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Pinterest's Prickly Problem

posted by marrael 2012-02-28 00:27:41

If you're familiar with Pinterest, online discussions about Pinterest's copyright issues have been heating up recently, and (I believe) I may have mentioned the site on the Flog before. Pinterest is a website and online tool that lets you "pin" images online onto a virtual pinboard on your Pinterest account, and you can create unlimited boards (and pins), amassing (essentially) galleries of images grouped by theme, media, colour, or subject. It's fantastic for idea-gathering; whether you're working on a room design, party plan, or for that matter, a painting or character design. But lately the argument has come up that the site hurts artists and crafters. I'd like to examine that in today's Flog entry.

When I first started using Pinterest, I mostly pinned photographs of interior decor I liked, public domain paintings by dead artists, interesting photo textures and colour combinations, and catalog photos of dresses and fabric I thought were inspiring. (In fact, on one board, I pinned pictures of kimono fabrics and gowns because I planned on putting a fairy in kimono-inspired costume. The end design was my own.)

I still find Pinterest a fantastic tool for artists--if you play by the copyright rules. That is, that you only pin images that the creator has said are OK to be pinned, and if you are using reference photos, the copyright holders of the photos need to be OK with you copying the photos wholesale (or the figures more or less wholesale, in the case of models modeling for artists). Keeping in mind that expressions of ideas in photography, art and writing are automatically copyrighted (whether or not the fancy © sign appears) by the creator, ideas themselves are free--so this applies to things like mood, "feel", colour combinations, and even style--so if you want to paint modern figures in the method of Alphonse Mucha, go for it! I'll stick to my original guns that Pinterest is a useful tool for gathering inspiration in a very organised and accessible way.

The problem Pinterest poses for artists, crafters and photographers is this: Not everyone who uses Pinterest (or indeed, anyone who uses the Internet) is versed in copyright law, and while it's always been impossible stopping anyone from saving your images on the Internet, now Pinterest is essentially letting them take a picture and republish the image on Pinterest--whether or not your website has a "Pin It" button, and whether or not you allow such distribution and say so explicitly on your website. (Pinterest allows anyone to install a "Pin It" app in their browser.) Now, all pins provide (after a bit of careful looking) a link to the original source of the image. But the ease of "re-pinning" an image already on Pinterest means an image of yours can get a fair amount of distribution and re-distribution on Pinterest without any clicks going to your website, when one of those clicks could become potential revenue. It's like Google Image Search, but without a person having to go to your website at all to view the full-size image and become a potential buyer.

I get this argument. If you're on Etsy, know that Etsy now has a "Pin It" button on every Etsy product page, and the cry from some vendors is that they've found their Etsy product photos on Pinterest, at the same time visits to their actual Etsy store (and their sales) have been going South. "Pin It" definitely does not work to an Etsy seller's benefit the way the Etsy "treasuries" do, in which clicking on an item in a Treasury brings you to the product's buying page. (Pinterest doesn't discourage Etsy sales either, but it does put the purchasing page an extra click away. I don't think that's too much of an impediment for someone who wants something, but can imagine a casual Pinterest user not even bothering to check out t...

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It's 2012!

posted by marrael 2012-01-16 00:30:00

I have been a bad, bad blogger; I went on holiday and let myself succumb to the post-holiday slump. Anyway, now that's over, welcome back, and into a new year: 2012! I'm not even THAT late, because if you follow the Chinese calandar, the new year (the Year of the Dragon, if you were curious) doesn't actually start until January 23rd! (Ha!)
If you were worried your errant blogger wasn't returning, or had run out of topics to cover, have no fear of that. First up: Spectrum, that yearly anthology of gorgeous contemporary fantasy art, is accepting submissions for their next compilation until January 27th. I'm going to admit: I think I have nothing up to snuff (yet. There's always next year!) but if you're feeling good about your chances, get your butt moving on your entry! 
Next: An epic post on the silliness of girls' poses on fantasy book covers was posted recently by the fabulous fantasy writer, Jim C. Hines. (I'm linking to his LJ entry but it's mirrored on his site too.) After you're done laughing and wiping the tears from your eyes, catch his follow-up post, in which he provides links (some of which I've also provided on this blog). This one, however, I must highlight: Men's Versus Women's Poses 

Last one for now: Small Business Resolutions Worth Keeping. There are a few tips on the page, and my favourite is the one about prioritizing and limiting distractions. Having a timer on one's FaceBook/Twitter/surfing time sounds excellent. As is having daily/weekly/monthly goals. (I have a monthly goal to finish at least one "big" painting per month. And this year, a modest but doable goal, I think, to post at least once per week at Fantastic Portfolios.)
See you next week!


Paypal, Occupy, and the Little Guy

posted by marrael 2011-12-08 22:41:13

I had a happier post lined up, but thought I'd talk about businesses and ethics for this one. There was a little tea-cup storm on the Internet over the last few days that you may have heard about: The Regretsy vs Paypal Debacle that had many Paypal users (businesses and buyers alike) up in arms; the story even made it to CNN. Regretsy, a site I know I've linked to on here, was taking Paypal donations for a toy drive, and long story short, had its accounts frozen for a made-up reason, before public pressure and petitions made Paypal back down and admit (inamumblemumblefashion) that they had made an error.

When I first ran into the story, I'll admit this, I was trying to quell a mindless rising panic when Paypal's exchange with Regretsy included an insistence that the "Donate" button was only for the use of non-profits and "worthy causes". The Paypal Donate button is the button you'll see on blogs, artist sites and webcomic sites. Sometimes it's called the tip jar. The Paypal Donate button lets the person who uses it decide how much to give, and if the money is going to the artist--well, here was my conundrum: Was I a nonprofit? Did I have to register as a non-profit? Was I worthy cause? Was feeding an artist a worthy cause, or did I now have to give up painting and get a "real job"? What about the thousands of other little people and businesses out there offering services and tutorials and e-books with a "pay what you like" model?

Turns out of course anyone could and can continue to use the Donate button for any reason (and Paypal always takes a little cut from each donation). But April Winchell, when this was still playing out, said something really cogent about Paypal's (and indeed, a lot of corporations') actions: 

We are all working very hard in a bad economic climate, and every cent we spend really matters. And corporations continue to treat us like they’re the only ones who are hurting.

We see the erosion of customer care in every sector. No one knows your name. No one makes eye contact. No one thanks you. Even doctors are practicing a completely different kind of medicine now. They have to see so many people to make the same money they used to that they’ve become more like mechanics. They forget your cancer is attached to a person. And Paypal forgets your fees are attached to people who are trying to make a living, or facilitate something good for other people. 

Wading into politics and social responsibility is not something I planned for the Fantastic Portfolios' blog, but I do believe we seem to be living in a climate where it is accepted (nay, expected) that corporations put money before people. (It's capitalism, right?) Corporations don't say they put money before people, of course, but their actions scream it: they report profits even as they announce "downsizing" measures; workers' productivity keeps going on up (ie. they work longer hours and bear more responsibilities) but salaries don't (unless you're a CEO). When you buy products that say "made in China", think about the companies that have moved their productions there so that they save costs--were those savings really passed straight on to you, or are you (and your society) paying now in other ways? Corporations, as part of their legal definition, are "people" and thus they're quick to scream this in defence when anyone want to take them to task for their socially irresponsible actions. Add to the mess that politicians and corporate donations (and CEOs for that matter) are so deeply and inextricably entangled in some industries (healthcare,...

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Perfect is the Enemy

posted by marrael 2011-11-20 19:02:50

Pfshaw, has it really been 10 days since my last blog post? I am shamefaced. A lot has been going on, and I suspect that many other artists as well have been taking advantage of this time of year where Christmas shopping (or, Christmas selling) is the top priority of independent shops and artists. What a handy excuse! And handy blog topic.

The title of the post may come from advice you may have heard before, commonly "Don't let perfect become the enemy of the good". Or: "Perfect is the enemy of the good," which, I am again ashamed to find out, originated from Voltaire, who wrote one of my favourite books ever, Candide. (That guy? Genius.)

Perfectionism, it has taken me a long time to figure out, really is a flaw. Here are the excuses I used to run through in my head, to avoid selling my work (and, some of them I'm still using): My portfolio isn't good enough yet. I haven't got my prints of this picture just right, I can't offer them for sale! There's a stray dot on this picture that's bugging me. My web site isn't ready. I don't have photos, or good enough photos, of this product. I don't have a story or description of Shakespearean standards to accompany this product. 

"Not good enough" is an excuse that rears its head constantly, and it's just a delaying tactic. It's used to deliberately place an obstacle between oneself and the Test--Will it sell? Do people want it? Will people pay for it? Deciding not to sell ("yet") yields the same financial result as not having people buy it, but the former lets us keep our ego, while the latter brings on a whole host of disappointments and questions ("WHY?") and may necessitate us working harder to sell, when all we want to do is create art. It's really understandable. But also counter-productive. 

Any job--every job--has bits of it we don't enjoy quite as much as other bits of it. Selling isn't as much fun to me as creating, but until the day I can afford a marketing department, it's a necessity, and perfectionism (useful as it can sometimes be in art-making) shouldn't come into it if it stops me posting services or items for sale. Good enough is good enough. All I need to do to convince myself of this is to visit Regretsy from time to time, and see some truly weird and questionable products that are offered for sale (in various places, not just etsy), accompanied with photos taken in the semi-darkness, and descriptions written in ALL CAPS or wth hillarious spelling errows [sic].

Of course it may be disappointing to spend time crafting an auction, or an etsy posting, or Craigslist posting, or a new product, and get no responses, so start with creating or listing items and services that take the least effort. Those may yield something! And then work up to those that take more investment (time, money, or materials-wise). 

Happy selling!

Recommended links: IttyBiz Confessional: What if I'm not awesome enough?

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