeling that’s not going to get me far, but them’s the breaks when you’re writing for a website with no ads.
Objective 1: Buying the NFT
Buying an NFT, like doing most things on the blockchain, isn’t exactly easy or simple. You need a cryto wallet, you need to buy some crytocurrency, you need to pay ‘gas’ fees and even then things like transactions aren’t exactly instant. Still, before doing absolutely anything, I need to find the NFT I want to buy. There are plenty of different NFT marketplaces like Atomic Hub, Solsea, Rarible, Binance, Crypto.com and so on. All of these marketplaces differ in one way or another, like adding creator licenses to NFTs, having lower fees or using different blockchains and cryptocurrencies. What they do have in common, is that I couldn’t find anything Bumbleby related on them. I tried various search parameters, turning off curated content filters and even allowing NSFW content – not a single Bumbleby result could be found. Actually, I couldn’t find not a single RWBY NFT there at all. This was particularly strange since RWBY is particularly popular with fan artists, while NFTs are the new hotness in the art world. Perhaps I overestimated how popular RWBY or NFTs were…
Or perhaps I wasn’t looking in the right place? There’s one more NFT marketplace that I haven’t checked yet, and that’s OpenSea. It’s by far the biggest, most popular place to buy NFTs from, even if it lacks some of the features the other ones have. And when we give OpenSea a quick search… We actually find a result!
It’s really a nice piece of bees artwork and the price being less than $40 USD wouldn’t hurt too bad! It is even a part of a collection filled to the brim with RWBY artworks! Let’s see if there’s more Bumbleby content from this artist…
As you can see, this particular NFT trader offers an incredible variety of artwork featuring a plethora of characters and art styles. It’s almost like the person minting these NFTs stole them from various artists. Let’s face it, they certainly didn’t get permission from 400+ artists nor are they paying any royalties from this art. Bluntly, this is theft. We contacted the author of the original Bumbleby piece and let them know what steps they can take to take the image down from OpenSea, even if it’s not easy, reliable or fast. Personally, the most disgusting thing I found among the hundreds of stolen artworks was this tribute to Monty Oum’s passing in 2015. Someone’s heartfelt emotions and sorrow were turned into an NFT for $3.28.
But that’s just one person doing a vile and awful thing – in a marketplace as big as this there should definitely be actual artists that turned their RWBY art into NFTs, or so I hope. Unlike other marketplaces, however, searching for RWBY gave me a whole bunch of results. There’s even more stolen RWBY artwork posted by a new NFT minter (they actually started in the middle of me writing this article!) but this time with a unique vile flavor of RWBY NFTs featuring the girls in highly suggestive poses or straight-up bikinis. Plenty of these stolen images are from well-known artists, including those with heavy anti-NFT stances, and still prominently feature their watermarks. Not a single NFT from either of these two art thieves has sold, thankfully, but it still paints the whole market in a negative light. Since hopefully people buying NFTs aren’t buying stolen RWBY artwork, let’s sort by Highest Last Sale and see all the RWBY NFTs that have actually sold (and are probably originally minted by the artists).
That’s… Definitely not RWBY. I had to triple-check, but I didn’t do a mistake, I searched for RWBY and found whatever the heck all of these are. I see a couple of apes (a de-facto symbol of the NFT market), randomly generated disproportional Pikachu, a picture of animals with saturation and colors all messed up and… Is that John McAfee?! But try and scroll as I might, I couldn’t find a single RWBY NFT that had actually sold. No bees either. I did find a highly uncanny Elon Musk that previously sold for 3.6 thousand dollars and is now being sold for over a million. It also had a peculiar description:
The description had a lot of seemingly random words in a loose alphabetical order. From the screenshot, we can see that instead of an elaboration on the history, origin and significance of this NFT piece, we get Rooster Teeth, followed by RWBY, Sage and a whole bunch of League of Legends lingo. Actually searching for RWBY in this description was tricky too, as CTRL+F-ing the page made it crash the browser tab three times I tried it. Copy-pasting the whole description into a word editor showed me how obscenely large it was.
The same style of description was found in every other search result, which is completely understandable. Unpopular NFTs have to resort to lame strategies like that to boost their appearance rate in totally unrelated searches, on the off chance that an idiot will click on a shoddily-made Elon Musk while looking for a painting of two cartoon sapphics. Oh wait.
Objective 2: Making my own NFT
It’s clear that RWBY or NFTs aren’t popular enough to have RWBY artists make their own tokens or the search results are overinflated with unrelated pieces after they crush the search algorithm with random words. In any case, the only way for me to get a Bumbleby NFT is to make my own. Unfortunately, I can’t draw.
Fortunately, friend and contributor to the website Sokaras can, and to help this experiment they graciously drew us our very own Bumbleby doodle, featuring the website logo doing what the writers were too afraid to do in Volume 8: making the bees kiss.
They even made alternate versions with minor changes, just like what’s popular in NFTs! Now that I have the artwork, I need to set up my wallet, sign up for OpenSea, mint the NFT and put it up for sale. Simple, right?
Actually creating an NFT was a breeze, to be honest. I signed up for a MetaMask wallet, which works as a browser extension. I’m not a big fan of installing extensions that can read every website I visit, but that’s the price you pay for writing an article about bees. Next, I seamlessly paired it up with OpenSea and uploaded the artwork there, gave it a name and description. Finally, I chose which blockchain I wanted the NFT to be on. I chose the lesser-known Polygon, which has no ‘gas’ fees. If I wanted to sell this NFT on Ethereum instead, I’d have to pay several hundred dollars for the first time and that just isn’t worth it for this experiment. Oh and Ethereum uses up a lot of power and is generally awful to the environment, much more than Polygon. After this decision I pressed submit and the first ever official NFT of bumbleby.com was created.
I wanted to put it up for sale and then donate the proceeds to a charity, but it still feels strange and just not right to sell nothing to people. I wouldn’t be selling this artwork, just a link to it, and it’s not even my own artwork! After all this research, effort and fascination with poorly-made Elon Musk images, its hard to describe the emotions I get now that I finally own an NFT. It’s mostly… empty. The only purpose of an NFT is to sell it, and if you’re like me and you’re not planning to do that… There kind of isn’t a point. It also doesn’t really help that the Bumbleby NFT isn’t even on the blockchain yet – to actually ‘mint’ it, you need to sell it first. Although, I could sell this to myself to mint it and officially put it on the blockchain, the idea of paying upwards of $30 USD for ‘gas’ to buy a link to an image from myself is too dystopian for me. Not only that, but a marketplace filled with mostly stolen art being sold for the express purpose of reselling it later feels dirty, like corrupt system that degenerated after decades of neglect. Except this was all by design, these NFT marketplaces were built for this purpose. And all of this is bundled with the never-ending scams to steal others’ crypto and tokens, the cultish level of fervor NFT supporters show, the ridiculous ‘gas’ fees and the horrifying impact that Ethereum and similar blockchains have on the environment.
Objective 3: Something that’s tangentially related to the ship.
I really dislike this empty feeling I have after making my own NFT. I want something I could not only see, but touch and feel. I want to be able to show people I have an NFT without pulling out my smartphone and seeing their confused or disgusted expressions. I suppose I could print my NFT out. If I framed it nicely, it wouldn’t be too bad. Of course, anyone on the internet can print out that very same NFT, in which case my totally unique non-fungible token becomes very much fungible and no longer a token. If only I had a way to have a physical version of NFT that couldn’t be copied…
Any reasonable person would immediately explain that what I am looking for is a painting and they’d be totally correct. Luckily for me, a local festival was happening, and with it a fair and outdoors gallery. Several local and visiting artists were displaying their paintings and one of them caught my attention faster than bumblebee hitting Adam in the face. This painting was drawn a bit over a year ago by a kindly art teacher living in a small town about a hundred miles away. We talked for a long while about her past (she used to work as a seamstress!) and how the pandemic was actually beneficial to her in a unique way – by being forced inside she focused all of her energy into drawing non-stop, making these past years her most productive painting-wise. It was during this rush she painted this particular piece, which entranced me for as long as I looked at it. I just had to get it. Behold:
I can’t really explain it, but it speaks to me. I see it as having a sort-of melancholic vibe, as these two bees are travelling in different directions, the distance between them increasing ever more. At the same time, it is also hopeful, as these two bees might also meet again, very soon, as all bees have to return to the hive. My friends, who were with me at the time, interpreted the piece differently, saying they felt it conveyed the warmth and comfort of being together with someone, represented by the white space between the bees, as opposed to the cold darkness away from them. The artist didn’t say what she intended to say with the piece, as she drew it in the pandemic frenzy, fully caught up in her inspiration. After paying $140 I left actually feeling something, as opposed to the emptiness I felt after looking into NFTs. I felt joy having met a kind, humble and talented artist, and I felt satisfaction, knowing that this painting will be in my home, warming up my every day, while certainly impressing visitors. And hey, I still had $10, so I got a RWBY themed mug from a local vendor with art by what appears to be RWBY Chibi concept artist Mojojoj. Here’s both of them together – bees and Bees.