“It is such a secret place, the land of tears.”

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pen and ink; Graphix board

© Mary Garner-Mitchell. Pen and ink; Graphix board

“Nothing terribly important, but your big, little sister could use an empathetic shoulder … or something …”  was the message in my email.

Within minutes, his voice on the phone asking, “Are you ok?” gave me permission to cry.

As the author of “The Little Prince” wrote, my tears came from “a secret place” that few may understand. They had been collecting in a reservoir deep, deep within for the past several months, and I knew the gene pool that my brother and I share made him the logical lifeguard. He tossed me the ring by way of his own experiences at low tide when one chooses any art as a vocation. God bless him.

Don’t misunderstand, and I don’t want your pity. I am full of gratitude for all I’ve been given by way of talent, family, friends, clients and more love and good fortune than I deserve. And, while slowed, business remains steady. Yet recently my creative spirit seems to be drowning in the sea of change within my profession.

I’m sad to say that cheap stock art now consumes my original work more often than I care to admit. I cannot compete with $30 spot illustrations, pay for health insurance, office rent, all the while swimming against a current of ever changing software and equipment and still bring jobs in on time and on budget. Fast, cheap, good – the designer’s holy triangle — as the saying goes, “choose two.”

The sharks are circling ready to gobble up guppies who have nothing to lose (but their livelihood!) by swimming in schools politely called “crowd sourcing” and “contests” — Candy Land names otherwise known as “spec work.” I have not and will never take that bait.

Worse still are clients who see graphic design as a commodity, demanding native files as deliverables, ignoring the fact that to transfer licensed fonts and stock art is copyright infringement for which I would be liable, not to mention risking the integrity of the finished piece at the hands of another of unknown skill. Their message is play by our rules or you’re not in the game. Well, I won’t play that game and risk sinking my reputation and what’s left of my industry.

I’m taking my sketchbook and going home so to speak — per my wise brother’s advice. I’ve dried my tears.

Until tomorrow.

C’est le temps que tu as perdu pour ta rose qui fait ta rose si importante.

(“It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important.”)
From “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Cheating?

I have a question to pose to fellow bloggers. Are you using your own imagery and photos for which you have obtained permission — or for which you have purchased rights — for illustrating your posts?

© Media General Inc./Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic airbrush, Prisma colored pencils on paper

Quite a few of the interior design blogs in particular have me scratching my head in wonder today. What I’m seeing appears as though some bloggers are downloading photos from other sites or scanning images from shelter magazines, seldom with attribution accompanying the photo or within their post. While Facebook, Pinterest and the like have fostered chronic misuse of imagery, music and prose under the guise of “sharing,” this is truly nothing short of stealing. I’m an illustrator and married to a professional photographer, and neither of us would be exactly thrilled to see our images posted out of context from their original source, and without permission or some mutually agreed upon form of compensation. Coming from a former career in publication design, I understand “fair use.” But imagery that carries the blogger’s story line — for instance a collection of great ideas for a child’s room — is not fair use. What it is at best is cheating, as the unattributable images infer that the blogger is the author of the image and/or its content. This sort of blatant rip off of another’s creative’s work not only puts your blog in a bad light, it is an invitation to a lawsuit, particularly if you are soliciting and/or accepting advertising on your blog. Legitimate publications know better. Bloggers should, too.  And for goodness sake, when you have used another publication’s photo or some creative’s imagery, ask permission, pay if required, and by all means credit the source.

The courts haven’t caught up with online content relative to fair use and copyright (yet), but for those who want to do right by others, here is a simple primer on the unwritten rules of blogging see http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingethics/tp/Top3BloggingRules.htm