What was the inspiration behind becoming a creator? What do you enjoy most about the creative process?
When you are young, you never imagine that what you are doing will end up as the grounding and inspiration for the rest of your life. Instead, you simply play or, in my case, draw. I remember I was really into reading “Winnie the Pooh.” The book I had was one of the original versions with the illustrations by E.H. Shepherd. I can remember I was totally engaged with the beauty and form of the illustrations, and because of this I would try my best to emulate the beautiful lines and poses. I guess this was the starting point of my artistic career, even though it took until the age of 13 and watching Star Wars on my birthday that inspired me enough to do something about it.
My creative process has always remained traditional. So, as I grew up in a world without a computer, internet and digital art, I had to learn how to draw the most basic way; with pencil. Still to this day, I have a great love of holding a pencil in my hand, the smell of the pine, the tactile feel of movement across paper. It is like a drug in the creative world. Later too, during MA studies, I learned Lateral Thinking skills, and it is a positive challenge now to use my thinking process to find more unique and original ways to express my illustrative works.
Can you take us through your creative process? How long does it take? Does everything you produce make money?
My creative process has two components, that of an applied freelance illustrator and that of a creative illustrator when working on my own projects. So, the starting point has two origins that are based on the initial denominator. If I have a client illustration, it tends to start with a brief, followed by a Q&A back and forth until the concept is agreeable on both sides, and then moves onto sketching, revision and final draft. Once the draft version is completed and accepted, I will scan and render it on my iMac and Cintiq set-up using Photoshop. If it is a self-motivated project, the initial stage is based more on a “wandering” of the mind to allow creativity to find a foot hold in an idea I am floating around in my brain. This is where the lateral thinking comes in. In several instances, I have found ideas walking my dog, or looking at rain through a bus window on the way home after my formative years as a lecturer. The rest is pretty much the same. Getting the sketching and draft tied down so little correction is required at rendering stage.
Time concerns are something I’ve evaluated over the years, and I have put in place many processes to speed up my rendering process. This has been done as the original client was taking two or three weeks, and they simply weren’t paying the money to sustain me for that period on a one commission at a time basis. Typically, most of my commissioned pieces can take from two days to 10 days depending on level of detail and other projects I’m working on simultaneously.
Does my work make money? Well, I have to hope it does. Life as a freelancer is hard so I can’t waste time on projects that are not money earners. Luckily, all my commission work provides an income, and I now have a back library of my own projects online that can also bring in some income. However, sales are currently down, and image theft doesn’t help either.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about your line of work?
The biggest misconception about art is that it’s easy and anyone can do it. In one sense, undertaking art as a hobby can be therapeutic and constructive for a lot of people. But creating art professionally is different. Anyone can create art, but not everyone can create good art! I have worked incredibly hard to learn the technical skills to allow my creativity to be recognized as professional.
When did you first become aware of copyright, and why?
I first became aware of copyright in 2014 regarding my own work. A blog I admired featured several illustrations I had done for a series called “Animal Behavior.” I was very excited and thought I would get some attention and maybe some work. To my dismay, I found that one specific work, titled “Pack the Trunk,” had been stolen and reutilized on many illegal products and were being sold all over the place. I even did some investigation and found that one factory in China was producing in the region of 1,000 pieces of my art a day!
Have you experienced copyright infringement and, if so, how has it affected you professionally and financially?
I must invest one whole day each month doing reverse image searching, looking for infringements of my work. I also use services like Pixsy and CopyTrack to explore exploits. It is very demoralizing. I must have found over 10,000 violations or more over the years, and only a fraction have been resolved, and even fewer have any financial reward from it. When I find a large number of infringements I get depressed and even think about quitting the work. Sadly, copyright law is abused in so many ways. Also, trying to explain copyright ownership to clients is a Sisyphean feat. I don’t do “Work for Hire’ contracts and have to point out to clients that unless they pay me for copyright transfer, then I retain ownership of the IP.
What do you do when you encounter someone stealing something you’ve invested your intellect, time, and money into?
Most of the time, the violation occurs online. So, I will issue a DMCA takedown process and follow it through. I am roughly 80% successful on doing that. If an infringement occurs on social media or sites like AliExpress, I use their own copyright infringement process, and luckily with Alibaba it is 100% effective. I have also engaged lawyers in copyright matters, and sometimes a simple indication of the violation scares most people into complying and even remunerating some monetary reward. Currently, at the time of writing this post, I’m in court proceedings with a hostile infringer, but I can’t say any more due to the case being active.
In sum, I recommend artists register their works and/or do a reverse image search regularly, as it will help crack down on violations and potentially deter thieves.
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