Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remodel Mission

We've been remodeling around here, again, which is really not unusual. My husband bought this house just a few short months before we met, and while he thought it was a great man cave, I obviously had, uhm, different feelings about it. We have, with the help of family members, taken out wood paneling, demolished two bathrooms, replaced one (the other is a work in progress), painted, repaired, refinished the kitchen (it's amazing what paint and new drawer pulls can accomplish), put in a garage floor, and put a safety wall around the outdoor staircase to the cellar.

This time we replaced the flooring. I always forget to take "before" photos. It's not like anyone really wants to see the stinky, dirty, nasty, faded, gross, and did I mention dirty, nasty, stinky, faded, and gross with a capital OH MY GOD what is that tremendous stench, carpet? We now have laminate wood flooring throughout the house with new tile in the work-in-progress bathroom and around the fireplace. Next time we'll put the same tile in the kitchen and dining area, laundry room and by the back door. There's also quite a bit of it near the front door, which is awesome because last winter the mud was insane around here and a lot of the damage to the carpet happened because of that. The sparks flying out of the stove and catching it on fire didn't help much, either.

Of course thanks to all the remodeling, it looks like a truck from that Hoarders show blew up in my living room. So I'm probably going to spend a pretty good chunk of the next week, maybe two, or three (dear God please no, I will be better I promise) reorganizing and cleaning our house. There is only one thing I hate more than getting paint in my latte, and that is cleaning.


Thursday, August 25, 2011


A couple days ago we accidentally knocked the internet out at my house. We're still remodeling and a breaker blew and killed the modem. My husband, nerdy as he is, is the only one who knows how to make it turn back on. It is very particular about how it is plugged in, or something, and no matter how hard I tried it wouldn't work until he got home from work and fixed it. I did get pretty far on a new painting though!

Today I am hoping to finish that painting above, but more importantly I am trying to get all the artwork up on Wholesale Fantasy Art so we can have our grand opening in September. I'm excited about it all. Katherine Rose Barber will be our featured artist for September, and I think I've picked out October's artist, too. I'm also trying to fix my site, get caught up on e-mails and clean out the old framing room. It will be my son's bedroom and I'll still be using half of it for work but I don't need the whole thing to myself anymore.

Since I've been cleaning that room out I've found a number of things I'd like to get rid of. There's huge boxes of clear bags in sizes I don't use, old artwork that I don't make prints of anymore and haven't made prints of in years, and merchandise of the same variety, including mouse pads, key chains and greeting cards. I'll probably be auctioning off big packs of old stuff on Facebook this week. I don't think I will start today because it will take some time to get everything photographed. Look for that tomorrow!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Poor Man's Copyright

Can I confess something to you? Nothing annoys me more than the "poor man's copyright" myth.

The "poor man's copyright" myth is based on the idea that one could simply print out your artwork on some copy paper or put it on a disc, date it, put it in an envelope, seal it up and mail it to yourself, and that in a court of law the date on the envelope, stamped on by the US postal service, will hold up as evidence of when the piece was created, thereby giving an indisputable copyright date.

Hah. Nice theory.

In reality, unsealed, empty envelopes make it through the mail system on a regular basis. You could easily put a batch of envelopes in the mail, addressed and stamped, but unsealed, and watch them all come back to you. I have had this happen numerous times with bills and both business and personal correspondence. It just doesn't work.

In fact, judges have thrown this out in the past. It's just not proof beyond a doubt. Sorry!

You can use certified mail, since that envelope has to be sealed before it can be mailed, but what do you actually get from a poor man's copyright? Not much.

With "poor man's copyright" you can sue for actual damages, which are extremely hard to prove. You might have a copy of the offender's books and be able to say, "look, he made $9,000 from my art!" but then he can say, "yes, but I spent $8,999 worth of my time and expertise marketing that artwork so that I could make a $1 profit." Ouch.

So if you're really concerned about your artwork, the best way to go is to register it with the copyright office. It involves paperwork and a little money, but in the same situation you can sue for punitive damages. Punitive damages are exactly what they sound like; Punishment. You can get punitive damages that exceed what they actually made off of your artwork. In fact, if I remember correctly, you can sue for up to $150,000 in punitive damages for the illegal use of 1 artwork.

It's important to keep in mind that lawsuits like these frequently put small business owners out of business. Cases like the ones mentioned above can stretch on for years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you win, you can sometimes get your legal fees paid for by the offender as well, but the fact of the matter is that very few people who are stealing artwork actually have that kind of money laying around, or even have enough assets to cover that kind of money. You may never actually see any of it.

In most cases a strongly-worded cease and desist letter will convince the offender to cut it out, but I have been told, and I am not sure if this is true, that if you send a C&D, the recipient can send a letter back that says "okay, sue me." and then you HAVE to sue them. So you should definitely consult an attorney, or at least someone with more expertise than I have, before firing off C&D's in every direction.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today was just not a good day. I had planned to get up, ship orders, paint, run another auction on Facebook, you know, just the usual breakneck pace I always run at. Instead I cried for a while, distracted myself with PHP and HTML, indulged in a little retail therapy, and gesso'd some new canvases. I think any day that starts with the news that a lovely friend has passed away suddenly and unexpectedly is just not meant to be a very productive, or very good, day.

I was very lucky to have met Christine Winters. We started running into each other at art shows, and then life took me to Montana, and I only got to see Christine once a year, at NorWesCon. This year I was upset because we were not on any panels together. Now I am even more upset about that fact. I hardly saw her at NorWesCon this year, and now I will not spend another NWC enjoying her company. It is hard to imagine NWC without her.

I got to thinking while I was gessoing that canvas about how people will say things to the effect of people come into our lives to teach us a lesson. I think it's kind of selfish to believe that people exist solely to teach you, big dummy, to live better. But I think it is important to learn something from everyone you meet, otherwise their time in your life is wasted.

So I thought to myself, "What did Christine teach me? What will I try to do better in order to honor the time Christine spent in my life?" and I decided that ultimately, Christine would want me to be the best mother I can be, to always remain true to myself, to always pursue art, and to be very, very good to my dog.

I will miss her (oft unsolicited ;) ) advice, her wisdom, her sense of humor, and her beautiful, smiling face greeting me at every art show.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Putting Your Name On It

Has it really been a week since I updated? Yikes! It sure doesn't seem like it. Over here in Tiffany's Realm, I have been climbing over mountains of furniture, construction supplies, and laundry (eesh) just to keep things running sort of normally here in the studio. A lot of the things that are normally in the studio are still hanging out in my garage, and tonight I think I'll finally bring in all the boxes of reference materials, art supplies and other gizmos and get it all back to "normal" in here.

This week I have been thinking about putting your name on your work. I always sign my paintings, and all of my prints, but I have always been hesitant to put a line of text on the print with my name, copyright info, the name of the piece and my website. I am not sure why, in hindsight. I think a lot of other artists are also hesitant to put their name on it. Thinking back, I can't even recall the number of times I've bought some artwork, got it home, and realized the artist's name was nowhere to be found. Sure they signed it, but I couldn't read their signature, so now what?

I recently started representing other artists in a wholesale venture, and I realized that I really wanted people to know who the work was by. So I started putting a little line of text at the bottom of the print. It's faint, not very large, but it says "Piece Title" Copyright © Artist's Name. Then I realized, why am I not doing this with my own work?

If it really bothers somebody, easy. Put a mat over it and you'll never see it. It's not on the artwork itself, it's on the white border along the bottom edge of the print. Now if someone looks at it five years from now and can't remember where they got it or who painted it, they can just pull it out of the frame and oh hey, there's the artist's name and everything! Problem solved, I think!

So, to summarize, be proud of your work. Sign it, put your name on it, and when you sell it, make sure that there is a legible line of text somewhere (front, back, a sticker, something) that tells them who made it. Ta da!

Friday, August 5, 2011

It Is What You Name It

Something I've been thinking about recently is what people name their respective art companies. A lot of artists go with something obvious, like John Smith Illustrations, but sometimes people go with things that are less obvious all the way to downright obscure.

I chose Tiffany's Realm for mine. Why? Well, a lot of fantasy artists will go with Jane Doe Fairies or Jane Doe Fantasies or a combination of both, but I don't just paint fairies or fantasy art. I paint all kinds of different subjects, and I want people to feel like they are a part of the little "world" inside my head, full of dragons, fairies, vampires, mermaids, wizards and whatever else decides to poke its head out.

Some of the business names I have seen over the years left me scratching my head. Sometimes I wonder why people give their art the names that they have given it. This is just an example, but why use something like "Cruddy Art"? You're already telling everybody what to think of it! That's no good. You are inviting the inevitable internet troll to come by and tell you that it is indeed cruddy. And they will, believe me. There are more bored people out there without much common sense or courtesy and an abundance of free time than you can imagine, at least until you've been in the art business for a few years.

The other that really confuses me, is business names that are hard to understand, pronounce, and spell. If I can't remember it, how am I going to find you again later? "Now, was that rEihgmnlagh, or rIeghmnlagh?" I get it if you're from another country and it's a common word in your language. That's cool. But I see a lot of people in the good ol' US of A doing this, plucking a word or two that means something cool out of an almost-dead-language and then throwing it in their business name. You have to be sure to carry around business cards with a name like Reighmnlagh, 'cause good luck trying to explain to passersby at Art in the Park how to spell that one.

What I'm saying is, it is what you name it. If you call it crappy, messed up, turd-worthy poo-poo art, guess what? That's what it's going to be remembered as. If you call it obscure, hard to spell and/or remember art, guess what? It's going to be obscure and hard to remember. Forever. Because no one will remember how to spell your domain name.

It's better to pick something that means something to you, rather than something that seems cool and trendy. Eventually the trend will fade, and you'll be left with a real dud of a domain name and 5,000 business cards with "Turd-Worthy Art" printed on them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How do I...?

This morning was another of those mornings that I wake up and discover an e-mail in my inbox from a frustrated and confused fledgling artist, who wants to know...

"How do I make it in this industry?"

Man, I wish I knew. I wish I had a magical, one word response, that would make it so everyone who wants to be an artist can succeed and make a comfortable living at it. But I don't think there is such a word.


Maybe some mixture of "all of the above"? I can't even tell you how frustrated I have been at times. I have questioned whether I really found my calling, or if I was just kidding myself. At times it feels like I have been lunging at the same hurdle for the past 7 years, trying to figure out why I couldn't get over the dang thing.

My personal hurdle is responsibility. I was never really taught to be responsible, although my parents often complained that I wasn't, and my irresponsibility has plagued me my entire life. Well, until recently, anyway. Once I figured out what was getting in my way and decided to deal with it, it's been surprisingly easy to overcome.

See, I really did think I was a responsible adult. I didn't realize that I wasn't, because I didn't really understand what responsibility means to me. I knew what it meant to other people, and I exhausted myself trying to live up to that ideal of responsibility, but I never felt satisfied.

Responsibility to me means eating better, exercising every day like I should be doing, answering every last e-mail I get every day even if it almost kills me, getting time-sensitive work done on-time (and ahead of time if possible!), and cleaning up my studio every. single. day.

I know, boring, right? But there are other personal hurdles that many of us have to overcome. Fear of success. It sounds stupid, because the thing you want the most is success, right? But do you really? It means a lot more work than you're doing now, more attention, more rejection. All of that can be very scary, especially for someone who isn't used to it and can't just shrug off rejections.

Once you learn to get out of your own way, it's a lot of trial and error and the things I mentioned before. You can't give up because you get a rejection, or because you only have four fans on Facebook. You have to keep telling everyone about yourself and your artwork. Be active in art communities, post on art-related forums, make up postcards of your art and have the guts to send it to shops and try to get wholesale orders. Grab every opportunity that you see, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

As you go along you will learn all kinds of tricks of the trade. I look back at some of the stuff I've learned over the years and laugh at the thought of what it would look like to a normal person, let's call them non-art folks muggles, inside of my brain. Probably a lot of nonsense and way too many ideas of what you can do to save a painting with a cotton swab.

Sometimes you will have to flip burgers on the weekends, sometimes you won't be able to buy the expensive paper you really want. But if you keep trying and never take "no" for an answer, you will eventually make it.

Besides, who wants to give up completely and wonder for the rest of their lives what might have been?