When Your Art Gets Ahead of Your Audience: 6 Ways To Protect Your Art & Name

crumpled frustration by Aaron Jacobs

So it happened.

I had opened up my iphone Facebook app to check my page comments as I do on a regular basis. To catch up with fans, answer questions or add a comment to an amusing reply I received from a collector. It’s something I often do and have always done since the beginning of my business in 2004. (almost 8 years!) Sometimes you get a weird comment or maybe a spam post from another page that decided to try to reel in people from my page. (ugh) and then sometimes there is a troll that must be dealt with. (this is no democracy, people!)

And then I saw this:

“This is not your work. You are copying the real artist. This is wrong.”

It’s nothing new that people will recall Gustav Klimt as my work has been somewhat inspired by his concepts, so I take these comments with a grain of salt. But this, I’d soon find was something else. Quite entirely, and hiliariously different.

I was a bit pained by the accusation but I had deleted the erroneous comment and went on with my day. Later in the afternoon, as I was getting my emails, I came across this one, from the same person who commented on my page:

“Dear Natasha, I’d like you to know that I am seeing copies of your art on the web. They’re trying to sell prints of these! Thought I would let you know.” And then, they went on to link to my very Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/natashawescoat) and the image that they commented on:

Then went out of their way to contact me, as so many wonderful people do, to warn me of anything infringing. But this, was…a little confusing. She didn’t read that this was the official fanpage. She didn’t see that my official website referred to it as well! She didn’t really look into the authenticity of the content. All she knew was, that she came across my Facebook post, which was probably “liked” and promoted on their profile, and she, knowing my work and who I was, believed someone to be impersonating me.

The problem is continuing to grow. It was last month, that some anonymous character on Twitter asked me if I was getting my “inspiration’ from Google search, to which they linked to Google image search showing hundreds of tree-related art images, mine being the highest ranked images in search (LOL).

Even worse, I received a few emails from people assuming that my work was copying the swirly tree wall decal designers who have popped up all over the web.

The problem: I am a very successfully licensed artist, but my name is not entirely recognizeable. My art has a strong web presence. My art is shared, reshared, tweeted, retweeted, liked and posted ALL over the world wide web because it draws people. It becomes immediately loved, and it is reflected in that and the wonderful letters and emails that I receive. When people see it, they want it.

My art goes viral.

Why is that a problem? I am not recognizeable. Me. I don’t really put my face out there, and I’ve tried not to. I’m not usually on Television. I haven’t been on Oprah. If you came across me on the street, you’d never know who I was. But my art? heh. You may recognize it even if you don’t know the name of the artist! And that’s the typical plight of any artist. Our work is visual, and the web is a magnet for the visual.

Now, because my art is becoming bigger than the name, people are beginning to question: who came first? The copycats or the artist? Not having PR or a stronger presence for the name itself is detrimental.

So I was shocked and dissapointed, but I had to chuckle a little. These people love the work but they don’t really know the artist. I can do all that I can to share my work and who I am via all the tools in the world, but the ART itself is shared and people tend to separate the art from it’s owner. And I failed to protect my work, and keep it close to me. Like my own child. I didn’t protect my creations from leaving my side on their own. They had no origin or connection to me. Once they became public, it was like they were no longer mine!  I failed to take the necessary steps to do such, but now I’m learning. Now, I’m taking those steps to protecting my work better, for my past works and future works.

So, artists – What should you do?

How do you build your art brand without it getting ahead of you?

Without it getting to the point where noone is sure who owns what?

5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR ART AND NAME

1. Be sure to always copyright your work (as soon as the concept is conceived). I did this as well, so I don’t have a worry there. Be sure to have the documents to prove you are the original creator. It’s legal backup and reputation saver.

2. Watermark your images!!! I cannot say this ENOUGH. I don’t care if you post your images on print on demand sites, galleries, art groups, forums, twitter, facebook, myspace, ETC! NEVER ever share another artwork online without the transparent copyright name (even website address – as long as you never change it) over the middle of every single artwork. You never want someone to steal your images for printing, imitation or infringement. People often share your work on the web without thinking to note who it is or where it’s from. Out of laziness or impulsivity, this often happens. ALOT. Just take out the work for them, and save yourself the pain.

3. Always add the tags, keywords and captions to your artwork in posts to make sure it’s certain that this is your work. I know it’s a pain, and sometimes a LOT of work, especially if you already have hundreds of images out there. But do this on your sites and blogs.

4. Offer pictures of your work in different ways that are harder to steal. When people share, they don’t always attribute the creator of the content and alot of sites like Pinterest, will make those images easily downloadable to your desktop at a very large size. Take photos of the work at different angles, scenes or details that can be shared on the web instead. Encourage fans to use those images mostly.

5. Resize all web related images of your work to the smallest resolution and size. 72 dpi is the textbook resolution and make them at least 500px or up to 800px at the most. Even huge artists I’ve known have made the mistake of uploading a higher resolution and size on sites like Flickr and not realize there are privacy settings to your account that allow others to download your images easily if you don’t change it. Don’t make it easy for others to use your work. You will lose money and time.

6. Connect your art to you as much as you can. Do things that help people associate the art to it’s artist. Whether you want to share your face or be completely anonymous with a “brush de nom”, do things that help people associate the art to you. Videoblogs, watermarking, blogging, tweets, etc – try to incorporate your name and likeness in EVERYTHING. It may be slightly annoying to others, but maybe even initialing your posts and tweets with your name. And everything that I mentioned above is part of this action as well. Do things to make sure the content has your name SOMEWHERE. And if you want to be public, use videoblogs and other personable social media to connect your face to your work.

So artists, what do you think we can do to protect our work on the web? Have you experienced identity confusion with fans? Copycats? 

(c)photo by Aaron Jacobs.

Artist Guide: Worry about your work, not your reputation – 5 Steps to Success

(me) painting LIVE at Art Whino gallery. Spring 2011.

When it comes to web related business, where you sell and where you present yourself may matter. But when you want to expand your presence, make connections and establish a place in the online art world, does it REALLY matter? Is it that important?

I have written many times about eBay, online art venues and web presence. The pros and cons to each one. Like I’ve been trying to pound into your head, it’s all about your audience. And if you have one (even if it’s small), you can take them anywhere you’d prefer.

Would you rather share your work for purchase on your site? your blog? your facebook? or some shop venue like Etsy or eBay?

You can make that decision. Forget what anyone says about “quality” or “repuation”. Ignore the rants.

What’s important, especially in the beginning stages of your career, is to get the work out there. OUT THERE!

I’d not worry about the issues of copyright, copycats, venue quality or reputation. For all I care, you can share your work on MYSPACE! You never know who you’ll meet or what opportunities are out there.

Example? I have met movie and television producers through EBAY. I met one of my best, repeat clients on Twitter who didn’t even have an AVATAR!

The point is, worry about your work. 

5 Steps to Success  Continue reading

Learning When To Stop. Knowing When To Keep Going

DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR WORK BEGINS EARLY IN LIFE

It’s a very interesting and awe-inspiring part of my line of work. Watching and encouraging the evolution and development of your own style and the progress of the subject matter. I began to work on my skills at a young age, spending weeks or months on one particular subject that mattered to me. It wasn’t until I was satisfied with the end result, that I would finally see myself “complete” in that stage and move onto the next interesting subject to draw. Everything from mermaids to horses. Markers to chalk or colored pencils. I invested hours of my daily life experimenting with techniques and different effects.

At 9, I learned through tracing pictures or cartoons out of books until I could draw it on my own. Much like using training wheels on a bike or swimming on your own. You get a feel for where the lines mean to go, or why the designs are done a certain way. When I was a teenager, it was comics and graphic novels that I turned to. Already an avid nerd of superhero themes, I spent late nights copying pictures of characters from Wizard magazines or my own collections of old and new Batman, Flash and Spiderman comics. Before I turned 20, my new fascination was with Anime and Japanese art. The techniques of masterful painters and illustrators intrigued me. I wanted to truly understand how they came to the different effects and techniques they used to create such things.

DEVELOPMENT NEVER ENDS

And you learn that it is a perpetual self-driven journey. My college painting professor kept sketchbooks of drawings he’d sketch every morning before classes or work. His fervent and obsessive practice was to observe the growing fire pile in his back yard. The intricacy, chaotic order and realism was breathtaking. And daunting. When he first presented his sketches to me, I was overwhelmed by the work. To draw an endless, growing pile of wood and twigs? All the tiny, obsessive details? And the patience to draw such? (I’m not good at patient work!) Continue reading

Pro Artist: How to Sell Art on Etsy


Etsy has been a hot ticket for some time now, with traffic numbers growing along with it’s exponential rise in popularity amongst creatives and shoppers alike. Etsy has become a hub for craft makers, designers, woodworkers, jewelers and artists and as such, has offered a beautiful array of tools and networking that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s rich in community, which is supported by an informative and inspiring forum. They have Teams which you can join and participate in, and also have classes and tutorials for crafters to become more successful and creative with their own business.

Over the years, I have used it successfully to sell my fine art prints and small art. I will show you not only how you can begin to sell on Etsy, but how to make it a more successful output for your own creative business.

Here Is The First Step to Selling on Etsy: Create Your Plan.

You can’t begin to sell on Etsy until you have completely created your store. But FIRST THINGS FIRST: Build a PLAN.

- What do you want to sell on Etsy?

- How often will you sell on Etsy?

- What makes your store unique from the others?

- Where and how will you promote  your store?

- What do you want to make from selling on Etsy?

- How will you ship your items? Deal with bad purchases or damaged items?

Develop your Etsy business plan before all else. THEN, work on the creation and development of your store.

Here are 4  Keys to Selling Art on Etsy Like a Pro Artist: Continue reading

Pinterest For Artists: 5 Creative Ways To Share Your Work

The newest craze in social networking is the highly attractive and addictive Pinterest. Drawing artists, designers, jewelers and other creatives, it’s a fun place to compile your favorite things, pictures you love or sharing dream ideas. Immediately, when I was introduced to it, I couldn’t understand why you would want to use this site. It reminded me alot of the popular fashion bookmark networks and we already had Facebook to share our obsessions. Why use Pinterest? 

This is where it gets interesting…

1. It’s completely visual. Sharing and communicating with picture is it’s angle.

2. Demographic serves well for creatives and a buying crowd.

3. It’s newness means less spam, less noise.

PINTEREST IS PERFECT FOR ARTISTS!

Here are 5 Creative Ways To Share Your Work:

1. Use as a digital portfolio of your work. Compiling from various sites on the web would be even better, as you are creating connections to your various work and licensed products across the WWW. If you are visiting a gallery or client, the ease of editing and adapting your portfolio online means you don’t have to go through all the updating directly on your ipad or tablet!

2. Use as a reference pinboard. Gather ideas for your creative projects. Whether you are a graphic designer, illustrator, interior designer or painter, using this as a vision board/reference board for future artwork ideas or paintings is perfect! No need to print out pictures or rip out magazines when its digital and therefore portable! Set it up to show on your tablet or ipad as you work!

3. As a progression board. Share the progress and development of your work with your clients, friends or audience. Want to share the evolution of an artwork or the completion of a project you are working on for a client? This is great for instant and complete overview in a visual state. Followers are able to like, repin, comment and even share your pin across other social networks.

4. As a storyboard. Whether you are a book writer, animator or illustrator for this would be a great digital aid for the progress and adaption of your story project. Pin photos, notes and story progressions. With Pinterest, moving pictures around makes it a simple and easy to use tool for this.

5. To crowdsource ideas – If you are working with a team on a project or idea, this is great for sharing, collaboration and adaption of a project. Mulitiple contributors allow a team to share their content together on one board.

Myself, I’ve created galleries of each collection or series I have worked on and have also made a board simply for available art. In Pinterest, the ability to sell your wares is possible too! Simply link to where the work is being sold and add a $ to the amount in the description. That will put a cross banner showing the price of your wares!

Artists and creatives – share with us how you’ve used Pinterest! Have any other ways or ideas for using Pinterest? Share in the comments section!

Artist Guide: What works for them…

14463353_a811021a0dI hear this all too often from artists and others who want to start a business. They want to know how the successful artists/crafters do it. Why? Why else?

They want to be able to execute the same process in hopes of having the same success.

We all think that if we can put our art on the same sites, if we sell our work for the same amount in the same way, or that if we paint the same thing we will succeed.

There is no easy way to sell art, especially online. It is by far one of the most difficult things to begin and succeed in, but . . . Click here to read more . . .

Artists Guide: How To Make a Great First Impression

A great article for artists/photographers from Imagekind.com -

Your profile page is your introduction, artist statement, and first impression all in one! Make your page pull in potential buyers by being articulate and informative.

Upload an Avatar

Customers want to connect with you as an artist and a person. Having a compelling avatar will cause buyers to click through to your page and recognize your posts in the forum as well. A photograph of yourself or a small piece of your most popular work is appropriate. Keep in mind that the image must still look great and clear at a small size. It’s good practice to keep your avatar the same as soon as you decide on a good one – it becomes your face on the site. Your fellow artists and buyers will come to recognize it.”

Click here to read more about “How To Make A Great First Impression”…