As artists, bloggers, authors, publishers, and generally creative people, we often turn to stock images — at sites like Shutterstock, DepositPhotos.com, FreeImages.com, MorgueFile.com (not what it sounds like), and a bazillion others — for art, photos, and inspiration.
But, do you know what’s okay to use in your artwork…? And what’s legal to use in artwork you sell…?
I’ve talked about copyright in the past. I’ve also debunked the “three stroke rule.” Those are old articles, but most of the information still applies. (Remember: I’ve been online, talking about art, for 20 years now. Really.)
Now, a friend has created a great article and infographic on the topic of stock images and how/when to use them:
(My current “art desk” is my bed. I have stacks of paper for drawing, plus a silverware drawer insert — $2 from IKEA, but you can find similar ones at Target, Walmart, etc. — filled with pens, pencils, paintbrushes, etc.)
Anyway, here’s what’s on my writing/computer desk and (at least partially) shown in the photo:
1. Computer (bearing a Honeydukes sticker from the Harry Potter shop at Universal Studios theme park), printer/scanner, and monitor.
2. One mic, plus one headset with its own mic.
3. Two pens, four thumb drives, a calculator, a portable hard drive, and a spare USB hub.
4. Two bottles of vits and a glass of water.
5. Lots of papers: My daily to-do notebook, and yellow, lined pad for notes. Notes from said yellow pad.
6. A printed page from my upcoming coloring book, still in progress.
7. Last but not least: A white mouse from IKEA.
(If you’re just desperate to see everything in detail, click on the photo for the 800 x 600 pixels version.)
Since I’m incredibly busy right now, it’s a minor miracle that my desk is this tidy.
I decided to post this since it’s kind of in line with “Real Professional Qualities,” my somewhat sarcastic article from Professional Quilter magazine, March 1986 issue.
Stage fright has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. It’s very selective. I’m fine in front of a crowd of thousands, especially in halls where the lights are on me and I can’t see the faces of anyone past the first row or two… and even they are too dark to see clearly.
Put me in front of an audience of 20 or 30 people, where I can see every face and every micro-reaction to what I’m saying…? Panic. Total panic. I have to steel myself to even think about that kind of public speaking.
That’s why, when I teach, I have a firm rule: I need access to the classroom, in solitude, for at least 30 minutes before the students arrive. (Otherwise, I’m likely to blurt all kinds of things… usually extreme and unexpected, if you’re not ready for the panalopy of creative ideas that rush through my mind like high schoolers rushing to class before the “late” bell rings.)
During my personal pre-class time, I give myself a “pep talk,” and use breathing techniques that would make Dr. Lamaze proud, to relax myself enough to teach. With the right mindset — or at least mental distance from “not good enough” self-talk — I can teach a great class with lots of student involvement.
(Without exception, every class I’ve taught that fell flat… it’s because I wasn’t given that 30 minutes to prepare.)
Creating art can be a similar issue for me and many other people. We may not have that visible audience, but when the initial spark of inspiration fades, the voice of the inner critic can be worse than any heckler in the classroom.
(You know that student. She’s the one who sighs loudly and repeatedly. And, at the end of the class — when it’s too late to do anything about it — she tells you how deeply you’ve disappointed her, and how you really shouldn’t be teaching. Or making art. Or both.)
Regardless of where the message comes from, we’re often striving for impossible perfection… as artists and as teachers. The slightest shortfall or flaw seems magnified on a big screen and in HD, and every metaphorical pore and blemish is the size of the Grand Canyon.
In fact, we’re often our very worst critics. We hold ourselves up to impossible standards, and we’re usually using the wrong measuring stick.
Last night, I was disgruntled. I’ve been working on a series of small (5″ x 7″) oil paintings, based on memory and photos I’ve taken.
Unfortunately, the results are — so far — uninspired. (I’ll get back to that in a minute.)
So, I took out my pen and paper, and started doodling one of my Pandorica-inspired pieces. (The Pandorica is a Dr. Who story element.)
I was so caught up in it, I let it run to the edge of the page. And then, I felt so disappointed, because that meant the piece would require an additional, larger support, just to be matted.
This morning, my husband pointed out that it’s a perfectly good work of art, as it is, and there are worse things than needing something in back of the work so it mats well.
He also reminded me that art is about the inspiration.
That gets me back to my paintings… the ones that aren’t turning out. I said that they aren’t inspired, and I mean exactly that: I’m working on them, production-style. By definition, that’s an industrial approach. (Yes, I am reading Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. It’s brilliant, inspiring, and terrifying, all at the same time.)
So, I went back to my Pandorica doodles. I’m waiting for this evening’s sunset, hoping the colors will be inspiring enough to spark (and complete) some or all of the six little paintings currently on my easel.
I want to take them with me to M.I.T. next week, when we’re hearing Seth Godin speak and participating in whatever’s going on at that event. I’d like to hand out art, at random, in kind of a random acts of kindness gesture. In other words, just for fun.
But… I feel a little stuck. And, I’ve been trying to work with a deadline more than inspiration. Bad idea.
It’s compounded by my fear of disapproval, or — worse — no reaction at all. Boredom. Kind of a “What, you think you’re an artist…?” reaction, as they drop the art in the trash. (Have I mentioned how well I can awfulize when I’m in this mode…? *chuckle and sigh*)
Okay. I’m not sure if this is more stage fright or the visual equivalent of writer’s block.
Either way, it’s putting the emphasis on the finished work and others’ opinions — even their potential opinions, if it’s work I haven’t shown anyone — instead of where it belongs, on the inspiration, and the creative expression that results.
But, what I’m describing in angst-laden terms is how we, as artists, make ourselves tiny and insignificant. And, it’s why we often stall and lose precious time in which we might be making art.
It’s a toxic, all-or-nothing approach. It’s so far from being in flow — in the creative process where we’re in touch with the sublime — we couldn’t find it with a road map, a compass, and a laser-tuned GPS.
The teaching…? I quit, years ago. Yes, that’s letting small-minded people win, but that’s okay with me. It’s a battle I never wanted to fight. I’m happy to leave those political games to others who savor them.
The art…? That’s another matter. Recovering my willingness to be creative, out loud… thats why I changed this website back into the blog it was in the first place, back in 1995 or 1996, when I began it.
And, it’s why I’m staring down virtual stage fright, posting last night’s Pandorica piece here, as a graphic and as an ATC you can download (and print at 300 dpi). Click on the illustration, above and on the left, to print your own copy.
In an emergency, even with 30 days to come up with $2000, only 25% of Americans are sure they could beg, borrow or steal that much money.
If you’re in business, you need to know your potential audience and customers. In 2011, if your usual fans & collectors are among 75% of Americans, they can’t buy your $1500 painting, wall hanging or assemblage, no matter how gorgeous it is.
Sure, your art may be worth that much or more. Value isn’t the issue here.
The more pertinent questions are:
Do your business practices make your future customers feel better or worse about themselves?
Do they like how they feel around you and (especially) around your art?
Do you have rapport with them?
If they don’t feel that sense of mutual understanding on a personal level — even as artist-to-customer — they won’t be as open to connecting with what your art communicates.
Sure, you can focus on the minority who can afford your art. That may be a smart tactic, for now.
However, that probably shouldn’t be your exclusive focus. Even if you don’t put as much time into laying a foundation with the rest of your audience, they’re still important to your future as a successful artist.
Reaching the 75%
If you’re meeting some of that 75% at art shows, galleries, or even as you’re running errands — and hope to attract them as clients, customers and collectors in the future, when they’re back on their feet — now is the time to establish rapport. They’ll remember it later.
Think about what you can do, so they feel a connection with you right now. What can you give or sell to them that they can own, and — at the same time — help them feel better about themselves?
Even if the person can’t purchase any of your art right now, he or she should walk away thinking, “That art is so great. I’m going to own some of that, some day.”
Contrast that with the sad, “That art is beautiful, and yet another thing I can’t afford. Maybe I never will.”
See the difference?
So, make it possible for the person to connect with your art and feel good about it, right now.
The importance of gifts
Whether it’s a happy conversation, a free art postcard (like VistaPrint’s freebies, which I use), a link to a webpage where they can download something… make sure you connect with your friends and fans, and they remember it as a happy meeting.
This isn’t a reciprocity thing. It’s not, “I’ll give you this now, and you agree to give me something in return, later.”
The gift economy is a little different. It’s about bonding as individuals, and as a community, to establish a personal connection and goodwill for the sake of the group and each other, period.
What do you get out of this? You get to be part of a happier, more connected community in a happier, more connected world.
You get the satisfaction of having done something good. Too often, that’s vastly underrated.
Remain sensitive to what’s really going on, despite appearances.
It’s important to stay current about the world in general. Use other people’s surveys (such as the article linked above) to understand your audience and what’s going on with them.
Right now, the global economy is in transition. This effects artists as much as anyone else, and perhaps more than most.
This is your opportunity to do something nice and helpful… and be remembered for it.
Pave the road to your successful future.
It’s fine to focus on people with cash who also like your art. That’s common sense.
However, pave the road for your continuing success — and invest a little happy karma — by making it possible for everyone to own some of your art, right now.
It’s not difficult. It may require a little creativity, but you can do it.
(Note: If you liked my graphic at the top of this article, it’s a free download. You can click on the image or here to download it as a 5″ x 7″ poster. If you collect ATCs, click here for that free download.)
To understand more about
our economy and the importance of gifts
be sure to read Linchpin by Seth Godin
Google Images are usually copyrighted, as well. Google aggregates (or “scrapes” or collects) images from all over the Internet, the same as they post the titles of webpages, and summaries or excerpts of them.
Nobody’s webpage is automatically in the public domain because Google indexed it.
Nobody’s photos are automatically in the public domain because they’re among the visual indices at Google Images.
Highlighted in yellow on the page linked above, Google reminds people to verify the exact terms of using images that appear at Google Images, even when the images bear Creative Commons licensing.
Here’s what Google says:
Before reusing content that you’ve found, you should verify that its license is legitimate and check the exact terms of reuse stated in the license. For example, most licenses require that you give credit to the image creator when reusing an image. Google has no way of knowing whether the license is legitimate, so we aren’t making any representation that the content is actually or lawfully licensed. [Link]
I hope that helps explain what people can & can’t do with your images, and what’s okay (and not) if you’d like to use someone else’s images in your art or other products.
Personally, I’m rabidly enthusiastic about Creative Commons licensing. I’ll talk about that in a later post.
For now, I’ve ordered the following book. I want to see suggestions about apparent conflicts between unbridled creativity and the copyrights of those who’ve created works of seminal (= strongly influencing later developments) importance.
Many people — perhaps most people online today — don’t know how copyright laws work.
I know no one who deliberately breaks copyright laws.
But yes… some people believe that anything online is okay to borrow, at least for personal or one-time use.
After all, everyone else is doing that, so it must be legal… right?
Umm, no. Really. No.
I’M NOT A LAWYER
I’m not an attorney. My interpretations of the law are my own opinions, not legal advice.
Also, even judges don’t seem to agree on copyright law. How harshly you’re treated, if caught, can vary from one courtroom to the next.
WHY I CARE
I’m an artist. Since the mid-1990s, when I created my first website — gosh, was that really over 20 years ago? — my own images have been stolen.
The tragedy is, I usually give permission when someone asks, first. I was thrilled when one of my original photos was used for a record album cover. But, the band asked permission.
I go directly to the webmaster when I find someone using one of my illustrations illegally. Most people quickly (and apologetically) remove the image from their websites.
However, a few balk. They insist they bought the image from someone else, as part of a package, so they think the image is in the public domain now.
Or they found the image at Flickr. Or something.
That’s when I contact the person’s website hosting service. Usually, the hosting service shuts down every website that person has. They’re banned.
Nobody’s happy, and it didn’t have to conclude that way.
I’ve written several popular articles about copyright, the “three stroke” myth, and how copyright law affects artists. Some of that information may apply to you. My original article is at https://aisling.net/copyright-and-the-three-stroke-rule/ , along with several other copyright-related articles.
I also teach artists, including photographers, how to protect their images so they can prove they’re the original creators of the respective works.
It’s a simple technique: I remove about 1/2 inch on at least two sides of the original image, before I post it online. When the hosting service asks me to prove it’s my original graphic, I can show them the larger version that has never appeared online. So far, that’s always worked.
Maybe you shrug off copyright laws. If you don’t know anyone who’s been caught “borrowing” images, and you haven’t felt the anguish of seeing your own work stolen, maybe it’s no big deal.
However, if you’re breaking the law, it’s only a matter of time until you’re caught.
Today, software can identify images being used illegally online. Art museums use this technology to protect their images, online.
Just like Google Image Search, the specialized software recognizes distinctive elements in original graphics and scours the Internet looking for any matches.
Once you’re caught by someone who has deep pockets or an attorney with whiplash mentality… heaven help you.
You’re playing a dangerous game if you’re using photos or artwork without permission.
USE LEGAL IMAGES INSTEAD
There is no reason to use illegal images in any product, including website design.
There are many great, public domain images online. Pre-1923 images are generally (but not always) safe to use. You can find them online; Wikipedia often features gorgeous public domain images by famous artists such as John William Waterhouse. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_William_Waterhouse
Those are just some of many great resources for free, completely legal, royalty-free images. (Remember: The images are still copyrighted. You’re simply given permission to use the images without paying a fee.)
Stock.xchng was one of my favorites. No matter what the name of the site is now, if the option is offered: be sure to search with “Restricted OK” set to “NO.” http://www.sxc.hu/
Morgue File (not what it sounds like), also called MFile, is another great resource. Like Stock.xchng, be sure to check the licensing terms for each image. http://www.morguefile.com/
Most free, royalty-free websites also offer higher-quality images for a fee. The fee can be as low as $1 with unlimited use rights, and that often depends on the size of the image you want (for online or print use) and whether you’ll be reproducing it on tee-shirts, coffee mugs, etc.
Or, if you found an image — like one of mine — through an image scraper or photo-sharing site, it’s easy to double-check the owner (and the rights to that image).
Browser plugins like Search by Image for Google make it right-click easy.
Then, ask the owner for permission to use the image in your project. Many of us are happy to say yes.
The best idea of all? Take your own photos. Practice makes perfect (or at least good enough), you don’t need to get a photography degree… though you could. And, once you’re comfortable with your camera, consider adding your photos to sites like iStockPhoto.com and earn money from them.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve been using images without permission. 99% of the people I teach or consult for have no idea they’ve been doing anything wrong. This includes respected artists including photographers and illustrators.
What’s important is to use legal images as much as you can, starting right away. The Internet is always changing, and copyright law is becoming a far greater issue across the online community.
Besides, there is no reason to copy others’ graphics without permission. There are many wonderful, free resources for great images. Use them instead.
Are you a professional artist, or launching an art career?
Whether you’re a gallery veteran or simply considering selling your art, it’s vital to remain current about the art field as well as business trends in general.
So… who are you reading, to stay current?
One of the most important recent books is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It’s changing about 70% of how I spend my online time, and almost everything about my offline art/business activities. (Godin is talking about art, but not necessarily visual or fine arts. The book applies to anyone with a job… self-employed or not.)
Some swaps say, “Documentation will be provided,” or something like that.
Here’s what that means: The person organizing the swap will provide a list of everyone who participated in the swap, mailart call, or whatever.
In some cases, that list may be just people’s names. In others, it’s each person’s name and address. (If you don’t want your address in the documentation, tell the swap/call organizer.)
Sometimes, the list will be included in whatever you’re receiving by return mail. More often, the list will appear online for everyone to see. (Again, if this is a privacy issue, let the host or organizer know.)
Some swaps may not include a list of participants. (Mailart calls usually do.)
However, here’s another tip: If you’re in a swap that’s 5-for-5 or something like that, the list of participants is not a list of whose art should be in the envelope you receive.
Unless the participant list is established before the swap – and that’s rare, although some hosts (like Red Dog Scott) may do this – you will never receive one item from every swap participant.
What you’ll receive is the number of items specified when the swap was announced.
And, you may receive a list of who else participated in the swap.
When organizing an art swap of any kind, postage can be a Very Big Headache. Here are some tips to keep the postage problems to a minimum.
Different people send items that are varying sizes and — more importantly — different weights.
Even in a cloth doll swap, you never know who’ll embellish their dolls with feathers, and who’ll use metal hardware, lots of beads and/or thick clay additions. Weights can vary considerably!
Never assume that the package being sent to you will require the same amount of postage as the one you sent to the swap host.
PRIORITY MAIL SOLUTIONS
Many people — including me — insist that the swaps have to fit in a Flat Rate Priority container, either the Flat Rate envelope, or a particular Flat Rate box. That resolves most postage issues, since all the packages will cost the same to ship.
Then, we ask for postage to cover shipping the swap to you.
IF you want Delivery Confirmation, include the postage to cover that, as well as the completed form, already addressed to you.
Remember: If you don’t ask for Delivery Confirmation and your swap is lost in the mail, you cannot accuse the swap host of failing to mail it… unless the entire group never received their swaps, either.
(Though I sometimes decide to send a swap with Delivery Confirmation to all participants, I pay for that myself unless I made it part of the swap rules.)
It’s important to send exactly what the swap host requests.
Send the right number of items.
Send the exact amount of postage requested.
Include a mailing label or an addressed return envelope/package… whichever the swap host asked for.
Send a different amount of postage because you think the swap host made a mistake. If you think he or she made a mistake, ask the person! (I often “round up” five or ten cents, to compensate for the people who send not quite enough postage.)
Put your postage on the return envelope, unless the swap host told you to.
Omit the return envelope, IF the swap host told you to include it.
Omit a mailing label that already displays your address. Swap hosts should not have to hand-address the packages.
Ask the swap host to use a different form of shipping than was announced in the swap.
In other words, read the swap instructions and follow them exactly.
While you may scratch your head and wonder why I’m taking the time to spell this out, I recently hosted a swap* and 100% of the participants sent me less postage than I asked for. (It wasn’t worth the trouble to get the missing cents, so I paid out-of-pocket at the post office.)
Hosting a swap can be more work than people realize. Make the host’s work as easy as possible.
Swaps are wonderful fun! Encourage people to host swaps by making their work as easy as possible… follow their rules!
*Don’t ask which swap it was. It’s over. I’ll make the rules far clearer — and I’ll be far stricter — in future swaps with that group.
When you’re participating in a doll swap through an online group or community, the numbers may confuse you. Here are some tips to help you understand how doll swaps work.
Aisling’s note: I posted this explanation at the WildArtDolls group at Yahoo Groups, where — in the past — people regularly swapped dolls. As of mid-2015, that group hasn’t been active for years, but we may re-energize it in the future.
When a swap is 3-for-3 or 10-for-10 or anything like that, it means you’ll receive the same number of dolls that you sent. You’ll send four dolls and receive four in return, or whatever.
It does not mean that you’ll receive one doll from each player. When hosts organize swaps, they have no idea how many people will play. So, a 5-for-5 swap means you’ll send five dolls and receive five in return, even if 150 people are in the doll swap.
Many swap hosts figure that organizing the swap is enough work. They don’t necessarily want to make something for the swap, too.
The swap will be announced as 5-for-4 or 10-for-9, or something like that. The first number is how many dolls you’re sending. The second number is how many dolls you’ll receive in return.
You’ll send the requested number of dolls, and the swap host will keep one of them (as a thank-you gift) before sorting the dolls to send out.
At the present time, most swaps seem to be organized that way. So, if you sent 10 dolls but received 9 in return… that’s exactly what you were supposed to receive.
Some doll swaps are organized for fun, but also to benefit a specific group, usually a women’s shelter or a children’s hospital, or something like that.
The charity is always specified in the swap announcement, and a link usually helps you understand why this is an important charity or organization to help.
However, we’re generally careful not to sound like we’re trying to recruit people to join or support the charity. It’s a fine line, but an important one when the charity is related to a particular religion or political group.
Generally, if you don’t want to contribute one swap item to that charity, you should not participate in the swap. It’s considered rude to say, “I’d like to swap with members, but that’s all.”
Those doll swaps may be something like 5-for-4 or 10-for-9, but they may be 7-for-5 or 10-for-8, or something different.
So, you might send 6 dolls and receive 4 in return. One of your dolls might be kept by the swap host as the usual thank-you gift, and one of your dolls will be donated to the charity.
EVERY SWAP IS DIFFERENT
Though I can post tips like this, every doll swap is different. Always read the rules carefully, and follow them to the letter. That will make the swap more fun for everyone, including the swap host and you.
If you have a question, comment, or a suggestion about doll swaps, post it as a comment, below.