NFT artist Terrell Jones developed a unique method to attract attention that took him from stacking boxes for FedEx to his own Sotheby’s auction.
Artist: Terrell Jones, Michigan
Date minted first NFT: March 28, 2021
Which blockchains? Ethereum, Tezos
Influenced by classic gangster films, Terrell Jones has a distinctive style that captures imagination and nostalgia. He is about to auction a second piece at Sothebys and has a patented soft-shell taco method to garner the attention of notable collectors.
Who is he?
From childhood aspirations of being a cartoonist to now being one of the hottest new NFT artists capturing the attention of elite collectors and Sothebys, Terrell Jones is well into his launch trajectory.
Born in Ann Arbour, Michigan, Jones has a visually distinct style. But it is his ability to tell stories through his art such as the collections Evil in Color and Good and Evil that sets him apart. Just in the last two months, Jones has had some of his highest-ever sales, and there is growing interest in his work.
A big thing for me has always been to try to connect my stories and images with a deeper part of everyone. With the way things are moving now and with so many artists, people are probably seeing more art within a day than you probably would have seen within a year. Its been a big shift, Jones says.
Because we can see so much art, I wanted to have my stuff stick to people in a deeper sense. I want them to remember.
In a similar vein to Grant Yun (featured last week in NFT Creator), Jones is a big fan of drawing on evocative memories and a sense of longing for the past.
Im definitely trying to connect the viewers and collectors of my art with nostalgia. A lot of the music I listen to is for nostalgic reasons. A lot of the movies and shows I watch are for nostalgic reasons. I lead with nostalgia in a sense with my work, stated Jones.
Especially with the Evil and Color series, a lot of it does come from old gangster films or old crime films. Theyve been super influential for me and I was very much into them. Im talking about The Sopranos, Goodfellas, Scarface and all those types of classics.
Despite all of the recent interest, Jones remains firmly grounded.
I can remember times where people didnt care about what I was doing or what I was minting. Recent times have been a huge contrast to that, and its a big change. Im grateful for it.
The Getaway, by Terrell Jones, 2022. The Getaway title is a play on the word getaway meaning a vacation but also meaning an escape. Depending on the viewers perspective, the Devilles can be on a Miami vacation or on the run because of their villainous deeds. Source: OpenSea
Jones singles out American visual artist George Condo as his No. 1 influence.
Im a fan of a lot of artists, but George Condo is my favorite for sure. A lot of my early work was pretty much Condo-like copies.
I also have to give shoutouts to Edward Hopper (American realist painter and printmaker), Hiroshi Guy (Americano pop style painter), David Hockney (English painter, printmaker and photographer), Phil Hale (American figurative painter), Yue Minjun (Chinese contemporary artist).
Youve also got Takashi Murakami and Mpcoz who are doing amazing things in NFTs.
Jones style is simplistic yet fascinating. It takes you to places in your mind and draws out memories you may not have thought of for years or even decades.
Gamble With Your Life, by Terrell Jones. Source: SuperRare
I describe my style as a kind of a blend of pop art from around the 80s. I was definitely inspired by that a lot. Pop-Precisionism is how I like to speak about it its a sub-genre in a sense.
Im working to capture that feeling of nostalgia and that feeling of imagination, like when kids think anything is possible. I want to attempt to reignite that spark in us as adults now.
In true Jones style, the devil is very much in the details with a number of his creations.
I come from a religious background where angels and devils are a thing. Its interesting because I think they exist but for me they dont look or act necessarily anything like we think of them. For example, angels are like angelic figures with wings; theyre perfect, and theyre glowing. And with the devils, they are these red figures with the horns and all that stuff. I dont feel like either of those necessarily look like that if they do exist, says Jones.
His Joy and Wonder series led to a collaboration with notable NFT project Aku Akutars, founded by former Major League Baseball player Micah Johnson.
The Akutars collaboration with Micah was great. Before I was connected with Micah, I had lots of people telling me that my space boy character reminded them of the Akutar character. It was an easy yes for me when Micah reached out. I had already been thinking of different concepts and pieces. Really fun to be a part of.
Space Boy: The Voyage, by Terrell Jones. Source: SuperRare
The Maestro Sold for 24.90 ETH on 12 January, 2023 ($35,283 equivalent on date of sale). The Maestro is a commentary on how much technology is engrained in the new generations lives. I am often surprised how well I can multitask on multiple devices. (Foundation) The Standoff sold for 18 ETH on 16 February, 2023 or $30,130 equivalent on date of sale. (Foundation)American Dream Life – sold for HKD$177,800 on 28 February, 2023. This was $22,651 equivalent on date of sale. This sale happened via Sothebys auction. (Sotheby’s)
NFT artists to watch out for?
Bringing a massive smile to his face, Jones informs us of three artists we should all be looking into.
Kodak LDN Animator from Nigeria
Hes a Nigerian artist Ive been aware of for a long time. I think I might have been the first person to buy a piece from him. Hes a super talented animator, and I would love to work with him at some point, Jones says.
I really believe hes one of the greatest animators Ive seen. His work is not like anything else Ive seen whether in the NFT space or out.
Niah Artist from Australia
Theres certain artists where I just cant nail how they created a piece of art, and Niah is one of those. Shes one of those artists where Ill zoom in on her pieces and wonder how she got certain parts so clear even though its so intricate. Niah is just super talented.
I described him as our Steve Jobs. Hes insane. The project that hes about to come out with I believe is going to change a lot of stuff for the NFT space. I think that it will definitely start like a whole new meta. People should definitely keep an eye out for that.
With inspiration recently coming from classic crime and gangster films, Jones creativity is often sparked by watching classic films, and he uses the tool Procreate to help bring his creativity alive.
When Im watching those movies, Ill start to think of ideas and put them into my notes. Other times, Ill be doing the most random things, and Ill just have an idea pop to mind. From there, Ill start to sketch it out. Ive always said, If I have a good sketch, then I can probably finish a piece in a day or two, Jones shares.
Following the sketch and if Im happy with it Ill start to block out the colors, and from there, I work in a way where I work on individual characters or crucial aspects of a piece like a car separately. I try to work on separate files and eventually combine all the files. Part of that process is due to file size and layer constraints with Procreate, but overall, I think it makes my art cleaner.
Soft-shell taco method: Attracting collectors
VincentVanDough was the notable NFT collector whose interest helped Jones rise up the ranks. He credits what he called his soft-shell taco method of subtly getting his art in front of the right people, in contrast to the hard-shell taco method of spamming links to everyone and hassling collectors via DMs.
[Its] more on trying to find ways to put your art in front of peoples eyes in a way that isnt forcing it on them. Youre kind of making them run into your art by accident on purpose, says Jones.
I kind of soft-shell-tacod Vince at a certain point, and he was made aware of me. He dug into my art a bit more and ended up matching my all-time high sale at the time by purchasing my Birthday Boy piece in late 2021.
Since then, Vince has helped me go on runs with some of his SuperRare purchases. Were super friendly and talk a lot. Even though hes a busy person, hell often have different advice for me or hell see different things and offer perspective. Im definitely grateful for him.
The Dead of Night, by Terrell Jones. Source: OpenSea