Arran Gregory: Can NFT's be used to help protect our Rainforests?
Arran Gregory is a multi-disciplinary artist based in the UK whose work spans between sculpture, painting and drawing. His artworks have been exhibited internationally alongside projects for clients such as Johnnie Walker, Swarovski and Ralph Lauren. His most recent work explores the metaverse-medium of NFT’s (Non Fungible Tokens) where he has been creating a vivid collection of digitally sculpted and soundscaped 3D animations.
Focusing on the relationships between man, nature and technology, Arran Gregory's work often spawns from a curiosity towards our own evolution. Exploring an interest in connecting the dots between the natural world and the digital age we find ourselves in today.
AIC: Hey Arran, OK so NFT's... For someone who has built a career around drawing and sculpting, what were your initial thoughts when you started to see this new way of presenting and owning art?
Arran: I won't lie, at first I didn't see the attraction at all, I couldn't understand why someone would want to spend millions on a computer-generated image of a monkey smoking a spliff. I could see there was a cultural movement unfolding and as an artist I was curious to see where it was heading, but I couldn't understand the attraction as the artwork all felt so throwaway and cowboy. The culture behind it is evolving rapidly and the content is starting to smarten up as people harness the technology a bit more now though and I've started to realise the potential is huge.
As a sculptor I've always been in touch with the physicality of an object. The dynamics of physical form and material characteristics of physical objects will always be of utmost importance to me but I've begun to realise it's perhaps not a case of one versus the other - the two can live mutually side by side and even compliment one another in today's age. The world doesn't seem to be slowing down, even since the pandemic we're now racing away again and I think the parameters of what our minds can perceive and 'feel' is broadening as a result of our techno-progressive world. I think that NFT technology, understood and used the right ways, can act as a channel to help identify value amongst big digital ideas that are perhaps not so tangible. Maybe they should be renamed 'Not Fucking Tangible!' art.
Arran: I can try! So NFT stands for 'Non Fungible Token'. Essentially it is a new way of branding a digital file as the 'Official' or perhaps 'Original' recognised version (previously not possible amongst digital files). Once the file has been officially branded in NFT-form (aka 'minted'), it exists on the Blockchain where its history from that point on is recorded and viewable by all. To own one is to hold a piece of cultural history that can be directly traced to its creators. Mostly you purchase them using cryptocurrency by visiting platforms like Foundation etc. Their value is subjective, which is no different from physical art, hence tons of NFT's end up going viral when they appear absolutely diabolical - it's the story behind them that attracts people's interest.
AIC: Ok, so let's talk about your new NFT collection. Are you able to talk us through the Poison Dart Frog NFT project? You started with a physical model right?
Arran: I wanted to do something different from all the AI-generated copy-cat projects out there as I find them pretty uninspiring. It was also really important for me to find a way of using NFT's for doing good, in a way that would benefit the planet by giving something back. So I thought up a project to help raise funds for Rainforest Trust, one of the world’s most respected and successful conservation charities right now. They are buying up land in the Amazon to protect based on their levels of biodiversity. Many of the areas they're protecting are home to my favourite animal the poison dart frog and that's how it clicked.
I have created a collection of 200 unique Poison Dart Frogs, each one bespokely animated according to a spectrum of 8 different toxin traits ranging in rarity. Collectors will be given the chance to mint their 'Spawn' which, on the announced 'Birth-Day', will transform into a randomised Frog from the collection.
Hidden within the collection are also 14 super rare 'Spirit Frogs', these are characterised by different material qualities such as crystal, mirror, 'cryptonite', holographic etc. Once the spawns become frogs, the full collection of artworks will be revealed containing all the individual info including names, rarity statistics and impact data on the projects the frogs have donated towards. >
AIC: It's certainly a pretty unique sounding NFT collection. Who helped you bring this project to life and how long did the whole thing take to complete?
Arran: So I carved the original frogs from a wax wire model in my studio like you mentioned. From there I 3D scanned and referenced the model to create a digital version. I've then been working alongside animator Will Samuel who helped breathe life into the frogs through his incredible skills.
Musician Ron Obvious has soundscaped the entire collection with each artwork having a unique sound attributed to it. So far the project has developed over a six month period, each of us becoming more involved and pushing the concept to evolve further and further.
AIC: What was the process of creating the soundscapes?
Arran: Ron Obvious took the collection to a whole new level by creating unique soundscapes that evolve alongside the frogs' toxin traits. He's treated it like a story that goes from a very earthlike rainforest scene, towards a more digitally decayed, otherworldly place that's somehow still tropical sounding and frog-like. It's always hard describing music but that's how it feels to me anyway.
AIC: Coming up with 200 unique patterns sounds super fun. But you're colour blind right? How did you work around this and has being colour blind ever held you back in any way?
Arran: So far in my work I've used a predominantly monochrome palette but I've always known when the time was right I'd want to use colour very boldly and so this has been the perfect opportunity. Will Samuel and I worked on many of the colourways together and he's offered much artistic input towards many of them. Will's had a really keen eye for unique combos actually - some of which I can't see at all, but that keeps it interesting for me. A few of the frogs actually look completely black and white to me.
AIC: Why Poison Dart Frogs? What is it about this deadly but beautiful creature that you find so appealing?
Arran: I was always obsessed with amphibians as a boy. We had an old sandpit, that eventually turned into a pond, when I was growing up and I was always fascinated by the tadpoles. I'd watch them every day as they grew into little frogs. When I was about 11 my parents bought me two North American Red-Eyed Green Tree Frogs as my first pets. I've always been amazed at the beauty and strength of Poison Dart Frogs though, they are super tiny (about 3 - 4.5cm) yet the Golden Poison Frog is potentially the most poisonous animal on the planet - the indigenous Embéra tribe roll their darts on the frogs' skins hence the name. I basically love nature, it inspires me so much.
AIC: Let's talk a little more about the Rainforest Trust. How did your relationship with them start and can you give us a little more information about how the profits raised will be used?
Arran: Rainforest Trust has been protecting rainforests for over 30 years and has already placed over 38 million acres of threatened habitat under permanent protection. I reached out to them about the Poison Dart Frog project and we met up over Zoom, they loved the idea and are really pleased to be a part of it.
50% net profits of all Poison Dart Frog Sales will be directly donated to Rainforest Trust, with the other half divided between the artists. The profits will be used towards a variety of projects they are running, many of which protect habitats where the frogs actually exist. Safeguarding existing rainforests is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways an individual can fight climate change, as every acre safely stores over 100 tonnes of carbon that could otherwise enter the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2. Studies have shown that halting tropical deforestation and allowing for regrowth could mitigate up to 50% of net global carbon emissions in the next 30 years – yet rainforests are still being cut down at a rate of 70,000 acres a day. And as well as storing billions of tonnes of carbon, the world’s rainforests produce 20% of the planet’s oxygen, stabilise global weather patterns, provide habitat for thousands of endangered species and sustain the livelihoods of millions of indigenous people. In short, we can’t really live without them. I've calculated the approximate carbon footprint of this project to be around 20 square metres, with sales of the collection however, having the potential to fund the protection of well in excess of 100,000 square metres of land specifically relating to areas the Dart Frogs inhabit.
AIC: Are there any personal favourites from the 200 Poison Dart Frogs?
Arran: I love them all but my favourites seem to always be the colourways that exist in nature. #147 'Dendrobates Leucomas' aka 'the Bumblebee' is really iconic. From the Spirit Frogs, I particularly like #188 in the crystal stepping stance - the sound is so futuristic.
AIC: Are you able to let us know the best way to secure a Poison Dart Frog?
Arran: There are only 200 so the best way to get in with a chance of buying at the initial mint price (0.3ETH) is to:
I'll be giving away some spots over the coming month to gain access to the 'Froglist'. (a guestlist granting those signed up with priority access to mint a Spawn first). I'll also be giving away some limited edition 3D printed Frogs in the run up so keep an eye out.
2. You'll need to get some Ethereum (at least 0.3ETH). You can buy this using platforms like Coinbase, Binance etc (perhaps find a friend who's familiar with this and hassle them for assistance). Act now whilst the market is low!
Sounds like an amazing project Arran that’s supporting such a great cause. We’re excited to learn more about each of the 200 Poison Dart Frogs once they spawn. Thanks for sharing!
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