The Crackdown on Fan Art

I feel like I've written about fan art here on the blog before, yet I can't seem to find any posts about it. My apologies if I missed it somewhere and this is beating a dead horse for some of you.

For the duration of this post, "fan art" is a term I will use to describe art that directly copies published art, rather than original work that is loosely inspired by and does not directly copy a licensed character or existing cover art.

Over the last couple of days several of my friends have been discussing conventions cracking down on unlicensed fan art. I have a lot of strong feelings about unlicensed fan art, so let's just dive right in.

I'll start out by pointing out the obvious: It's important to read the terms and conditions when you purchase an exhibition space at a convention, whether it's a dealer's table or an artists' alley space. Many conventions have clauses that specifically prohibit unlicensed fan art, although it's been my experience that most conventions with those clauses don't bother to enforce them. Some of the conventions are pretty lenient and will simply ask you to remove the offending items from your table, but others are more strict and will give you a lifetime ban from selling anything at that convention. This could be pretty painful, so it's best to make sure you've read those terms and conditions and asked any relevant questions.

Personally, I don't like the concept of fan art. Many fan artists are wonderfully talented and it's frankly a shame that they waste their time creating art that they can never license or profit from beyond sales of prints and originals. Initially, you may end up making a lot of money from fan art, but it won't continue to pay you down the road. Licensing contracts for my art have yielded thousands of dollars of income, sometimes for as many as 8-10 years since I created the images (and I've only been doing this for about 12 years). Fan art will never pay out this way, because it can't legally be licensed.

It may or may not be legal, and that doesn't really matter. A big company with a massive, dedicated legal team doesn't need to prove they have a case before they sue you. I have known a few different artists who sued or were sued by large companies and the lawsuits dragged on for years. Some of these people lost their homes, their cars, their equipment, and their marriages. Chances are that you can't afford the legal fees to defend yourself against a massive publisher. Good lawyers charge hundreds of dollars PER HOUR. Massive Art Conglomerate Inc. doesn't have to be right to sue you, and they don't even have to go to court to win. They just have to sink you in legal fees so you give up and give them what they want, which will often be "damages" plus legal fees for their entire team of lawyers. Will you get caught? Maybe not. Will they sue you if they catch you? Maybe not. But do you really want to do something that runs the risk of "getting caught"? Doesn't that mean that there is something inherently unethical about it anyway?

Imagine that you're an official Massive Art Conglomerate Inc. licensed artist and you're at a convention with your Super Mega Cat Man official art. You're selling prints for $25-50 a piece and signing comics when someone walks up and asks if you worked with the other guy selling Super Mega Cat Man art. Thinking that maybe one of your fiends is here, you get up and walk around the convention floor only to find that someone has ripped off a bunch of your official artwork and they're selling unlicensed merchandise featuring images that are almost identical to your own. Awkward.

Now imagine you're a huge Super Mega Cat Man fan and you spend a bunch of time copying the cover art. You go from convention to convention selling prints for $5-$10 a piece and you've never even considered that someday you might end up on the show floor with the original artist behind Super Mega Cat Man. Then someone comes up to your table and starts asking you questions about your art. You soon realize this isn't an average convention attendee, and they seem cautiously curious and maybe a little too knowledgeable for your average fan. Then they drop it on you like a bomb: They're the official Super Mega Cat Man artist, and they're here with their actual, official artwork, and you can tell that they are not impressed nor very happy with you. Wow, super awkward!

What are you going to say? How are you going to deal with this situation? What if you were the creator? What if you were the fan? If the convention has a clause about fan art, the official artist can probably request that you be ejected from the convention, which may mean the loss of sales plus anything you spent on your hotel room, your table fees, travel, meals, etc. It may mean a lifetime ban from the convention and you can probably bet you'll touchdown somewhere on the artist's Shit List. You'll probably be lucky if they don't also tell Massive Art Conglomerate Inc. about what you were doing.

This may sound far-fetched but it's a scenario that occurs far too often, according to firsthand accounts posted on blogs and in various artists' groups on Facebook. Many comic artists struggle to make a living while still having families to support. Going to conventions and selling prints is one way they can make a little extra money, so you can probably imagine how hurtful it is to show up and be in direct competition with a self-professed "fan" who is literally stealing from you both by directly copying your art and then drastically under-charging for it.

At the end of the day, I really think fan artists harm artists who are trying to make an honest living, so while it may initially be profitable, it will not earn you the respect of your peers and goes a long way towards damaging our profession a.nd making it unprofitable for everyone involved, including fan artists. I'm glad that at least some conventions are starting to take this problem seriously and I hope that some of the large publishers will get involved and take care of some of the serial infringers. Art shows should be for art, not for $5 prints of rehashed Super Mega Cat Man covers.


I thought I should probably post an update that we made it to Georgia about two weeks ago and we're settling in at my in-laws' house! We'll be staying here for a bit until we finish selling our house in Montana and buy a new one here in Georgia.

That said, I will remain "closed" until further notice. It will be at least September if not October before I reopen. I am planning to do some special, limited releases of original art during that time, but for now most of my business materials are in storage or still in Montana. There are also several other reasons I can't take orders for general merchandise like prints and books - there's limited space where we're staying, I don't have a business license here, I don't have the site setup to collect Georgia sales tax yet, and one of the really big ones is I closed my business bank account because it was at a local bank in Montana, so there's nowhere for any money collected from my site to be deposited to!

Right now I'm working on some small pieces and will announce a release date for those. I don't know for sure when I will have prints available again. It may be some time next year, depending on how long it takes us to find a suitable home here in Georgia.

Thank you for being patient, and sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience! Make sure you join my mailing list so you'll be notified when new collections of original art are released.

Hopefully soon I'll find more time to blog!

The Road to Georgia: Part 2

AKA, "Why Georgia?"

If I had a dollar for every time I've been asked this question, I would probably have enough for a couple tanks of moving truck gas.

A few years ago, we were really seriously considering moving to Florida. I think we'll still look at that in the future, or at least buying a little condo so I can do art shows there in the winter, but all of this really sprouted from a strong desire to not be in Montana anymore.

The winters here are killers. I underwent back surgery a long time ago, and parts of my spine are fused and/or held together with hardware. Of course from this I have arthritis in what remains of my actual functional spine, since it absorbs all the shock and wear and tear of the entire back. I've tried a lot of things, but the reality is simply that unless the weather is cold my back doesn't really hurt much. Unfortunately, it's cold off and on all year in Montana, and pretty solidly for 8 or 9 months of the year. This past winter was the worst, and my wintertime back pain didn't ease up at all until May. I knew this had to be my last winter here. It kept me from sleeping and working and made me pretty miserable in general, and I'm not sure how many repeats of that I could handle before I crammed some art supplies in a suitcase and ran away.

Meanwhile, while my back pain was still borderline unbearable well into spring, it was 60-80 degrees in Georgia. Urf.

Sometimes people will conspiratorially whisper to me, "but the South is so racist!", and I can't really help but laugh. Okay, first of all, a geographical location can't be racist. Secondly, racism is everywhere. There isn't a corner of the country that has a monopoly on it, trust me.

"But it's so humid!" and Montana is so cold, yet I still lived there, and millions of people live in humid locales all the time. I will just wear less clothing than I'm used to wearing in Montana. Problem solved!

Really, Georgia is beautiful, lush, and green, and the high humidity is obviously part of the reason for that. You could never run out of things to do in Georgia, and if you get sick of the heat, the mountains are just a little car trip away. There are galleries and museums everywhere, and multiple art fairs and festivals every weekend all summer long. We'll be close to my husband's big family, and homes are very affordable. Schools aren't as crowded there as they tend to be here. The climate is perfect for me to finally garden my little brains out. The list goes on and on, but most importantly: I love Georgia. I don't mind the humidity, I don't mind the heat. I love listening to the deafening chorus of cicadas at night, visiting Savannah, driving the highway out to Tybee Island, the ivy-covered trees, the Antebellum mansions, the ghost stories, the history, the people are friendly, the forests are beyond compare, the winters are mild and short, but it still gets all four seasons.

I'm really excited to move, finally, after trying to figure out how to get away from Montana for 3 or more years. I'm looking forward to new adventures, good and bad, in a new place, with new opportunities, and new and old friends.

It's time for me to finish this cup of coffee and get back to packing up my art studio. I have a lot to do today, since we leave in six days!

The Road to Georgia: Part 1

We finished the first part of our move yesterday. We spent the last week in Washington cleaning out my old childhood bedroom and picking up a few family treasures: (great-great)Grandma French's crystal, the bar set from the old family cabin, two little boxes of recipes from my (great)Grandma Shill including some authentic family recipes (German/Prussian, Italian, Spanish), and a never-used, still-in-the-box 23 piece fine China tea/coffee set that one of my uncles purchased and sent to my grandmother directly from Japan. The customs label is still attached and declares a value of $11.95. If I had a time machine...

Some other things that are treasures to me include a couple of retro ceramic Christmas trees with little glass bulbs that you can rearrange in the color configuration of your choice, a gargantuan bottle of Smirnoff Vodka, and an amazing picture of my grandfather. Obviously, mischief is genetic. The bottle of vodka looks deceptively small in that picture, but the photo of my grandpa next to it is probably 8x10 or 9x12!

We finally tumbled into bed here in Montana at 4 AM this morning. We're all exhausted but tomorrow is the most epic day of the decade: Garage Clean-Out 2016! Kill me now.

I'll be processing all outstanding orders tomorrow and shipping them on Monday. I've taken down everything that was for sale for now. Eventually, when I'm resettled in Georgia, the ability to buy things will be back. And hopefully there will be lots of new art!

Until next time...


Retiring Prints Extended through 7-5!

Hey everybody! I have a car again, but I was out of the office for a few days while I was picking up said car, so I'm extending the retiring prints sale! You would be wrong to assume that there will be leftovers of the prints retiring on 7/5 - in fact, for many of these prints I have absolutely nothing on hand and have just been making them as needed to fill orders. Here's all the prints that are absolutely, positively gone on 7/5:

We also don't keep ANY 13x19 prints on hand, those are always made as they're ordered. So on 7/5, 13x19s of every image will be discontinued permanently. There are also lots of prints with only one or two 8x10s in stock, like these favorites:

The other issue with waiting to see if these end up in the retired gallery is that over the next few days I'll be taking things out of the retired prints and putting them into grab bags. Leftover prints discontinued on 7/5 may end up filtered right into grab bags rather than being moved around on the site.

Since I'm moving, the idea is really to get rid of as much of what I have on hand as possible, so that I have fewer things to move, but I also don't want anyone to miss out on owning a print that they've been wanting.

That's it for now! I'll keep posting updates as we get closer to moving!