Schoolboy earns loads by selling digital artwork of whales

Benyamin Ahmed auctioned the ownership of his virtual art collection as he attempted to tap into a cultural boom linked to cryptocurrency

Benyamin Ahmed

A 12-year-old schoolboy has raked in sales worth the equivalent of £290,000 from his digital artwork of whales.

Benyamin Ahmed, from north London, auctioned the ownership of his virtual art collection as he attempted to tap into a new cultural boom linked to cryptocurrency.

He has been coding since the age of five and used his skills to draw whales in pixel form and generate thousands of unique versions of them, which he then put up for sale.

His quirky creations quickly generated interest from all over the world from collectors in the burgeoning digital art scene, who make purchases using cryptocurrency rather than a debit or credit card.

Buyers of virtual art gain a certificate guaranteeing the ownership. The certificates are known as “non-fungible tokens”, or NFTs. They are authenticated via what is called a blockchain, a digital ledger technology which powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

NFTs have proved to be major money-spinners for some artists, peaking back in March when a virtual collage fetched $69m (£49m) after being auctioned on Christie’s.

Benyamin Ahmed
Benyamin is tipped to become the youngest person to make one $1 million in cryptocurrency

For Benyamin, selling his artwork for cryptocurrency proved to be a rather handy solution to one major problem – he does not have a bank account.

His collection, called Weird Whales, proved to be staggering success and he made sales worth around £116,000 in the cryptocurrency Ethereum when his auction first began in July.

Since then, he has made sales worth more than £291,000 and is tipped to become the youngest person to make one million US dollars in cryptocurrency.

The digital money can be bought or sold using hundreds of online exchanges, meaning Benyamin cannot immediately withdraw his money if he wished or necessarily use it to make any purchase he wants, as many retailers do not accept payment in cryptocurrency.

This has done little to temper the excitement of the schoolboy, however, who has seen a project he started to keep him occupied during the summer holiday attract global media coverage.

‘I’m not a natural artist’ 

He said: “I’m not a natural artist but I watched a few YouTube videos and worked out how to draw whales in pixel form really quickly.

“It took me a few weeks to create the base images and various accessories and then I fed them into my programme that helped me to configure the rarity across the different traits, making some more collectible than others.”

He added: “On the day I put them up for sale they went viral and sold out in nine hours. It was amazing.”

As well as the earnings from his sales, Benyamin has also been getting royalties of 2.5 per cent every time his artwork has been sold by collectors on secondary online markets.

Both he and his older brother, Yusuf, were taught how to code by their father, Imran, who has developed software for the London Stock Exchange.

Benyamin said he hoped to “follow in my dad’s footsteps one day” and has tried to share what he has already learnt on his social media channels.

‘We’ve had some people thinking he must be a Russian hacker’

His father said: “I’m so proud of Benyamin and what he has achieved. People are shocked that someone so young can create something like this and we’ve had some people thinking that he must be a Russian hacker impersonating a child and not a 12-year-old schoolboy from London.”

The pieces of digital art created by Benyamin, he said, were “a lot more than pretty pictures”.

He continued: “There’s lots of mathematics and computer science especially when configuring the rarities and deploying the assets to the blockchain.

“It’s exciting that people like what he is doing, are investing in his potential and recognising that his career could follow the same trajectory as other tech entrepreneurs.”

Despite his newly acquired fortune, Benyamin has not made any lavish purchases yet – but has treated himself to a few pieces of digital art.