Trevor Jones is one of the early pioneers of combining traditional painting and animation with blockchain technology to emerge as a key figure in the digital art world. His journey — marked by a late entry into art with a strategic pivot toward the digital — reflects the dynamic nature of the art industry following the advent of NFT technology.
Early Life, Education, and Exploration of Technology in Art
Trevor Jones grew up in a small logging community in Western Canada, where he discovered his talent for art in school. However, he never planned on being an artist and instead, he spent much of his 20s backpacking around the world before settling in Edinburgh in his early thirties, a move that prompted his decision to pursue art as a career.
In his late thirties, Jones graduated from Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art. He quickly secured a competitive position as a director at the nonprofit Art in Healthcare, where he stood out for his artistic talent and business acumen. Around this time, he also taught drawing and painting at Leith School of Art in Edinburgh while working toward solo exhibitions.
Jones soon realized post-graduation that solo shows were financially insufficient. Galleries took half the sales, and with artists bearing overheads, profits were slim. This realization led him to the intersection of art and technology as a way to differentiate himself as an artist.
In 2012, he began incorporating QR codes into his paintings, and by 2013, he was experimenting with augmented reality (AR). His innovative approach allowed him to transform traditional paintings into interactive experiences that captivated audiences and set him apart in the art world.
Trevor Jones’s Crypto Awakening
In 2017, Jones’s exploration of art and new technology led him to the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain. His “crypto art” started as it did for many crypto-curious artists at the time with traditional work incorporating the iconography of crypto culture.
Well before the ERC-1155, “crypto artists” attended Bitcoin and Ethereum conferences to peddle traditional artwork that would appeal to crypto-enthusiasts. Jones was quickly earning four and five figures for his AR infused oil paintings, so when he learned of NFTs — which, at the time, were being sold for ~$20 — he was skeptical, to say the least.
However, as he dug deeper and met some of the early innovators of the space — including Pascal Boyart, Alotta Money and Coldie — he recognized the potential of these technologies to transform the art market.
This prompted him to explore ways to integrate blockchain and cryptocurrency into his art. In 2019, he minted his first NFT EthGirl, a collaboration with Alotta Money (RIP), allowing him direct relationships with collectors and a level of control over his career that enabled him to bypass the gallery system and its associated fees.
The Bull Run of 2021
Jones’s foray into the NFT market was marked by several notable achievements. In December 2019, his genesis collaborative work with French artist Alotta Money, “EthGirl,” broke the sales record, fetching 72.1 ETH. This success was followed by another record-breaking sale in July 2020, when “The Bitcoin Bull” sold for $55,555. And in late 2020 his collaboration with Jose Delbo on Makersplace raised 540 ETH in total and his next collab with the artist Pak resulted in a sale of $1.4 million.
The following year, 2021, was a significant year for Jones in the NFT market. His iconic “Bitcoin Angel” set the record for the most expensive open-edition NFT artwork when 4,158 editions sold for $3.2 million in just 7 minutes in February 2021. This sale, coupled with his success in topping the highest bids on NFT marketplaces like SuperRare, Nifty Gateway, and MakersPlace, solidified Jones’s reputation as a prominent figure in the NFT art world.
Jones’s web3 impact reaches beyond sales. He has also been a mentor and advisor to emerging artists looking to navigate the complexities of the NFT space, and he throws his epic annual Castle Parties to gather together fellow artists and collectors. This has positioned Jones not just as an artist, but also as a thought leader and advocate for the integration of blockchain technology in the art world.
Trevor Jones’s Next Step: The Cult of Talos
Inspired by Jones’s earlier painting, Talos the Steampunk Bull, the Talos Project begins with Alpha, a digital artwork that serves as the first chapter of a series where steampunk aesthetics blend with the complexities of a mythological multiverse. This series combines various art forms weaving a fantasy world, complete with its own cosmos and lore, touching on themes of creation and mythology.
In the world of Talos, the laws of nature bow to the mechanics of an industrial landscape rich with literary, cinematic, and artistic references alongside motifs from religious texts and mythological narratives that enrich the fabric of this universe, making it so much more than some mere crypto fantasy.
The mythos centers on the Cult of Talos who idolize a divine bull and document their beliefs in the Codex Taurus, which describes an ongoing battle across dimensions, portraying Talos as a force of creation counterbalanced by destruction.
The Foundations and Future of Talos
While the series acknowledges its roots in crypto-art, it maintains the use of painting as a narrative cornerstone while embracing technological advances like animation and augmented reality.
The main story takes place after a character called The Engineer has captured and confined the essences of both Artos and Talos and is using them to power his mechanical world — a move the Cult of Talos would consider unwise, to put it mildly. Viewers experience this world through the eyes of a bird named Sialia the Page. The larger ensemble cast — featuring figures like Trollbottom the Clatterer and Shiba the Jester — brings the tale’s intricacies to life and adds dimension to the mechanized world.
The Talos Project currently features three large-scale paintings, animations, and narrative prose offering a window into the universe’s backstory and symbolic web. The project’s future includes completing a final triptych panel and its animation, alongside a promotion plan and the launch of a website dedicated to expanding the story. Beyond that, Alpha is only the first chapter in an epic saga being written as you read this.