Friday, August 18, 2017

What can you do if your artwork is copied?

Several friends have asked me to blog about copyright issues I experience, so here goes. Copyright is a subject I write / talk a lot about, because protecting my artwork has become a big part of my life.

What can you do if your artwork is stolen, copied, or misused?

Answer: Dust yourself off, educate yourself, and get ready to fight for your art.

Like it or not, get ready to defend your art if you have to.

As an independent artist, I also develop a collection of products -- and between both that and my publishing projects and books, I've seen my artwork reproduced and misused. A lot. Sometimes I see it for sale as an unauthorized copy online. Sometimes I see it in a store in the mall. Being copied sucks, but I fight it and stand up for myself, and hope if you're in this situation, you will do the same.

At this point, every day of the year, I fight copies of my work at the hands of corporations and companies that use my artwork without permission and profit off it. I file hundreds of takedown notices, I register my copyrights, and I do it all myself -- and you can, too.

If you've been ripped off -- by a company or even another artist who plagiarized your work -- I am so sorry. It's a horrible feeling. Here's what you can do:

1. Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for copies of your work. Do reverse image searches of your art. Let artists know if you see copies of theirs. Ask your community to keep an eye out for you. Let them know you're ready to fight if you see a copy! Don't be complacent! And as a consumer, don't assume you're buying from the original artist just because it's on Amazon, Instagram, or Etsy (Look for the artist's copyright info!)

Seek authenticity! Look for the copyright info! And, make sure you copyright credit your own images and products.

2. If you've been copied, fight for your art. Lawyer up or file a DMCA takedown notice if you see exact copies of your artwork online or in stores. There is more information about how to do this in my links below, but it's something anyone can do (lots is possible without a lawyer's help!) I do not recommend communicating with a person or company that copied you without a lawyer's assistance.

This is basically what a DMCA notice looks like. You can find templates online.
But do not misuse this program! This form is for exact copies only, not for copies of general ideas.
3. Be an example for other artists, and a steward for your work. Register your copyrights with the US gov when possible. At $35 per registration, the costs can add up (I spent over $1000 on copyright registrations this week alone!), but your work is protected by different terms in federal courts when formally registered. Make sure your publishers register your copyrights. Do not do Work for Hire if you plan to retain ownership of your work.

All of my publishers copyright register my projects. They got ripped.
Having a formal copyright registration for each gave me a better position in a major lawsuit. Photo by Renée Chartier.

4. Help educate others. Educate the public, educate your peers. Be a positive example for your peers on how to stand up for yourself. Read about orphan works legislation that could negatively affect illustrators and advocate for artists. Support original art. Copying doesn't just hurt the artists who are stolen from -- and it does really traumatize and make an artist fearful of creating and sharing -- it also hurts the creative community by robbing it of distinctive voices and the ability to control quality and monetize one's creative work.

5. Support the artists you love who create original work. I've been a full time artist for 15 years now, and I don't know where I would be without the support of friends and fans through this harrowing aspect of being a professional artist. Sometimes fighting relentless copying kills my spirit and makes everything feel pointless. Support is important.

Support the artists you love, and encourage them. Help them afford their copyright registrations, help them fight against copies. Debbie's post about creative ways to support a kid lit illustrator / author is great!

Getting these gorgeous flowers in sympathy from my friends after I experienced a major infringement was an incredibly kind and supportive gesture that helped during a difficult time.

I've written extensively about the issue of art and copyright before, so here are a couple links to those posts for further reading:



I hope this helps, and I hope you never find out what this feels like.

But if you have a question, please feel free to leave a comment on this post and I'll respond when I can.

I am not a lawyer, but I know a lot about copyright because of my unfortunate experiences being copied. I will never stop fighting for my art! Please join me.


familiarize yourself with the work of artists you love so you can tell them if you see copies. 
A post shared by susie ghahremani/ boygirlparty (@boygirlparty) on


Susie Ghahremani is an award-winning illustrator and an advocate for artists.
Her author-illustrator debut titled STACK THE CATS was just named one of Amazon's Best Books of the Year (so far) for 2017!

For more about Susie and her books and art and her never-ending fight against copies, visit her site at boygirlparty.com or follow at @boygirlparty on instagramtwitter, or Facebook for the latest updates.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gratitude, behind the scenes at KidLitArtists, and exciting Instagram news - by Debbie Ridpath Ohi


KidLitArtists is now on Instagram! Thanks so much to Meridth McKean Gimbel for making that happen.

I can't believe it's been over SEVEN YEARS since the KidLitArtists.com blog launched. Whoa. It began when a group of us (John Deninger, Kimberly Gee, Ashley Mims, Andrea Offermann and Eliza Wheeler and me) were chosen for the SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program in 2010.


The six of us met after our mentor sessions and compared notes, talked about how we could make the most of the opportunity generously given to us by the SCBWI Illustration Board.


I started a private a email list to help us keep in touch and exchange info as well as registering KidLitArtists.com domain. After coordinating with the other Class of 2010 Mentees, I launched our blog and Twitter account. This was what the original name and banner looked like (designed by Eliza Wheeler):

In addition to posting updates about our illustration projects, we also shared info about what we learned during our mentorship sessions as well as other tips resources and industry news of interest to children's book illustrators.

The SCBWI Illustration Board was so impressed by the blog that they asked if we could open it up to other Mentees, past and future. Of course we said YES! Eliza Wheeler came up with the banner above, using part of one of my bunny drawings. The mailing list was replaced by a private Facebook group, and we also started a public FB Page. Eliza organized the blog posting schedule, and each new class of Mentees picked a point person for group-wide orientation and communication.


Although I don't have as much time to be as involved behind-the-scenes at KidLitArtists as I used to, I still commit to posting to the blog a few times a year, no matter how crazy things get because I remain incredibly grateful to the SCBWI for helping to jumpstart my career back in 2010, and I want to give back in what way I can.

Meanwhile, I am also thankful to those SCBWI Illustration Mentees who have volunteered to keep things going behind-the-scenes despite their own busy schedules!

Nowadays, Jen Betton (Mentee Class of 2012) organizes the blog posting schedule (THANK YOU, JEN). To the left: A photo of Jen with her award certificate when she won the SCBWI New England Conference Portfolio Showcase in 2014.

Jen's debut solo picture book, HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG, launches from Penguin Putnam in Summer 2018....congrats, Jen! You can read her news in this blog post.

Jen's illustrations will also be appearing in TWILIGHT CHANT written by Holly Thompson, launching from Clarion in 2018. You can find out more about Jen and her work at JenBetton.com. Jen is represented by Jen Rofé at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.



Our feed on Twitter, @KidLitArtists, is maintained by Ana Aranda (Mentee Class of 2014), Meridth McKean Gimbel (Mentee Class of 2015) and me. I love this photo of Ana Aranda:


Ana's illustrations can be found in picture books published in France and Italy, and her debut picture book in the U.S., THE CHUPACABRA ATE THE CANDELABRA (written by Marc Tyler Nobleman) was published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin earlier this year. Get a peek at her book  here in this fun Let's Read Stories reading:



You can find out more about Ana and her work at Anaranda.com.

Meridth McKean Gimbel, who helps posts to our Twitter account, also recently launched our Instagram account (THANK YOU, MERIDTH!!!). Here's Meridth when she won a SCBWI-LA Illustration Mentorship award in 2015:



Meridth also shares all kinds of great info and insights on her own blog, like her "Putting Together A Dummy The Smart Way" post. You can find out more about Meridth and her work at MeridthMcKeanGimbel.com.  Meridth is represented by Linda Pratt of Wernick Pratt.



Others helping behind-the-scenes, including a gradual revamp of our blog and some of our social media include K-Fai Steele and Susie Ghahremani.



You can find out more about K-Fai and her work at K-FaiSteele.com:





Susie has several books out already, including her debut solo picture book, STACK THE CATS (Abrams Appleseed).


K-Fai, Susie and some of other Mentees are gradually revamping the KidLitArtists website and social media, so do keep an eye on this blog, Twitter, Facebook Page and Instagram!

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Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author and illustrator of Where Are My Books? She has four new books coming out in 2017: Sea Monkey & Bob (Simon & Schuster),  Mitzi Tulane in The Secret Ingredient (Random House) Ruby Rose, Big Bravos(HarperCollins), and her second solo picture book Sam & Eva(Simon & Schuster). You can find Debbie on Twitter: @inkyelbows and Instagram at @inkygirl


Monday, July 31, 2017

Rejections - By Maple Lam

We have all experienced rejections. Maybe it’s a college application rejection. Maybe it’s a job rejection. Maybe it’s a relationship rejection. You and I both know rejection is not the best feeling in the world. You feel deflated, unwanted, not up-to-par, and all the other squeamish negatives all crunched in one bitter hardshell nut.



Our natural tendency is to avoid putting ourselves in the situation of being rejected. After all, who wants to be in the hurt?


But the world of traditional publishing is in essence an exercise in the rejection game. I don’t know any author-illustrator friends who has not been rejected regularly. We pitch ideas to agents; we send dummies to editors; we send art samples to art directors; we get rejections.


All. The. Time.



Maybe the idea turns out to be half-baked at best. Maybe the story is too similar to something the editor has recently acquired. Maybe the art style does not align with what the art director visualized. They are all very real, valid, and professional reasons. None of this is personal.


In fact, we learn from these rejections. We make better stories; we execute better artworks. Hidden within this really bitter hardshell nut is a delicious piece of dark chocolate.


The truth is, you only get rejections because you are willing to step out of your comfort zone to take risks. The more rejections you get, the more chances you are taking. It means you are another step closer to bullseye. Congratulations.



If it makes it easier, set your goals from the negatives. Aim to have 100 rejections next year. Create more. Learn more. Develop thicker skin. Take risks.


How afraid are you of being rejected?


Hopefully, if you are serious about being in this industry in the long run, the answer is: not so much.



But wait! Don’t get rejections for rejections’ sake!

Don’t go about mailing artworks and dummies to 100 random publishing houses just to meet your rejection quota! That would be a costly waste of everyone’s time. Get strategic rejections. Read as many picture books as you can. Learn the names of editors and art directors whom you believe aligned with your creative style. A good place to start such research is the annual catalogue published by the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show. It gives the names of the publishers, editors and art directors of the winning picture books of the year.



Good luck! May the KidLit Force be with you.


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Maple Lam wrote and illustrated MY LITTLE SISTER AND ME (HarperCollins). Her next illustrated books: FRENEMIES IN THE FAMILY (Penguin Random House), written by Kathleen Krull, will come out Spring 2018. WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A TOOLBOX? (Simon & Schuster Paula Wiseman Books) written by John Colarneri and Anthony Carrino, will come out Fall 2018.

Maple has a passion in history, art history, picture books and graphic novels. She is happily represented by Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary Agency. You can follow her work at: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Monday, July 17, 2017

Reflections on the Illustrator Intensive- SCBWI LA 2017

One week ago I had the opportunity to attend the SCBWI Illustrator Intensive 
Constructing and Deconstructing Narrative Illustration. 
For an entire day, we were able to watch each of the talented artists/illustrators work as they
talked through their processes. I came away inspired. 

Ramón Hurtado started the day with a session on Narrative Figure Drawing. 
He demonstrated how he interacts with his model to create story in his illustrations. 
It was mesmerizing to watch him draw so effortlessly—a skill he developed over years and years of practice.

Ramón Hurtado















Vanessa Brantley Newton stressed the importance of children being able to see themselves
in the books we create. Her presentation on Character Design focused on how she designs children 
of different ethnicities using both digital and traditional painting and collage. She demonstrated
how she paints hairstyles, skin color and clothing patterns for her memorable, lovable, diverse characters. 
Her presentation was chock-full of humor, heart, inspiration and song. 

© Vanessa Brantley Newton























Leuyen Pham presented a session on Bringing Joy into Your Characters. She emphasized the 
importance of gesture and good design by first creating interesting shapes for your characters—adding details last. For the assignment part of the session, she analyzed and redrew characters drawn by the participants.
She talked through how they could be modified to make stronger characters. It was such a treat to see how
fast and confidently she drew while sharing concrete tips to remember.

© Leuyen Pham























Marla Frazee deconstructed the narrative Composition of picture books. She gave us insight into her thought process by analyzing one of her favorite picture books. It can, at times, take months for her to work out the pictures and emotional arc in her thumbnail sketches and dummy books. Marla emphasized the importance of working out the composition first and then getting to know the character. The ideas she presented gave us a better understanding on how to work out thumbnails and dummies—tips I am excited to try out for my own stories.
Marla Frazee
























John Rocco, master of Dramatic Light, stepped us through his process of how he chooses his lighting and color to evoke specific emotions. He likened the creator of a picture book as being similar to a director of a film. The tools used such as shadow and silhouette,  high and low contrast, shallow or deep perspective set the emotional journey for each of his books. He not only reviewed the basics of light and shadow on form, but added some new tips on how to plan a scene using dramatic lighting. 
© John Rocco























Raúl Colón focused his presentation on Color. He shared his journey of exploration on how he experimented with different media to discover his distinct style of illustration. Along with informative demonstrations, he also shared his sketchbooks with all of his color studies. He encouraged participants to look at other artists work for inspiration but not be derivative. He stressed the importance of playing with color and trying out new techniques to keep things fresh. 
© Raúl Colón 

Javaka Steptoe demonstrated his Mixed Media process of how he created the images for the Caldecott winning book, Radiant Child. As he spoke, it was apparent that his choices for tools, materials and style were based on his intuition, passion, understanding of the the subject and his own experiences. At the end of the day, we were all guided to create a collage that had personal meaning on where we are in our own artistic journey.

© Javaka Steptoe
























It was an incredible day. I want to thank all of the Illustration Committee at SCBWI: Peter Brown, Priscilla Burris, Pat Cummings, David Diaz, Laurent Linn, Cecilia Yung, and Paul O. Zelinsky. A special thanks too to Sarah Baker for permission to blog about the special day. If you have never been to an Illustrator Intensive, I would highly suggest attending next year. You too will be inspired.

Dorothia 

~Dorothia Rohner illustrates and writes stories for children about nature,  magic of imagination and humor.
Website: www.dorothiarohner.com
Represented by: Alice Tasman- JVNLA.com
Twitter: @dorothiarFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/dorothiarohner.illustrationInstagram: @dorothiar
Author of  "I Am Goose!" To be illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva (Clairon 2019)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

News!! SCBWI Portfolio Awards!!

This weekend was the 26th annual SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles!! It is always an amazing and exhausting time, filled with inspiring speeches, interesting workshops, and spending time with new and old friends. It's also when the bi-annual portfolio awards are given, and this year all THREE honor awards went to KidLitArtists!!!

HONOR AWARDS:

© Andy Musser

And brand new mentees Shannon McNeill
© Shannon McNeill


You'll be hearing more from Shannon and Irena, along with the other new mentees Heidi Woodward SheffieldAlexandra ThompsonDiandra Mae, and Amber Alvarez in interviews later this year.

Woohoo KidLitArtists!!! Other mentees have won portfolio awards in the past, too (the judging is completely separate from the mentorship program, just so you know!), and you can see some of the winning portfolios here:

Eliza Wheeler - Grand Prize SCBWI LA 2011
Juana Martinez-Neal - Grand Prize SCBWI LA 2012
Andrea Offermann - Grand Prize SCBWI NY 2013

..........................................
Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin-Putnam) coming in summer 2018, and illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH) coming spring 2018.
You can find her here:
www.jenbetton.com
www.facebook.com/jenbettonillustration
@jenbetton