CryptoSketches is a blockchain art gallery. Here’s how it works.

Craig McMahon
4 min readMar 17, 2018
Photo by GoaShape on Unsplash

The problem

Our forebears painted what they saw and dreamed of on cave walls and plant fibres and — exposed to the elements — little now remains of their artistic endeavours. The Internet Age has given us new tools for expression, along with the surety that what we share with the world will endure, and perhaps even outlast us.

But this confidence is misplaced. Everything you share online is subject to censorship — whether by states or by the increasingly-powerful tech titans of Internet search and social networking. Those places where you share your digital dreams are vulnerable to hackers, to accidental deletion and even bankruptcy, should the business model of your content host not work out.

There are also other costs to the ways in which we share online, and other ways in which electronic art cannot current live up to its physical counterpart. If a file is copied a thousand times, how can we prove which is the original, and who created it? How can a unique piece of art ever truly be valued as a stream of bytes?

The blockchain solution

Enter the blockchain. A transparent history of transactions, widely duplicated on machines around the world and mathematically “sealed” in a way that prevents the historical record from being altered.

We’re all familiar with cryptocurrency, the most obvious use case for blockchain technology. But what if we were able to publish a piece of art in its entirety to a blockchain? We’d get:

  • an immutable work that couldn’t be censored by alteration or removal without compromising the entire blockchain;
  • an unalterable record of who created it;
  • an unalterable record of any transfer in ownership; and
  • backups all over the world!

Introducing CryptoSketches

CryptoSketches is a blockchain sketch art gallery. The idea is simple. Draw something, publish it, be recorded permanently as the artist. Share or trade as desired. We’ve just launched at


Our blockchain of choice is Ethereum. Whilst BitCoin remains exclusively a tool for cryptocurrencies, Ethereum operates as both a distributed ledger and a “world computer”, permitting innovative apps like CryptoSketches to store data and perform logic in smart contracts. In keeping with the open philosophy of Ethereum, the full source code for the CryptoSketches smart contract is on GitHub. In it, you may see for yourself that no central authority is permitted to alter or remove sketches.

What’s our vector, Victor?

Altering the blockchain is not free — all transactions cost “gas”, a fee paid in Ether to the operators of those machines which sustain the Ethereum network by “mining” new blocks. We save you Ether by encoding the drawing as a vector — a serious of coordinates where you touched and stopped touching the screen, rather than a dense grid of pixels. A vector image can be reproduced at any size without degrading quality, and even a complex drawing should only cost a few dollars in Ether, at current gas prices. There’s a listing fee of 0.001 ETH (about 0.5 USD, or 0.4 EUR) to discourage spam and contribute to the cost of maintaining the website.

Unique and collectible

The same things that make physical art valuable also apply to CryptoSketches:

  • Skill: the brush is not one you hold in your hand, but one that’s applied via trackpad, mouse or touchscreen. Nonetheless, there will be those who weld it more deftly than others! Some sketches will be detailed, others crude, some loaded with meaning and others open to interpretation. None can be altered or removed from the blockchain, though we may opt to hide offensive works from our gallery or homepage (nothing stops another website from showing them).
  • Provenance: with a transparent record of authorship and ownership on the blockchain for all to see (at CryptoSketches or any of a number of websites that display block contents), you’ll know who created an artwork, how many times it’s changed hands, and for how much. Although Ethereum accounts are typically anonymous “addresses”, CryptoSketches allows you to verify your identity with Twitter if you so choose — and perhaps thereby increase the value of the works that you’ve created or own.

Anyone may bid on your sketches. You may accept their bids at your discretion, or place a price your work so that it can be bought directly. A 3% commission is charged on sales to support maintenance of the website.

A lasting legacy

None of us will be around forever. But the works published by CryptoSketches artists will most likely outlive us all. Whether or not Ethereum continues to be among the most active blockchains, we may reasonably presume that as a part of blockchain history its contents will be preserved by somebody as long as computing machines exist.

Draw something on CryptoSketches today. It’s the cave art of tomorrow!

Feel free to offer your thoughts below, or join us our Discord channel.