From NFTs to Zaps with Bitcoin Art
8 mins read

From NFTs to Zaps with Bitcoin Art

Interview from the Dutch BitcoinFocus Magazine by Arnold Hubach. Read the Dutch version here:

Artist Johannes Oppewal, after years of wandering the world, has found his passion in Bitcoin art. Currently residing in Thailand, he shares his works under the name BitPopArt on Twitter, Nostr, and at exhibitions.

In this edition of Focus, he shares his story, vision on zaps, lightning, and, of course, the themes in his artworks.

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Who is BitPopArt?

After studying Graphic Design and Multimedia, Johannes continued his studies in Animation in Hilversum. “Cartoons have always been my thing.” However, he sees no future in this small niche. Meanwhile, his desire to travel is significant.

As a photographer, he travels the world for years, creating videos for platforms like Shutterstock.

“I wanted freedom, I had to get out, I wanted to see the world, but in a way to earn from it.”

He faces the harsh reality of (social media) platform centralization, and that’s where the Bitcoin seed is planted:

“I went to South Africa to film stock videos on safari. At that time, it was hugely new, and I made over 20,000 video clips. Stock photography was more developed, and video was newer. In 2010, I also made documentaries, but there was something missing in the business model.”

The Click with Bitcoin

Keep this in mind as we discuss Nostr and Lightning later on. But first, the essence:

“The market shifted. After investing in expensive cameras, central companies like Shutterstock changed their policies. They gave contributors less and less. I didn’t understand how it worked, but when someone explained Bitcoin to me in 2018, it clicked immediately. I suddenly understood how money and centralization work.”

While Shutterstock essentially takes money from freelancers, he finds a solution: “Bitcoin fixes this” and “protocols over platforms.” At the same time, he experiences the power of new technologies. As smartphones and videos rise, income sources don’t change easily. Thanks to technology and Shutterstock, they actually decline.

“The reason I’m on Nostr now is that I feel this is the next step. The zaps are the only interesting change.”

He continues his journey in 2D art, highlighting three themes: freedom, love and fun, And you can see it.

The recurring tongue represents fun, and with Bitcoin and Nostr, the element of freedom often emerges. Finally, the red heart symbolizes love.

“Drawing comes from not being able to understand. The more I do it, the more questions I get. I sometimes say: let me not talk too much; let me draw.”

Insight into the Thai Community

After trying to build his own communities and community apps for years, he finds them now on Nostr.

“I recently found out that Zap Stream is used by the Thai community. I can’t follow it, but I’m increasingly realizing that you really need friends to see the real culture. It’s incredibly interesting to follow the Bitcoiners here.”

Through these conversations, Johannes learns about the experience in Thailand:

“For us, freedom of speech is normal; we can say anything about the monarchy. But that couldn’t happen here and probably still can’t.”

Discussing this with the local population provides valuable insights. For instance, the government plans to give residents over 16 years old 10,000 baht, equivalent to $300, in the form of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

“I think ‘freedom’ is much more relevant here. Recently, two girls were detained because they said something; they went on a long hunger strike.”

You can already sense the growing perception of Bitcoin and Nostr as tools for freedom of speech and transaction freedom. “People who are ‘awake’ certainly express that on Nostr!”


With POPupART, Johannes creates Bitcoin art to leave everywhere in the world. But due to cultural differences, this isn’t always easy:

“I once put a photo frame with artwork and a note saying ‘take it for free’ here in Thailand. But Asians are different by nature; they leave it. And in February, someone at an exhibition took only the note, not the artwork itself. That was a real eye-opener.”

POPupART photo frames are already scattered worldwide, from Jack Dorsey to Berlin in El Salvador and from the Netherlands to wherever.

“The idea came from an exhibition in Friesland. I learned that you have to give people something they want to keep. Business cards are thrown away, but POPupART is a new dimension.”

This also aligns well with NFTs, where many crypto artists are involved:

“It also has an idea of scarcity but not on the blockchain. I put numbers on them and give them away. I’m curious how many will remain in the future. My dream is that my art, which I left with a cleaner in Cambodia, for example, gains value.”

Speaking of value: how do you deal with it? Johannes is a big fan of Nostr and zaps.

From NFTs to Zaps

Johannes also went on another journey up close:

“In 2018, I also did something with NFTs, and they became valuable. Bitcoiners say it’s junk, but ultimately, a creative mind also needs to earn money to do what he wants. Bitcoin is just a means, and art is my life.”

He continues:

“Now I’m conditioned by Nostr, and I see this as the new NFTs. I don’t need to do NFTs anymore. Even if it’s just one cent in zaps, the appreciation is so much more powerful than a like. It gives so much energy!”

The short conclusion is: you can do art with Bitcoin without the blockchain! A refreshing take.

Additionally, Badges are also a thing on Nostr. Every month, he earns something from them, by people who find it cool to display on their profiles.

“I notice that it only grows. I really feel synergy to collaborate. I was always looking for the value4value concept, but I never got anything from it. For BlockFi, I once made an illustration, but then you get a simple like. And now, I get something back directly.”

Thinking ahead, he sees many more exciting applications:

“It’s still early and very technical. But I see a lot of far-reaching applications. When I’m on the back of a scooter or in a tuk-tuk here in Asia, I really think: how cool would it be if he could get a tip with a sticker. How nice is it to be able to send money to people on the street.”

“I believe strongly in this principle and never found it anywhere else. I’m going 100% for it and see where the ship lands.”

You can find a beautiful Dutch-themed, Delft-blue, and orange Bitcoin artwork in our magazine. BitPopArt has created a beautiful poster that you can find in this unique magazine, along with many special stories about Bitcoin in the Netherlands. Order the magazine now for only 21 euros! Use the code BITCOINFOCUS to get a 10

You can follow BitPopArt on Nostr, or his separate account named Toonstr – entirely dedicated to zaps.

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