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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Inspiration or Theft?

As an artist, how do you know when you are crossing the line between being “inspired” by someone’s work, and stealing it? And should you cross that line, how should you handle it when called out?

We had those issues come up in my art group – my Fly Tribe – this week.

One of my friends and tribe members, Deborah Velasquez, discovered that someone had copied a piece of her original art, and had it for sale on Etsy.

Click here to see Deborah’s original art, also posted for sale on Etsy. I am not going to link to the work of the copycat, but believe me when I tell you, it was visually nearly identical – just a slight change in font, and photocopied onto cheap paper – and of course, way less expensive. It was not so much using the same words that was the problem, but the layout was identical right down to using the coffee ring for the “o” in coffee, which is what makes the art so distinctive.

When the copy immediately brings to mind the original, THAT is when the line is crossed.

Now I’ll tell you the story of what came next…

Deborah mentioned it on our facebook page (this is now the second time it has happened with this same print!) Of course, we all encouraged her to protect her copyright, and she sent the person a cease and desist notice, letting her know she was presenting copyrighted material as her own art, and needed to remove it immediately.

Meanwhile, one of our little investigators went to the woman’s Pinterest page, discovered that she had pinned Deborah’s original work (complete with copyright info) on her board, so there is no way she could have thought she was merely using something that was in the public domain. AND, she had also done a post on her blog showing a photo of “her” work and letting people know it was available in her Etsy store.

Within a day or two she removed it from her Etsy store, but she seemed reluctant to remove it from her blog. A couple of us went to her  blog and left gentle comments that it was not okay to copy others work and present it as your own, and requested that she remove the photo. She deleted the comments, and the photo remained. Deborah repeated her original cease and desist letter, and another person wrote a VERY gentle comment about needing to delete the photo, and both the letter and comment were deleted. Hours and hours went by and the photo still remained. By late afternoon she had changed the settings on her blog so that all comments had to be approved before going up, but Deborah persisted, and by late evening the photo finally came down.

I found the situation a bit shocking. Not that the copying/theft happened. In the art world, it happens all the time. People think they have stumbled upon some obscure thing they can copy and no one will ever know, and sometimes, I’m sure that is true. But in this day in age, there are pretty good trails to follow, and within the art community and it’s networks, discovery happens frequently. The shocking part to me was the way she handled it.

I tried to put myself in her position. I have to admit that I was probably, in my younger years, a little “too influenced” by others’ work. I have a hard time believing I wouldn’t have been mortified by being called out, and would have done everything in my power to make it right immediately. I can’t imagine bowing my back and stubbornly persisting in keeping the photo up, especially when she so obviously knew she had done wrong and fixing it was so easy.

Anyway, this episode had a happy ending, at least for now. Deborah did not have to hire an attorney to defend her copyright, and the piece was removed from the offender’s shop and blog. I hope the woman  learned a lesson, and maybe if enough of us tell the stories as they happen, fewer theft’s of people’s art will occur. I hope so.

I’m in Letter Love

Yep, I did it again…signed up for another class on line.

One of my weakest areas is lettering, and yet it is one of my favorite things to have on my canvases.

So, I can either rely on chipboard letters, computer fonts or rub ons, OR I can learn to letter. I’ve opted to learn to letter!

So, Joanne Sharpe, a name I never thought I’d heard before, has a class I’ve signed up for. Come to find out, she’s been published in MANY Somerset Publications (Art Journal Somerset Studio, Somerset Apprentice), and Cloth, Paper, Scissors…so of course I’ve heard her name.


Roaming around her web site, Whimspirations, I’ve discovered I LOVE her art work, and I am sooooooo excited to do this class!

Stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll be showing you what I learn.

Inspiration Deck – A Tutorial

I hope you can stand one more post about “Inspiration Decks.” I’m proposing to my art group that we do one, but there is some confusion about what they are and how to do them, so I thought I’d do a quick little tutorial.

I was introduced to them via a swap hostessed by Jessica Brogan. You can see what a finished deck looks like by visiting her blog. She shows a picture of a relatively completed deck, and you can see all the different styles. She got the idea from Christine Mason Miller’s latest book, Desire to Inspire, which is available through

So, an inspiration deck starts with a deck of standard playing cards.

To make the deck, begin by coating the face of the card with gesso. This does not have to be the expensive gesso used for fine art, an inexpensive “hobby” brand will work just fine. I used “Delta” and it worked well. I laid the cards all out on a table and did them production style while I watched t.v. When they were dry, I flipped them over and gave the back side enough of a swipe with the gesso to use for the base for adding my name and blog address. That enables you to use the cards as a bit of an advertisement for your blog/business.

Next comes the painting, although as with ATCs, it could easily be done with papercrafting instead. Whatever medium you wish to use is fine. But the point is to make it fairly quick and not make yourself crazy. I got a little carried away (as I usually do!) and spent a bit more time than I needed to, but I was having tons of fun, and had the time to spare. The whole point is to have fun.

Again, I did it production style, coating all with a base coat of paint, then adding each part or layer to all the cards at the same time, rather than building them individually. For me that was to do all the edges, then add a second color to highlight the edges, then some textures, then stamping with Stazon ink, then more textures. Although each card is slightly different, staying with the same color for each texture, and using the same stamps on each, it goes really quickly. It took about 3 hours to get all 54 primed, painted and stamped. (Jessica had us send in 53 so she could create a deck to send in to Christine Miller, and I kept the 54th for myself, just because I loved how they turned out!)

Locating all the sayings and deciding which ones to use and which fonts and what size worked best for each was the most time consuming part. For the swap I am proposing for the 2011 Fly Tribe, I would include a PDF with all the sayings already laid out. Then you would just cut them out and attach them to the cards, which would save a lot of time. Additionally, it would insure that every one got all the same sayings in their return deck.

I cut out each strip of saying, trimmed it down, and decided how to separate the words, coated the card with modpodge, placed the words on, and added additional modpodge over the top. After it dried, I used pastels to shade around the strips and along the edges to give a more finished look. I was tempted to add a bit of pen work, but restrained myself. If I was giving them as a gift, I would add the additional detail.

Then I added my name and blog address to the back side using a pitt pen, which writes just beautifully over the gesso texture, and it is beautifully permanent.

I didn’t keep track at the time of how long I spent on mine, but going back, and taking out the time it took to prepare the sayings, I would guess I have about 6 hours in them, spread over 3 evenings while watching t.v. shows I would have watched anyway, so I did double duty. If you blog about the process, you can stretch it to triple duty, and for me, this is the 4th post on the subject (thank you for hanging in there with me!)

I can’t even tell you how much fun I had doing these. Although I guess the fact that I’m ready to jump in and do it again speaks volumes!

Were I to do sets for gifts, I would use playing cards that had pretty backs and match my paints to those colors so I could leave the backs unpainted, or double the numbers of sayings and do both sides. The ideas are flowing quickly. I can see so many applications!

But, back to the nuts and bolts of a swap…Just as with an ATC swap, all the decks would get mailed to the hostess (in this case me) along with $5.00 to cover the cost of postage and the rings, and I’d finish off the decks, taking one from each of the 52 artists, punching a hole in the corner, and slipping a ring trough the holes. Then, like magic, you’d get an eclectic deck back, featuring a card from from each artist and 52 different sayings…

Sounds like fun, huh?

Ta Da! Completed Inspiration Deck!

Well, my quick little project turned out to be the equivalent of 53 ATCs, but they’re done, and I love them. So much so that I don’t want to let them go, which means I’ll probably be making another set for myself.

I love the colors and the textures and the way the fancy fonts turned out…  Here’s a sampling of the finished product.

I will send the completed cards to the hostess for the swap, and she will do the finish work – punching a hole in the upper left hand corner, and making 53 sets of 52 cards each (each from a different artist) putting a ring through the set and returning a set to each artist. It will be a completely eclectic set – all different styles and colors, and hopefully lots of wonderful, inspirational sayings!

But, I can picture all my little darlings bound together, with little coordinating ribbons tied around the ring…

Hmmmmm…I wonder if I could stay interested long enough to do them all over again?

Inspiration Deck – Stage Two

Well, as is oft the way with me, I may have bitten off a bit more than I thought…Seems I am incapable of keeping a simple project, simple.

I spent much of the day today searching for inspirational sayings for my deck. And then, once having found the ones I want to use, typed them up, switched up the fonts and printed them up.

Then tonight I laid down the foundation paint and began layers. OMG. Seems as though I’ve got 53 ATCs on my hands. How did that happen? This is supposed to be a quick, easy project.

The lettering turned out kinda cute, and you can’t slap that onto ugly backgrounds…Good grief!

Inspiration Deck – Stage One

Well I got the gesso and started prime-coating my cards tonight. Fortunately I had my little helper.


She loves it when she gets to help with my projects…This one is easy enough at this stage she could do it herself, but it was time for bed. Mama let her finish up the one side. They look so cute all lined up. This side just gets my blog address printed on it!  Hmmmmm…I may have to fancy it up just a bit!

I finished up the second side, then began getting together some inspirational sayings..

Tomorrow I’ll start working on the actual painting, and we’ll see where they go from here. It’s kinda of fun to have a simple project that I don’t need to think about too awful much!

Inspiration Deck

Well, I’ve been hemmin’ and hawin’ and finally decided to go ahead and participate in an “Inspiration Deck” swap with some of the ladies in my latest business class. Jessica Brogan is sponsoring it.

Hard to imagine that you could take a deck of cards and turn them into something inspiring, but that’s the plan.

The idea is, you take the deck of cards, coat each with gesso, both sides, then quickly decorate each with an inspiring quote on one side, and your blog info on the back. You’re not supposed to spend a lot of time on them. In fact they are supposed to be just quick little ditties that can be fired out in two evenings. Then we send them in to Jessica, and she makes up new decks, sending back an assortment of every one else’s!

I just happen to have a spare pack of cards laying around, so, I’ll be off to get some gesso tomorrow, then see if I can do it that quickly!

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