Open Thread: Do you watermark?

Rules change all the time, like whether newborns should sleep on their sides or stomachs. The same seems to be true of artists using watermarks. Everyone has an opinion and ultimately every artist does what they feel is right for their art on the web. I thought it would be interesting to see where our readers stand on the topic and to explore some updated ideas on the issues. Once upon a time, watermarks were for protecting your art from theft. But not anymore. Take the poll and then I’ll explain.

What follows is my personal opinion. It should not be taken as fact. We all ultimately do what we feel comfortable with when it comes to sharing our art across the web.

We’ve all heard the two sides to this argument:

1. Watermarks protect your art from theft.

2. Watermarks are ugly and put off buyers.

One of these statements is myth. Can you guess which one?

Watermarks DO NOT protect your art from theft. However, they don’t necessarily put off buyers and they don’t have to be ugly. So what is the purpose of a watermark in the 21st century?


It’s like the telephone game, where you stand in a line and pass a message on to the person next you. By the time the message reaches the end of the line it’s usually a far cry from the original. Imagine a similar situation with an artwork that’s been repinned thirty times on Pinterest. Maybe you were the original source of the pin and you put in the description your copyright info. But the next ten people who repinned your artwork changed the description to, Beautiful! or Stunning! Then it’s repinned from those people another ten times. By the time the 50th person see it they may have no idea where the image came from or knowledge of its creator. But. If you’ve put a small watermark with your info, like my painting shown to the left, wherever you art ends up a viewer will know you as the creator.

I’ve placed the copyright info on my painting The Moon off to the side, that way it doesn’t detract from the artwork but still gives me clear credit and a name for viewers to Google.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know in the comments if you use a watermark on your art or if you don’t! We want to hear your thoughts.


Open Thread: Best Creative Apps?

Expel by EBSQ Artist Vicky Helms Kostka
Expel by EBSQ Artist Vicky Helms Kostka

A few years ago, EBSQ Artist, Art Blogger, and regular Mashable contributor Natasha Wescoat put together a list of apps that turn the iPhone into a tool for creativity.  You can read her original article on Mashable.

3 years is an eternity on the interwebs.  Technology and tastes have both evolved since then. And there are a veritable plethora of new creativity-boosting apps to choose from.

The one that would top my personal list is Instagram. Sure, the filters are nice (and unlike my previous favourite, Toy Camera, I can actually pre-view and choose my filter pre-processing). But the thing I like best (and this is probably silly) is that it makes me think in squares. Folks that are familiar with my artwork know that the bulk of my paintings from the past 10 years have been square. With Instagram, I can automatically compose in square format. The fact that I can also easily push my photos to Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook is another bonus.

What’s on your list?

Art Seen: The Day the Internet Blacked Out

Sad Girl by EBSQ Artist Aylan N Couchie
Sad Girl by EBSQ Artist Aylan N Couchie
Loneliness by EBSQ Artist S. Key
Loneliness by EBSQ Artist S. Key
Crossing Your Path by EBSQ Artist Carol DeMumbrum
Crossing Your Path by EBSQ Artist Carol DeMumbrum
Village Cemetery by EBSQ Artist Naquaiya
Village Cemetery by EBSQ Artist Naquaiya

An editorial note: none of these pieces were created to address today’s #StopSOPA protests. Nor did EBSQ have any obvious gallery pieces that addressed censorship in general (that wasn’t of the girly-bits variety, which would have diluted the message too much)

EBSQ did NOT “black out” today out of respect for our paying customers who depend upon our services. But I think as artists, this is a conversation we should probably be having. I personally (and professionally) oppose SOPA/PIPA. From what I’ve read and researched it goes too far in limiting our freedoms and doesn’t effectively address the issue of piracy, which many of our members have unfortunately experienced firsthand. So I bring it to you: Where does copyright protection end and censorship begin?

Remembering the USS Leopold

USS Leopold
USS Leopold

I’m taking some time out from art (and BBQs) to remember my Uncle Frank, not the easiest task since he died in 1944, several years before my mother was  born. He was the youngest boy in a family of 6 children, and his family called him “Noonie” for reasons no one has ever explained to me. My grandmother is the baby of the family, and she recalls with some amusement how in her freshman year of high school, ALL the girls wanted to be friends with her in hopes of getting noticed by her handsome brother the senior.

Like all the other boys in town, Noonie joined up after Pearl Harbor. He was a Seamam 1st Class in the Coast Guard, and his ship, The USS Leopold, had exactly two trips. He was one of 171 lost at sea when their ship was taken out by a torpedo by a German U-boat just south of Iceland on March 9, 1944. The ship itself sank on March 10th.

For further reading about the Leopold:

The wikipedia entry on the USS Leopold

A list of crewmen lost in action

-Amie Gillingham

Do you have someone you want to remember today? Please share your story in comments.

Open Thread-Is art on eBay over?

Smallest Painting on eBay by Jim Harrington
Smallest Painting on eBay by Jim Harrington

I got a rather meaty set of questions in my inbox the other day from EBSQer Catherine LaChance. I’m re-posting it here (with her permission) :

Hi Amie!

I have a question. I was wondering if the “old” ways of selling art on eBay are obsolete. It seems there have been many changes since the past few years, and I used to successfully sell art on eBay, while nowadays it’s harder.

A few years ago, I used to put EBSQ in my title – nowadays, it seems almost nobody does that anymore. Also, I used to add watermarks to all my pictures. Is it still a thing to do?

I saw that my big paintings aren’t selling, but if I sell ACEO’s, they seem to be the most popular format and they sell better. Are there still people (for example in the EBSQ Juried category) who still start their art at 99$ and sell? Or are we now reduced to sell ACEO’s only?

I know I’m asking “big” questions, it’s just that I’m a bit confused as to how the art market has changed on eBay.

Can you tell me if what I’ve been observing is right?

Thank you!


So–I figured you all are smarter about this sort of thing than I am since I’ve been on an active-selling hiatus for a while and all of my knowledge is second hand.  I’ve heard a lot from former eBayers who are now selling their originals almost exclusively on Etsy, via their EBSQ portfolios, their personal websites, etc. But what about those of you who have stuck it out at eBay? What’s it like out there? Any strategies you’d like to share for finding success on eBay without going broke in the process? Or is the heyday of great sales for independent artists on eBay finally at an end?

Open Thread: When artistic license isn’t

Those of you who know me know that I’m not just an artist; I’m also a huge tech geek. And so it’s with great interest (and concern) that I’ve been watching the most recent internet kerfuffle at the convergence of my two areas of interest.  You may not be aware of the latest viral video that is the darling of the same tech community it parodies, “Look, It’s Another Bubble” by The Richter Scales. At the heart of this controversy is a photographer, Lane Hartwell,  who found out that yet another one of her photographs was used without her permission in this beloved video. Like many of you might have been in her place, she was pissed that her copyrighted work was used both without permission or attribution.

Yes, it was a good video. I personally passed it around to a lot of like-minded friends before this whole thing blew up. And I can understand that people who enjoyed this video are mad at the photographer for not just giving her blessing after the fact and spoiling everyone’s fun. But now this woman is being called, among other things, “a whiny bitch” for protecting her copyright and being a spoil sport, and some claim she’s impeding on The Richter Scales rights to use the piece in question because the end result is a parody. People have made fun of  the quality of her work, and the quality of her character, saying she’s money grubbing and wants a piece of the viral pie, or is taking advantage of all of the publicity she’s receiving for having this video taken down all over the net while she works things out with the other party. It’s personally disheartening to see an artist villified by a community of which I am normally proud to be a part. 

So let me put this to you: if this was your photograph being used in this video, how would you react? Would you be thrilled to have your work (sans attribution) appear in a video gone viral? Or would you, like Lane, be pissed that your rights were being infringed upon and try to do something about it? Was the usage of Lane’s photograph fair use, much as parts and pieces are used in a collage, for example?

For further context:

From the photographer in question:
From the infringing party:
A representative post from the tech community:

We greatly welcome you thoughts on this issue. And if copyright issues are important to you, please pass this on!

Food for Thought: State of the Biz

This was originally posted in the EBSQ Glass Forum (now viewable by the public!) by resident glass artist Dawn Thompson and I felt it was extremely appropos for Labour Day. If you’d like to weigh in on this conversation you can post a comment  here or respond to Dawn directly in the EBSQ Glass Forum

It’s tough out there folks! What strategies are you employing to compete?

The glass business is certainly not unique in being hard hit by China, but it has definitely been particularly hard hit, along with other labor intensive fine craft. The stained glass lamp business in the US is virtually non-existent, with the exception of repairs. In the span of 5 years, nearly every lamp maker in this country has been put out of business. Cheap Home Depot lighting has taken a product that was once considered to be truly a luxury item and reduced it to trinket trash. Of course the product itself is not trash. It takes hours of painstaking skilled labor and is intrinsically beautiful. But perception is everything. Where once, the customer was willing to pay for that beauty, now they perceive it to be “cheap stuff” and can’t understand why a lamp made by an aritsan, taking many hours and hundreds of dollars in materials, should cost any more than the one at Wal-Mart.

Panels are suffering the same plight. As are garden items, chimes, fused vessels, jewelry…..the list goes on. When I first saw Dianne’s garden stakes and Andrea’s wind chimes on eBay, I had never seen anything like them. And they were fetching good prices for their work. But in the last several years, I’ve seen similar, albeit inferior, products in the aisles at Hobby Lobby. It is a known fact that the Chinese manufacturers’ marketing teams scour the internet to see what labor intensive craft is popular and fetching good prices. Then they copy it and sell it to US marketers for pennies. Their turnaround time is staggering to me. How quickly we have to adapt!

The smaller items suffer less, as time and materials make them more affordable to the consumer, and thankfully, some consumers are still willing to spend on artisan made craft.

Add to that the massive influx of “hobbyist” competition in online sales; those who truly don’t care if they make a profit, or are even paid at all for their work, but are simply subsidizing their hobby material expenses, and the full time artisan is in a real bind.

Are we being phased out? Is there a place for us any more?

I believe there can be, but it calls for hard work and hard choices.

One choice is commission work. I don’t know of any artist that would rather realize someone else’s vision rather than do whatever moves them, but for me, it is a necessity. To get good consistent commissions, you have to develop a whole different set of skills. Patience. Making the client feel special and involved. Educating the consumer. Easy for some, tough for others.

Another tough choice; maximizing the efficiency of your operation. “Elite” materials v. affordable materials. Home studio v. outside studio. Difficult and unique products v. fast, easy and saleable products. More expensive marketing v. legwork and simply “getting your stuff out there”. This requires experimentation and is in constant flux.

Above all, I’ve found that I have to be adaptable. The moment you’ve come up with a fast, inexpensive and unique item, someone will copy it and offer it for less. You have to constantly be changing and stretching.

What are your thoughts? How are you adapting? What are your strategies to compete?

Food for thought for the long weekend!