Friday, May 16, 2008

I belong to a group called Illustration Friday that puts forth a topic each week for illustrators to work with. Some create new illustrations and other rummage through their portfolios. Today’s topic was WIDE... and so I went digging for one of my favourite illustrations to submit.

My Nanny LOVED hippos. I blame it on seeing Disney’s Fantasia when it was first released in theaters because real hippos are not nearly as cute. For whatever reason, she fell in love with them and that gave all of us who loved her a chance to hunt for hippo figurines to give her at Christmas. One winter when I was over for a visit, she was watching the neighbours children make snow angels next door. She mused aloud about hippos making snow angels... and that artist supernova went off in my brain. I painted this for her as a gift and when she passed away, it came back to my portfolio.

I now use this photo when I speak to school children about illustrators needing to use their imaginations. You cannot borrow a real hippo from the zoo. Zookeepers won’t let you do that. You cannot convince a warm, mud-loving hippo to roll around in snow. It is cold... VERY cold. So, you have to use your imagination and think of how the illustration would look. How big is a hippo? Is it bigger and heavier than a field mouse or a bunny? You bet! After all this discussion, I show the kids the picture and usually get more laughter from the teachers than the kids. THIS hippo looks proud of her Oooomph!

That’s why I chose it for the topic WIDE.

Now back to working on my drawing for a new client who found me through my web site. The Internet can certainly be both a help and a hindrance as this week has proven in spades!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not Such A Typical Morning...

It seemed like it was going to be such a simple morning. I’d put the kids on the bus, gone for a brisk walk in the woods near our home with a friend and returned home to check e-mail quickly before starting my day.

It the kind of e-mail that anyone, especially this dragon, hates to open. An e-mail from a concerned fan that had found something suspicious that seemed to be infringing on the copyrights of the patterns I create. She sent me the links to check it out for myself.

No matter how often this has happened in the past 10 years, the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach remains the same. To see designs that you took hours of time and energy to create being traded at the click of the mouse make me feel absolutely sick inside. It makes me want to scream and cry.

I used to want to just crawl into my cave and lick my wounds and wonder why anyone would want to hurt me like that. Why couldn’t they understand that sharing a pattern electronically by making a copy of the original is stealing?

Somewhere along the line... the dragon got grumpy. Grumpy Dragons aren’t much fun to be around. They smolder and tend to want to bite people.

I stopped designing monthly samples for my web site even though it was the honest stitchers that ended up being punished.

I started speaking out and setting up blogs on sites like Multiply to have a presence out there in cyberspace and stand up for the fact that this is NOT right and this should NOT be acceptable.

I stopped sending out patterns to shops or guilds that requested them for retreats as often because I had no way of knowing that those wouldn’t end up scanned or being sold on ebay.

I started working with other designers and stitchers to find ways of reporting copyright violations as a group instead of individually so that we could close sites faster than before.

I stopped releasing as many new designs because they kept getting stolen so quickly.

I started to find other sources of income and put my energy into new directions as my income from cross stitch fell to less than 50% and then less than 30% of what it had been just 5 years before.

I stopped being surprised every time I heard that an independent needlework store had to close its doors to stitchers and go out of business.

I started to realize that this problem is much bigger than just the cross stitch industry. I started to understand that if we don’t place any value on creative ideas or intellectual property as a society and remain focussed on getting things as cheaply as possible or downloading them for “free” rather than paying for them, that eventually, our world will be a far richer place to live.