The real truth behind the #smolNFT movement

7 min readJun 11, 2021

The real truth behind the #smolNFT movement

Unless you’ve been living in a cave or totally disconnected from internet culture, you know what the term smol means. If not, go to Urban Dictionary.

But, I’m not here to explain the history of the word smol or how it’s used. I’m here to explain that smol isn’t about all the smol things.

It’s not about things being smol and cute. It’s not about whatever you read in Urban Dictionary.

Smol is ALL those things and more thanks to the work of Avery Famous: Artist and Trash Empress

How I discovered smol

I follow both Avery Famous: Artist and Trash Empress and one day saw them having a smol challenge.

Avery Famous: Artist chose the parameters after making the first one. Any bigger and it felt like it wasn’t restrictive enough

I do know that I thought it was fun and jumped in with a lot of other people to challenge our creative abilities to see how smol we could go.

Yeah, it’s fun, but what does smol actually mean?

For me it is about supporting the smol artists by bringing them exposure. Another meaning I take away is that it proves a point to the community about the fomo projects where most smol artists can’t participate. Who has 40k+ to spend on a punk, bonsai tree, or an ape? I sure don’t.

This is not a criticism on those projects, they’re dope AF, but it doesn’t provide a way for those in different socioeconomic situations to participate.

Many may not realize that 3 ETH is the equivalent to 6 months pay at the minimum wage rate in North Carolina or the average yearly salary in Argentina.

Anyway, that’s just how I am interpreting smol, though.

I decided to reach out to the source of truth, Avery Famous: Artist and Trash Empress and hear it straight from the true OGs.

So what made you start the #smolNFT movement?

Avery: Three or four days before it started, I was trying to upload a 2gb gif to Zora and it wasn’t working properly. I got frustrated with all the compression and rendering and how long it was taking. So on Thursday I got day-drunk off 8 mojitos and made a 10x10 pixel canvas in Photoshop.

Then, I made the little cool blue guy. I uploaded it to h=n and it looked hilariously tiny among my other artworks so I wanted to make more immediately.

I made a dog, EXTREMELY LIL JON SLEEPING ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR, and the first smol gif, the animation of mars. I loved the way the animation looked at that size and realised the smols had huge potential as a narrative medium. Then @EmpressTrash got in on it, made the smol bean, and we started making them smaller and smaller as a joke.

Now available on the secondary market for 69 tez

A few others also started getting involved in the race to the smolest like @YGriegaMX with his smol pong and nano-pepe and @PicacKc who made a 1x1 pixel viagra (he won the competition).

Empress: Personally, I saw Avery’s Extremely Lil John and that’s what got me excited. I thought, “why isn’t everyone talking about this?” and because I’m unfiltered I tweeted that.

Then I asked Avery if I could make a smol and he said the more the merrier. I made the smol magic beans and they sold out instantly and I was like, “wtf is going here?”

Then we started the smol arms race. In one of those threads, @cat_brown_art made a comment they were having an existential crisis, but knew they had a new purpose in life, and that was smol. Things like that hit me hard and that’s when I really started putting real effort into it myself.

I went to bed eventually and woke up to an insane amount of tez in my wallet and more artists making smols. Somewhere in there I was like, “oh I should start a chat”, and just started adding smol artists so we could talk and hype eachother up.

Then @moblyal started a discord because it was growing fast.

Things like that hit me hard and that’s when I really started putting real effort into it myself.

I went to bed eventually and woke up to an insane amount of tez in my wallet and more artists making smols. Somewhere in there I was like oh I should start a chat, and just started adding smol artists so we could talk and hype each other up.

Then, @moblyal started a discord because it was growing fast.

In your own words, what is a #smolNFT?

Avery: A smol nft is a drawing or animation made in a 10x10 pixel canvas. It challenges you to think about reducing something to the absolute essence — every pixel counts.

It’s true pixel art shown at true resolution, and there are a lot of interesting considerations you have to make when working at that scale with these parameters.

It’s great to see artists exploring this format and bringing their own spin to it, creating multi scene animations and narratives.

Smols are a very accessible form of art, almost like doodling, anyone can do it. All the tools are free and the bar of entry to make a quality smol is very low. I love that such small images can be so evocative and memorable and to create something with that kind of impact within those limitations is a really interesting exercise in creativity.

Empress: I also super enjoy working in the limited format. It always reminds me of my favorite painting teacher who really got me started and helped me find confidence as an artist by him always telling me “a true sign of creativity is a straightjacket”. So the second I open a 10x10px canvas, I’m sent back in a headspace of the same energy and sense of wonder for art as I had in my first years learning it.

I felt this was a headspace I was having a hard time accessing before, and a huge reason why I’m so thankful to Avery for even coming up with the idea in the first place.

Any thoughts on why it took off so fast and with so much support?

Avery: Good question! I think people are immediately struck by the size and there is something weirdly nostalgic about the way they look. They are cute and easy to make but offer a lot of room for artistic interpretation which almost seems like a call to arms.

All the tools to create them are readily available and making them feels casual and low-stakes. It’s very fun to bring them back and see what others have made, collect, and trade them. Smols are like a fully decentralized artist-made collectable, and I think that’s beautiful.

Empress: For me it all really just started as having fun with Avery cause they are just super fun, but through it it started becoming more meaningful. I could see how people who felt ignored or marginalized in the space could use this as a point to rally.

I also saw it as my opportunity I’ve been looking for to be able to clearly bring smoller artists together to raise awareness in the space to how many people feel ignored. It also was an opportunity to guide a new community to build, because I love community building, but not be the centerpoint of it. That’s what keeps me going with it all, to be honest.

It’s a right mixture of art meets collectible with minimal gatekeeping because the software to make the art is free online.

As Avery and I were tweeting back and forth I started to see how this was an underlying message that was resonating with some while also finally being a lighthearted break in the sometimes toxic drama of the NFT space.

Amazing works coming out from some of my favorite people really exploring the medium like @letsglitchit making a 2 hour smol movie or @p_kpllo with his smol hot take and so many other works — some are cute and fun, some are more collectibles, some are pixel, some are 3d voxels, some are deep meanings.

Now on the secondary market for 12 tez (originally .5)

All these disparate factions of the NFT space seem to be able to coexist though under just giving them the format of 10x10px or smol where they never really were able to coexist like this before.

As a femme artist, we are constantly having to fight for space, really constantly, unless people around us are mindful to allow it.

There is something delightfully subversive in the fact my smol nfts are what is actually getting me and other artists the attention we all deserve.

During the time frame since starting to do this with Avery I sold a huge collab with @letsglitchit which we were worried we weren’t going to find a collector for a lot of reasons and multiple not smol works that were in my collection before or I’ve made since.

Now there is even a museum of #smolnft on capturing the history as we live it. Check it out here.

Photo courtesy of @jamex_art

Want to join the smol nft movement?

  1. Mint some work 10x10px or less and tag it #smolgang #smolnft
  2. Join the Discord for support. (thank you @moblyal for starting it)
  3. Check out the Smol Shoppe on Opensea

New to pixel art?

Check out these tools to help get you started.

Find #smolNFT artists on this Twitter list




Hidden part expressing and healing itself through art, especially #nfts and #cryptoart