How to explain cryptoart to your mother-in-law

Lenara Verle
3 min readFeb 4, 2020


One of Miriam’s latest cartoons got rejected by the New Yorker and ended up in the blockchain. Some explanation was in order…

Fight! by Miriam Katin

She wanted it posted to her blog and Facebook page. We thought it would look great as an NFT as well.

(I don’t know how many people share her hatred for emojis, maybe only older people can sympathize — not the New Yorker editor apparently — but one of them can now buy this rejected cartoon for 1 ETH if they so desire)

We wrote: “you are on the blockchain!” and she replied “please explain what is the blockchain”.

I tried my best to explain. This is what I came up with:

Dear Miriam,

The blockchain is a new technology full of complicated details that not even I understand them all…. but…

It’s being taken over by artists which I find wonderful. What the artists are doing is creating galleries and marketplaces with this technology. What they can now do with the blockchain is they can sign digital artworks in a way that guarantees ownership, even though it’s not a physical object.

If you connect this blockchain signature to a digital piece (like the jpg scan of your cartoon), only one person can officially own it. This means it can be sold, and there are now art collectors buying. People can still make copies of the jpg but they will be unsigned, so what the collectors are buying is the only signed copy. They have been buying these ‘cryptoart’ pieces from a growing number of artists.

You may ask: ok they buy and only they can own, but what do they do with it?

Good question, and one answer is that they seem quite happy to keep them in their computers and smartphones. They don’t feel this is inferior to a physical drawing that you could hang on your wall. It’s a bit like in the beginning when ebooks came up and people scorned them. They said they were not real books, real paper, you can’t put on your shelf, cuddle with on the couch and feel the pages turning with your fingers, etc… which is of course a great experience but now people are feeling cuddly with their ebooks and that seems natural. So I think it’s the same now with the blockchain art, these first collectors are like the first people who bought ebooks.

Another answer is that some people want something that feels more like being able to hang art on walls so they are creating virtual galleries and you can walk through them in your computer like you would navigate in a video game. It’s kind of like a low resolution video game for now. It doesn’t look like a Pixar animation, it looks more like the first animations from decades ago but it should get better soon and people enjoy this “vintage” blocky look for now.

Anyways, hope this is not too much information…

She replied: “Not too much, you explained it very well. Thanks.”

So… success! :D

Let me know what you think, and if you want to try with your own parents /in-laws please tell me how it went.