Thursday, July 3, 2014

Steal My Art and You Steal Part of My Heart

I've talked about the copyright infringement issue last year here in my post called "My Art Belongs to Me". It is hard to fully appreciate the intense emotion attached to having one of your art images stolen until it happens to you. This morning I used Google Images to do a reverse search on my Trowel and Paintbrush watercolor image. I try to search for my images every now and then. It is a powerful tool for finding if your images have been misappropriated. Most often, you will find that someone has used your image in a blog and has forgotten to link back to the source. Sometimes you find something worse. Like today.

I sat in utter shock this morning to find that my trowel watercolor image was used in an Anthropologie newsletter on May 2, 2014 without my permission. They altered my original image slightly--adding a curve to the metal blade--and changed the color. That part felt particularly slimy. But there is no mistaking my painting. You can see the curved line on the trowel's handle where they removed the tulip. I know every shadow and contour of my original painting and that is my painting.

Not only is that painting mine, that garden trowel is mine. I know the feeling of its weathered wood handle in my hand by heart. It has helped me plant annuals and perennials. It has been left out in the rain. It has worked in more than one of my gardens.

I brought that trowel up to my studio in March of 2013 (I wrote about it here) to create an image that represents the name 'Trowel and Paintbrush'--the name I chose for my Etsy shop and blog. It has particular significance for me. It represents my dual passions of painting and gardening. It represents me. I sell that image as both a high-quality print and note card in my shop. I feel a particular happiness when someone orders that image from me.

It is inexplicable to me why a big company would steal artists' images. Well actually, I can think of reasons but they are not nice ones.

Using art without copyright is illegal and immoral.

Anthropologie and companies like them could be heroes. They could support the handmade movement and pay artists who work out of small independent studios fair compensation for use of their images. We work so hard. We care so much about what we do. When we are in our studios, we are not creating images to be used as free clip art by the world. We are painting because it is what we do. We paint because it is part of us. We paint to communicate. And, yes, we paint to make money for ourselves and our families.

*  *  *  *  *

I received this email from Anthropologie this afternoon (July 3rd):
Dear Kathleen,
Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We will look into the matter thoroughly, as Anthropologie and Terrain have the utmost respect for the intellectual property of others.
Moreover, we pride ourselves on the strong relationship we have with the creative community and the opportunities we offer to artists and designers.

I wrote this response on July 3rd. I will keep you posted.
     I appreciate you contacting me and am glad that you are investigating this disturbing violation of my copyright.
     I was shocked to find my trowel watercolor image somewhere it didn't belong, as well as being altered. You say that Anthropologie and Terrain have the utmost respect for the intellectual property of others. I am not feeling that way at the moment.
     I have posted about the incident on all of my social media accounts and have been receiving a lot of support from fellow artists. Acts like this do not just harm one artist but affect the whole artistic community.
     I would invite you and your associates to read my blog posts about what it feels like to have your artwork stolen. It is both infuriating and heartbreaking and needs to stop.
     My post about your illegal use of my image has been read 150 times in the past three hours.
     This post regarding another copyright incident I dealt with last year is worth reading by you and your associates as I tried to describe the visceral effect of seeing your art somewhere it doesn't belong. It is not a small thing.
     I will wait for news of your investigation while I weigh my legal options.
Sincerely, Kathleen Maunder
* * * UPDATE * * * 

At this moment (July 28th at 5:26 p.m. EST), my blog post has been read by 871 people. Amazing!
Thank you to each and every one of you! 

What a long shadow this situation has cast over my summer.
I am being asked by so many people if it has been resolved yet.  
The answer is no. 
There has been some discussion but I am still waiting for a positive resolution.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Pleasures

It has always seemed to me that summer really starts sometime around July 1st. Maybe because it's Canada Day on July 1st (that's Canada's birthday--147 years young!) and a public holiday in most places in Canada. It's also my birthday today! By this time of year, the school year feels far behind the girls. The garden is lush and the weather is hot and humid.

Some summer pleasures that I am thankful for today:

♥●•٠·˙ I love being able to walk out the front door and pick a huge number of beautiful serviceberries from one of our shrubs. They are at their peak right now. Meeko accompanied me while I was picking and got the occasional berry (he loves them!) for his companionship. Look at those beauties! For those of you who haven't tried a serviceberry, they look very much like a blueberry but are redder in tone and slightly sweeter in taste. We have several serviceberry bushes and trees in our yard and share the harvest with the birds.

♥●•٠·˙ Last night, Emma and Chloé had tickets to see a live version of the satirical radio show Welcome to Night Vale. My husband and I drove them downtown and decided to have a pre-birthday dinner together while we waited for them. We had a restaurant in mind but it was full so we walked a few minutes and ended up in an area called 'The Village'. Several blocks of the main road are reserved as a pedestrian mall in the summer. It is lined with terraces and decorated with garlands of pink balls (les boules roses). So beautiful. It is a diverse, lively, colourful neighbourhood of Montreal. We live in the suburbs and don't get downtown enough. It made my heart happy to be there.

The pink ball garlands or 'boules roses' kind of remind me of serviceberries. 
♥●•٠·˙ I received some lovely, thoughtful gifts from my family today--many of them from fellow Etsy shop owners. Some of the purchases are still in transit so I will be enjoying an extended birthday when I check the mailbox each day in the next week.

♥●•٠·˙ I am thankful that we have a pool in the backyard. Did you know that Quebec has more pools per capita than almost anywhere else in North America? Odd when you consider how short our summers are. But when the temperature is 32 degrees C (89.6 F) with a humidex of 42 C (107.6 F) like it is today, it is a very nice thing to have. Meeko also is thankful for our pool. He is an avid swimmer. (This is a video of him swimming in my in-laws' pool this past weekend.)

♥●•٠·˙I am thankful that there is a delicious looking chocolate layer cake waiting for me on the kitchen counter that was made by Emma. We will eat it after my birthday dinner which will be cooked by my husband Jocelyn.

I hope that, wherever you are, you are enjoying time with friends, family as well as the pleasures of the season.
Here's a watercolour I did of a serviceberry branch last year. I have it available as a print here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Party Girl in the Garden

Did the title of my post have you wondering what I was up to?

I am very proud to let you know that one of my garden photos has been selected by 'Northern Gardener' magazine for the cover of their July/August issue! That beautiful plant with the ruffled pink flowers grows in my garden and is called Sidalcea 'Party Girl' (also known as Prairie Mallow, Checker Mallow or False Mallow). My photo was chosen to illustrate their article on long-blooming perennials. I planted it fourteen years ago in our back flowerbed and it flowers reliably and beautifully each summer. It provides lovely cut flowers too. A beautiful perennial that requires very little care.

So proud that one of my backyard plants has made the big time! :) Thank you, Northern Gardener magazine, for selecting my photo for your issue. You can read their blog post about the upcoming issue here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Putting a price on art

I've written here before about how hard it is to let go of originals. There is an emotional tie that I feel with each painting. Despite this, I am starting to list more originals in my Etsy shop. Above are four of my most recent additions. I am proud of all of them. I am hoping that they find owners who will appreciate and enjoy them.

I've done a lot of thinking lately about my pricing. I used to sell a lot of original watercolours fifteen to twenty years ago. I took part in a lot of the big gift trade shows with my Florescence card line and people would often ask if they could buy originals. My prices used to start at $75 and go up to about $300. I worked predominantly in miniature format in those days. Although tiny, there were hours and days invested in each painting.

I now paint in bigger sizes (often 5" x 7" or 8" x 10"; I worked on a 22 x 15 inch painting this past week!). Because of the careful way I layer my colours and the detailed way I paint, all of my paintings take me hours and most often days. Yet when I started listing my originals on Etsy, I was pricing them lower than my small paintings twenty years ago. Why? I think I was influenced by the pricing I was seeing by some artists on Etsy. I wanted to make my paintings competitive with them. But instead of choosing more expensive pricing on Etsy as my model (it's there), I looked at the less expensive works. I also think that because of the gap years when I hadn't painted and was a full-time mom, I had lost confidence. I would have been better off choosing my own former pricing scale as my model. In the end, I wasn't honouring myself or my art.

I recently had a business contact ask me what my current hourly rate is. It was a sobering process to think about it as I realized the way I was pricing some of my paintings, I wasn't even making minimum wage. I did a lot of reading about the pricing of artwork. There is one interesting article outlining different methods here. Some people calculate by size, others by time, some by the current market, others by the subject and medium.

Rather than hoarding my art in a painting drawer in my studio, I am trying to put more up for sale. I increased the prices on some paintings that were already listed in my shop. (There are still a few under $75.) For the most recent paintings I listed, I tried to choose prices that are more in keeping with the beautiful materials I use and the time I invest in my paintings--the heart and soul that I pour into each of them. In the end, my method is a bit of a mix. One 5 x 7 painting might take me longer than another because the composition is more complex or there are more details. Sometimes a painting is bigger or the paper I use is more expensive. Sometimes, a painting is just more important to me.

I hope to list more original paintings in the next few weeks. I will continue to try and choose prices that are respectful to me and also accessible to those who love my work. Yes, sometimes the painting process can be challenging but I think pricing is the most complicated part of being an artist.

❤   ❤   

I have added a 'button' at the right side of the blog that you can click to go directly to the original paintings currently listed in my shop. There is a backstory to the photo I created for it. I had the frame and palette set up on a board on the floor. I originally tried using a tripod but the tripod was casting shadows into the photo. So instead, I leaned over it to get the picture frame 'square' in the photo. I leaned over it for so long (I took several photos and it still isn't perfect) that I put my back out. Yes, a true back story. Ouch! So I am not gardening this weekend as planned. I am doing what I can while sitting down and resting. Perfect time for a new blog post.

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