Monday, May 2, 2016

Coloring Book Giveaway on Facebook

While spring cleaning my work area's random stash - papers and envelopes casually stacked as high as the laws of physics allow - I came across an old "printer's test" copy of the Gardens & Goddesses coloring book in an envelope.  There's nothing wrong with this copy of the book in terms of the most important part of the book, the inside pages.  The cover, however, is flimsy.  This was from back when the previous printing company decided to cut down on cost of both the production and shipping by using a lighter weight paper for the cover.  They tested using the same paper stock as the inside pages.  Well, both my publisher and myself, upon inspection, decided that we didn't like the new cover stock.  In the end, my publisher decided to work with a completely different printing company, which gave us a better cover stock and printing quality than ever.  Interesting how things work out sometimes.

Since I no longer sell this particular edition of my coloring book, I'm giving it away to the lucky winner on Facebook at the Stamps by AuroraWings group.  I am throwing in a mini-poster print (8.5 x 11 inches) of Enchanted Visions and a couple of extra goodies in the package when I send out the coloring book.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm EDT US on Saturday, May 7, 2016 (That's 3:59 am GMT on Sunday, May 8.).  The winner will be randomly selected from all entrants and will be contacted for the postal address.  Please see entry details at the original post found on the group wall at Stamps by AuroraWings Facebook group.

The disclaimer - This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. By entering, entrants agree to a complete release of Facebook.

Edit: Helen S. of Ohio was the lucky winner of the random drawing.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

New Kickstarter by EMG

Ellen Million Graphics is an artist-owned small business and a publisher of coloring books for grownups. Ellen has been at it since way before the current coloring book boom took hold as THE hottest creative hobby. As some of you may already know, all of my coloring books are published by EMG. It's an artists-friendly, totally legit company you would be proud to be a supporter of. Take it from one of the artists represented - ME! There are so many shady publishing companies and self-proclaimed "artists" jumping onto the coloring book bandwagon by ripping off copyrighted artwork of numerous fantasy artists out there (myself included). There are also coloring books that are nothing but compilation of lines traced from photos grabbed online. EMG's coloring books are fantasy art (no doodly pattern stuff), originally conceived and executed by fantasy artists, printed with permission and royalties paid out regularly. Sure, the books cost a little more, but you know, that's what it takes when you are bringing original, creative visions by working artists, instead of ripping off people and getting the images for free and selling cheap books to customers who don't know any better (or don't care...).

EMG is running a Kickstarter campaign to bring new titles of coloring books again. I have several images included in the compilation, multi-artists collaborative coloring book titles this time (No solo titles this time. Sorry, peeps!). With the fundraiser comes the precious opportunity to get PDF versions of my coloring books. Neither EMG or myself offer PDF versions of the coloring books outside of the fundraiser.  So if you are either, 1.) totally opposed to paying high shipping cost,  or 2.) prefer PDF so you can print over and over ... or 3.) live outside of the US where shipping would be totally ridiculous, then take advantage of the offer and pledge support today!!  (I'll be honest, I'd rather not ship coloring books too far, either.)

Click HERE to go to the fundraiser page!

You'll be supporting many fantasy artists when you pledge your support. There are so many different support levels available from just $9 USD to $250 USD or more. The perks that come with each tier are different. The higher the amount pledged, the more goodies you'll get.

"Lady of the Sea" with detailed background for the new multi-artists 'mermaid' book.
"Mermaid & Her Baby" with stylized background for the multi-artists 'mermaid' book.
Meanwhile, you can order my coloring books (I'll sign it out to whomever you specify.) at my Etsy shop HERE.  I routinely enclose extra goody or two in my packages, normally ship within 24 hours of confirmed payment, and you'll get tracking.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Do Something Positive

It's a change of pace from the previous post of my ranting about art theft (Why is it that you get so much more response to gripes and rants on social media in general...?  Well, I have a pretty good idea why, but I'm always amazed at the spike in attention that these types of posts receive.).  Today, I get to talk about doing something good with my art, in my humble attempt at contributing for a good cause.

Really, nothing is more empowering than running a fundraiser where I can offer my art as a small incentive to donate to a worthy cause.  The power to create something from nothing is always at our disposal as artists, but the power to create so you can give to a cause is really special.  It took a comment from my own child pointing this out for me to stop what I was doing ( = feeling busy and almost overwhelmed handling the donations and dispatching images via email) and let it sink in.

I seem to be constantly heaping more 'stuff to do' onto my plate and getting ever more behind, but it's also true that when you do more (and get it out of the way), there's more flowing in, whether it's money, work, or opportunities.  It's all energy after all.  I admit, it was a little overwhelming to add this fundraiser, plus the celebration event on Facebook, to an already-packed month.  But I tend to go with what my gut tells me and this was a special cause that I felt compelled to add to my schedule after messaging back and forth with one of the members of my FB group, Laine Kammeraad.  She was instrumental in pointing me to info and helping me select the rescue to support with our fundraiser.

"Slow Loris Sprite" digi.  This is a gift with donation of any amount.

With two challenge blogs and a showcase blog, staying on top of everything can be a little challenging for one person with more than a slight tendency for disorganization.  Still, I try by having a wall calendar and a large appointment book and having everything written down.  That seems to be working to help me stay on top of things.  "Staying on top" simply means that I meet the deadlines - most of the time, barely.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm taking on too much and giving myself grey hair and too much grief and stress.  But you know what they say about idle hands and idle minds...

"Slow Loris in Leaves" digi.  Additional gift with donation of $10 USD or more.

So imagine my delight when so many of my designers at AuroraWings was able to help me out on such a short notice.  I consider one week to be extremely short for creative ventures of any kind, don't you?  Well, that was all I managed to give.  I honestly thought I'd be lucky to get one complete project and maybe one or two coloring on the Slow Loris Sprite to use on the fundraiser graphics and the showcase for the launch yesterday.  But by Thursday night's deadline, I had 11 fantastic samples from all three teams (and 1 additional sample, later).  I really am amazed how these designers found time and motivation to do it on such a short notice.  I think it's love for the animals.  And their kind and generous hearts.  Giving takes energy, although it's something that we all can do in quite a few ways.  And it's my observation that those who give more, receive more, and in turn, they'll give even more.  The whole flow and exchange of energy is pretty magical and so positive.  Love it!

Please support the fabulous AW designers by visiting this awesome showcase we just had to kick off the fundraiser.

Sample collage 1 (clockwise from top left :  Debbie Pamment, Sara Pyper, Debra Shaw, Jan Thompson, Gloria Palmer-Steiger, Julie Reed)

I am looking forward to seeing the projects and colorings made by the donors who received the images.  We already have 2 entries into the color & craft contest at our FB group at the time of writing.  Each card, each coloring done, and each post on social media and blog will start another round of ripples of energy to spread the word.  Fundraisers like this one that involve and encourage creativity on organizers as well as donors, I think, are really fantastic for that reason.   Monetary donations are most appreciated and helpful, but the additional creative efforts contribute so much, too, in terms of introducing more people to these animals, and increasing awareness of the need for their conservation.  

Sample collage 2 (clockwise from top left: RoRa, Donna Mundinger, Silvia Sencaka, Marion Lones, Cristena Bagne, Karola Geiger)

I guess the warm fuzzy feeling an event like this gives me is the sense of community coming together.  I do my small part of contributing the images and organizing the fundraiser, but the donors and other supporters are actively involved and playing vital parts that contribute to the growth of a movement.  In the end, a simple seed of an idea becomes a much bigger entity, like a healthy, fast-growing tree.  It is a thrill to see it all unfold - by the numbers growing on the total amount raised, by the pictures of entries posted into the contest, and all the buzz!!   Thank you, my AW designers, for helping make it a success!!

My latest update reported a fundraiser total of $452 USD, which is 90.4% of our original goal.  If this keeps up, I'll have to add a reward for topping the goal.  Wouldn't that be great?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

How Adult Coloring Became Dirty Words

   If you're reading this, thinking that I'll be talking about or posting images of pornographic line art from coloring books meant for adults, stop right here.  This post won't be about that.  You'll see what I mean by the title pretty quickly if you decide to continue.

Gardens & Goddesses, my first book from 2012 from Ellen Million Graphics.
It was a long time dream of mine that finally came true.
   I have been selling coloring books of my detailed fantasy art since 2012, way before this adult coloring craze became so big in the past year or two.  But adult coloring books are nothing new.  They have been around for a long time, despite being a quiet, small niche in the publishing industry, and have been somewhat limited to mandalas, Art Nouveau and Celtic designs.  These days, the market is full of beautiful books (lots of Zentangle and other doodly designs as well as fantasy artists' work) as more and more people - both professional artists who make their living with their art AND those who just see an opportunity to make quick bucks with coloring books of varying quality - are jumping in and publishing books.

A page from Gardens & Goddesses book that I colored with Prismacolor pencils.
   When you're in the field of visual art, much like fields in design and technology, you run into thieves.  Many of us (not all, but many) do our part by registering our images and designs with US Copyright Office, but that doesn't mean thieves will stop, fearing legal action.  All too often, they'll rip your designs off and make money and be gone just as quickly as they appeared.  Art thievery is not limited to actual theft of a physical, original painting from someone's collection for the purpose of selling on the black market to the highest bidder.  All too often, artists like me experience a theft of a different kind: theft by hand-copying nearly line by line to the point the image is easily recognizable as one of yours (or blatant mechanical copying) appearing in a book being sold on for profit; theft by someone using the image without permission on products that are sold on print-on-demand places like Zazzle or CafePress; and theft even by small businesses or companies that go into licensing agreement to legally use your art on their products, but fail to pay royalties as spelled out in the contracts.  I have also seen theft of another kind where an individual would digitally manipulate the original artist's watermark and slap on theirs and claim authorship.  Ridiculous, but it has happened to me, and I have seen this happen to many of my artist friends.  There seems to be no limit to how low they stoop.

Gardens and Goddsses vol. 2, published in 2014, also from Ellen Million Graphics.
   Back to the topic of why "adult coloring" became dirty words for me.  It has everything to do with the various types of theft I mentioned above.  With the explosive growth of the popularity of adult coloring, came a huge crop of Facebook groups and Pinterest boards that cater to this topic and the enthusiasts. And they are hell bent on the idea of making line art available for FREE.  There are a lot of images available for free with consent of the original artists, especially on places like deviantART.   But the problem is, all too often, the individuals involved in administering these groups or boards have total disregard for copyright laws, or for that matter, the rights of the artists who created the images.  We've all heard of people saying, "If it's on the Internet, it's free, isn't it?  I think what they imply by this statement is "If it's not free already, it should be."

   I've encountered Pinterest boards that were collections of artists' line art with no watermark, meaning, whoever purchased the files posted them on their boards (or bought coloring books and scanned the pages and posted them).  "I bought them.  It's mine now, so I can post them on my board.  What's wrong with that?" They'd say.  These people fail to understand that images they obtain - via download from their legitimate purchase, freely distributed as promo by the original artist/copyright owner, or something they find on the Internet that they happen to like - are not free for them to do whatever they choose.  The least of which is to make it available for downloading, illegally distributing without consent or knowledge of the copyright holder/original artist, who stand to lose because of this seemingly 'harmless' action, often called 'sharing' by the offenders.

   Most artists like me cannot afford a legal team dedicated solely to the patrolling of the Internet for copyright violations and infringements like Disney and other big shots have at their disposal.  We largely depend on our knowledgeable and more informed fans who recognize a rip-off or a theft situation when they see it.  Thank goodness for these people for reporting cases to the artists.

Midnight Gardens, published in 2014 from Ellen Million Graphics, featuring darker and macabre themes.
   No matter how many cases I encounter, my response is the same.  I get the heavy, heart-sinking feeling that makes me feel sad and angry.  It also depletes my mojo.  Having to deal with it also takes away a lot of my time that could be better spent doing what I love most - making art.   Although there is nothing we can do to prevent from these thefts from occurring, there is at least, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  This law releases companies like Facebook and Pinterest from any wrongdoing if a individual user violates someone's copyright by posting content without permission or otherwise breaking laws (freely distributing, or making profit off of, etc.) on their sites.  What the law does is that it advises these big companies to take appropriate action in a timely manner when a formal complaint is filed.  I would say that I have filed the largest number of cases with Pinterest, and fewer with Facebook, DeviantART, and Etsy (Etsy in particular doesn't make it as easy for the rights holder to file as many other places, though...).  A few with Google (for Blogger).  What we do is file a claim of violation by filling out a form they have ready.  They usually ask if you are the copyright owner or a representative, ask to put where legitimately presented image can be found, along with the offending link(s), and your contact info, plus your digital 'signature'.  In most cases in my own experience, action has been within hours.  I have not had a case that did not go in my favor.  So these organizations take this seriously enough to respect the rights of the artists or the right holder of the intellectual property, as they say.

   What makes me sad is that there are artists who have totally given up on their rights and sit and do nothing when their art is stolen or illegally distributed for free by unscrupulous public.  Whenever I come across a violation (= seeing someone's art being used without permission or inappropriately), I contact the artist as soon as I can and make them aware of the situation.  There are artists who feel the same way as I do and take immediate action and file complaint cases, but there are artists who feel so helpless and decide to do nothing and tell me so in their reply.  It breaks my heart when I see the latter reaction.  It is YOUR art.  It is YOUR intellectual property.  It is YOUR livelihood.  It pays for YOUR family's food, mortgage, car payment, health care, children's education ...  How could you just sit there and do nothing to protect all that?

A page from the Gardens & Goddesses book that I colored with Prismacolor pencils.
This book was subsequently given away to the winner of a giveaway on my Facebook page.
   It is true that dealing with theft cases is a never ending chore, much like plucking weeds out of your garden week after week, month after month, year after year.  You solve one case, and another one pops up.  But to say that it's no use because there will always be people who will steal from you is bogus.  I don't want a fellow artist to ever feel that helpless.  "Silence is acquiescence" to those thieves and ignorant public.  In cases of illegal free distribution of images via blog posts and Pinterest boards, it not only violates the rights of the artists, but it also makes a complete mockery of the paying customers, who see and appreciate the value of your time, talent, and creativity that went into the work, and are willing to pay for it.

   Another thing that is hindering the artists who make living by making art, dare I say it, is the hobby artists who make their drawings available for free.  I don't know if they are offering their art because they think they're not professional artists, they are just in it for popularity, or they fail to see the value of their work.  I don't think there are no other field where more work is offered for free than in the field of visual art.  And I think it probably has a lot to do with the society's attitude as a whole.  Think about it.  When politicians (including your state and local representatives or members of the school board) have to cut funding in our public school systems, where do they cut it first?  Arts.  Music programs, dance programs, theater programs, and visual art programs are the ones that get cut.  Why?  Because these are leisurely pursuits not worthy of our serious attention or government funding (taxpayers' money).  It's all frivolous and does not contribute to the growth and development of the might of a country.  Being an artist is not a REAL job.  Because it's not a real job, you shouldn't have to pay for art.  I think that's the message that our society is sending to our adults and children.  And I think this is the reason why people continue to feel it's perfectly OK to freely distribute images they find on the web and they can continue on with their new-found hobby of adult coloring.  It's beyond me why they would bark at paying a few dollars for a quality image when they won't even think twice to get a $5 cup of coffee every day at Starbucks.  Or why they would think illegally downloading images is OK when they wouldn't dare walking out of a craft store with a set of colored pencils or markers with a "five-finger discount".

Another page from Gardens & Goddesses colored with Prismacolor pencils.
   All this and the cold winter have contributed to my less-than-average motivation in recent months, starting right after the 2015 holiday season.  With the warmer temperature returning and new projects on the horizon, I am focused less on the unpleasant aspects of art business and more on the positive.  It does require what feels like a constant, conscious effort to shift my attention and keep it there, but I continue to receive lovely letters from colorists out there who are really enjoying my books and line images.  Some even say they help them keep their minds off the difficulty life constantly throws at us.    It always warms my heart and gives me encouragement to continue what I do whenever I receive a message or an email where someone shares with me that they found a precious gift in the images they color - be it a sheer joy of coloring, a moment of tranquility, or a discovery of the forgotten inner child.  I am forever grateful for the kind and generous people that I come into contact in my daily dealings.  It is them who make dealing with the calous and uncaring attitude of many less depressing, and lift my spirit, so I can continue to draw something beautiful, whimsical, and joyful.