How do I find out who the artist is?

23 07 2013

In my last post the post I wrote last year I mentioned how hard it is for artists when our art is redistributed and our names and websites are cropped off of the image, if an artist is not identified, the piece will bring nothing like “free publicity”, because most people are not psychics and cannot just call to the Universe for a name to show up in dreams… ahem, excuse the sarcasm. Sometimes people would like to add an “art by so and so” but don’t know who to credit the work to. And I know that you, dear reader, would like to do the right thing and provide the right information for the artists you love so much to get the attention they deserve, which could bring them some business, right?

There are a few tools that you can use and I would like to show you some of them here.

Tineye reverse search is a free search engine which you can use either providing the link to the piece or uploading it from your computer. Tineye will crawl the internet trying to find matching images, its power resides in that it not only find the exact same image but it also has an algorithm that recognizes the image even if it has been cropped, copied or the colors modified. The limitation is that it does not reach many sites, many times it does not even find my own DeviantArt gallery for my images. I feel they had a great idea, but somehow they didn’t keep up with the updates and upgrades.Tineye

Google Images Search
You can also Google images now, this is a long awaited function by most of us artists. Just drag the image into the Google search bar, upload an image or paste the URL. The power of Google is that it reaches most everything on the web! It will also suggest similar images, so it can be used for other purposes such as finding an image with a palette that you might like.Gimages


Comparison of results retrieved from Tineye and Google for the same image.

FireFox apps
I like Who Stole My Pictures? the snarky name reflects what we feel about this issue. The power of this tool is that it allows to use several image search engines simultaneously. This is the tool I use all the time. Just download the add on, right click the image and you will find the app in the drop menu. You can edit the searching engines and tailor them to your needs, even open each searching engine in different tabs and compare your results.


Easy peasy! Next time you share images, take a moment and find the artist, we all will gain from it, and we’ll be grateful to you for it! And if you have a favourite image search I did not include, let me know in the comments, I will look into it.

What is with the watermark?

19 11 2012

I remember being a young artist (not a young girl, mind you, but young as an artist; a newb) just getting started and had so much to learn! I would be so excited about finishing my pieces that I would not add a signature before uploading them. This was not a philosophical stance about art and accessibility and freedom, it truly was forgetfulness. Then, as I calmed down a bit and realized that people were still going to see my work if I uploaded five minutes later, I would remember to add a signature. I always felt that the artwork itself should not be covered, because art is to be admired, so I signed on a corner.

See? itty bitty signature in a corner, even the color was unobtrusive! At least I learned really early to upload at very low res and size!

Years later I also started to add a link to my webpage on another corner, because, you know, some people were showing the illustrations to their friends, and how nice! But then the illustration would get lost in the emails/webs and who  knew where to find the original artist? I held on to this non obtrusive way of providing information about me for a very long time.

This is what I maintained for a long time, webpage info in a corner, larger because I noticed that some people reducing the size of my images would make the font unreadable.

Until now. I about had it. Enough is enough, and when you realize that there is bad will from other people’s side you need to change your strategies.

See, the point is, no matter whoever tells you what, there is a law. It is called “copyright law” and it protects the original creator. Many countries, like USA, have signed the Bern Convention in which they commit themselves to protect the artist. No, it is not my obligation to register my work, it is not my obligation to mail it to myself, it is not even my obligation to sign it, nor to place big notices “this is protected by copyright laws” (by the way, it is “copyright” not copywrite”; it’s about rights, not writing). The artist owns the copyright to a piece as soon as it is created, be it a sketch or fully finished. And that belongs to the artist as long as the artist is alive and 75 years after his or her death, it belongs to the family, except if you sell the rights, which is a whole another issue. And that law states that other people cannot sell, or modify or redistribute the artwork without proper permission. Please, notice the *redistribution* idea under copyright laws.

My eyes!!!!
This, my friends, is one case that upsets me very much, I don’t even own the copyright of this piece, the rights have been contractually transferred to the clients that commissioned it.

As any law, it is your responsibility to know the law and follow it. “Oh, officer, this person did not carry a sign saying not to kill him, I was unaware that he was not to be killed” would not fly in court. I have seen in the last few months an alarming amount of people placing the blame on the artist: you should have signed, you should have watermarked, you should have said it was protected, it is art it is to be shared, don’t whine it’s publicity, your fault your fault your fault. Sadly, this is the kind of stuff me and other friends have been through over and again recently.

I used to think I was under the radar, until I noticed that mostly Pagan groups on social networking sites started to pick up my work. I guess all that activity I talked about recently worked. And my work is all over the place. Now, I am not a freak, I like people to share my work, I really enjoy seeing others appreciating and enjoying my work, and I don’t deem of thieves those who respect me and share. I would very much appreciate a line or two “Artwork by Constanza Ehrenhaus see her work here” and a link to my gallery, any of them. But the problem arises when all the information I put in the files is cropped. When I see artwork that has been cropped and has no name or link anymore and when asked politely to provide the artist’s information the person redistributing answers with a snarky “Oh, it is the artist’s responsibility to sign the art”. Believe me, my blood boils.
Again, when you redistribute my work, you are basically breaking the law. It does not bother me at all when you leave the work unchanged, I am a very friendly person and I actually like to see my work going around with my signature and website. What I do not appreciate is when all that is cropping this information away, then I take it as what it is, someone not respecting my intellectual property and my work and trying to erase all traces of how to track me as an artist… free publicity, eh? How are others supposed to know who drew the image?

The top image is the way I display it online. The middle one has been not only redistributed but modified (which is also illegal!) and the web address removed. The bottom one has been cropped just enough to eliminate the link and my name, which really upsets me.

So, now I do add a watermark across my work. Do I like it? No, really I do not like it at all, but if someone wants to remove that, they will have to put more work into it of what is worth to just re-share the work as is. I wish I did not have to do this, but unfortunately I find that is needed. Please, excuse this action, I am not happy about having to do it, and I am sure a lot of you find it aggravating too. But I’ve had enough of people being rude back at me when I politely ask them to credit my work.

So, watermark on the middle of the image it is. *sigh!*

So, what happens if I find my work being redistributed? For the most part nothing. If the work is unchanged and my information is still there, I smile and many times have left a comment as “I am glad you like my work!” If the information has been cropped or erased in any way I normally ask politely that information be provided, sometimes people find the image already modified online. What happens next depends on the reaction of the other person, it might be a “thank you for understanding” or filing a Cease and Desist if there is a bad interaction. And, oh! you will get a Cease and Desist automatically if I find my work in any form or shape related to demeaning comments or images to other groups, which has happened. I believe we all can coexist in harmony, and I am not about to have my art being linked to any kind of derogation toward anybody else.

The next step?

Abortion in Argentina, the mermaid violated.

5 11 2011

Before going further… This post is related to abortion but it is not actually about abortion, it is about copyright infringement. So, please, let’s keep things art-centered. Thanks!

Argentinean politicians are trying to make abortion legal. So far it is only legal under certain circumstances, but there is a push for making it legal and free for all. Because the law is being treated right now I went to check the news and browsed until I got to their blog… and I found this:

Banner for legalization of abortion in Argentina. Seriously...?

Now, is there any need for me to mention that this is the Starbucks Mermaid? This looks like someone liked Starbucks’ logo, I and slapped arms and very clumsily hips, then copied and pasted and voila! Insta-banner! f you are not familiar with the Starbucks logo, here it is for you:

The new (and more modest) Starbucks mermaid.

I was rather dismayed… or maybe I should not have been. After all, the whole abortion issue is a mess because Argentina has signed the Pacto de San Jose de Costa Rica, in which the adhering countries are committed to defend life from conception. And I am not giving my opinion on abortion yay or nay  (this is not the right place) but there is a right way of doing things and that is to *first* rectify this situation and opt out of the pact, then you can have a law for abortion. As it stands, if this law is passed it will be non constitutional because international agreements are above national laws.
Why do I mention this? Because if they so nonchalantly violate an international agreement… why not another one? Argentina *is* part of the Berne Convention, which protects artistic works.

If I was Starbucks, or any business, I would be dismayed to find the logo of my company used for such a controversial cause, especially in a country that is mostly Catholic.


A message to the abortion project campaign was not immediately returned, but I really am eager to know what they have to say.

The value of a book cover

12 04 2011

Many times I see posts by authors, mostly self published, that want cover art for their upcoming book. Often times these posts are followed up by some kind of comment (by the author) stating how this should not be very expensive because it would not take more than X amount of time to make. I have even seen authors talking about how you should not pay more than $5 for a cover! Excuse me, but $5 is a latte, it is lame to ask anybody to work for a latte.

Now the problem seems to arise from said authors thinking that:

Cover art by Dan dos Santos

a) What they do (writing) is soooo much harder than doing art! Why should they pay a good price? Art comes naturally!


b) Apparently they are soooo famous that people will read their name and buy the book, and the cover is actually not so important.

The problem is that a book cover is actually very important, in the brick and mortar bookstore and also online, because it is the first thing that catches your eye. A good design, good typography and the right kind of art will attract the right kind of audience. A sci-fi book should have a sci-fi illustration and technical looking design, not a full blown medieval fantasy look. A romance cove will repel some people while attracting others. And there are codes to these styles, and the artist has learned them, and the artist is spending hours in each cover, plus the knowledge and experience that brought this artist to where (s)he is today.

It is a problem that is very big in the e-publishing area, because a lot of these publishing houses pay about $50 per cover, how would you expect a self published author to want to pay more? Now, for those of you that might think that $50 is a fair price, a lot of these covers are photomontages because a photomontage is faster than illustration from scratch, and while the artist might be saving time, it is also a reality that the publisher does not provide nor pays for the stock in most cases. So the artist is stuck with paying for the stock and fonts out of pocket, and how much of those $50 are left? Not much really. Good resolution stock photography starts at around $10-15, if you have to buy several photos (heroine, hero, background) voila! your salary is gone. And fonts are expensive too.

On the other hand we have the paper publishing companies. For some reason they seem to take this cover art issue more seriously. While I have never bought an e-book (I just love books with a passion and I love to have them and see them in my home) I have many times bought a book for its cover. I remember my sister, being probably 14-15 picking her first fantasy novel just because the cover was gorgeous (it was made by Ciruelo Cabral, by the way) and she was not disappointed with the book. Years later I still find myself going toward attractive covers with good story telling, they make me curious, if only to pick up the book and read the description of the work, and that is the first step in selling a book.

As an artist, with some experience now and knowledge of other artist’s works, many times I find it easy to identify the author that has been hired for the cover, and let me tell you, if the publishing house has taken the pains and the budget to hire someone who charges good money, let’s say Dan dos Santos or Kinuko Craft (in which case I have bought the book just for the cover) it means that the publisher considers that particular book to be good enough as to deserve a lot of money going to the cover art alone, let’s not go into layout and fonts. And if they are willing to spend a small fortune int he cover, then it means that they are quite sure that they sill recover that and much more. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of a good cover.

Artists and clients. The downpayment.

25 01 2010

A client and an artist get in touch. The client wants an image of his RPG character and his magic Pegasus, his magic sword and this great background… or maybe is a portrait of his wife and his three children… or perhaps a doll to dress up and commercialize in a game. The artist evaluates the task at hand and asks for $X, half as a down payment and half after the work is completed. The client insists in having the sketch down and then pay after he can see if he likes the sketch.

Familiar? I think most of us have been there. As an artist I feel frustrated about this. But I think there is a lot that the potential client does not realize.

a- If you are hiring the artist, then you know that you like the style, you know how the artist work. You do not need a sketch to get an idea of if you like the art or not.

b- When an artist asks for a down-payment is because sketching is probably the most important stage of the creative process. And it is work. Not a lot of people would work for free… artists are part of that group that rather to eat this month. Sketching is not something that “it’s easy and takes 5 minutes!” as I’ve heard over and over. Sketching is defining the basic elements of your future image, it is creating a composition, flow, finding what elements will be included and what won’t in the image, etc. It does not take five minutes. A good sketch takes many minutes of just thinking, even hours!  Many times it also involves research about what we are going to draw. And it is not easy. If it was easy, you, the client, could do it yourself. But as an artist you studied for years before getting to the stage in which you can sell your art.

c- Please, do not offer me $5 as if you were doing me a favor. $5 is a latte in Starbucks, less that a day’s food in my house… and I am a frugal cook! I understand that there might be artists that live in other countries for who $5 is quite a bit, I live in Pittsburgh, $5 is not much really, just taking the bus to work is more than that every day.

d- Art is a luxury, not a necessity, if you cannot afford it, it is OK, you can skip it. Don’t lie to the artist into drawing for you and then you’ll never pay. Please, think that we also need to pay bills!

e- Don’t have the money and still want the art? That is fine! You can do a few things.

1- You can save. I save to buy the things I want.

2- You can ask the art for your next birthday, or the money that you can use to buy the art.

3- Still no money? You can get creative. Maybe the artist would want something that you want. You have a restaurant? Offer a coupon for a nice dinner. You are a web designer? Design their web as an exchange.  Many artists would have no problem with this.

The important point is to know that the artist, as you, needs the money for paying bills and eat. Artists are not happy being poor, as they show in the movies, we rather to have a decent life. Respect the artist, as you expect your boss to respect you.

Do you have any experience you want to share? Feel free to comment, I would love to hear it!

Client-Artist relationships.

11 06 2009

I have been wanting to talk about client-artist relationship for some time now, but yesterday I saw this wonderful post by artist Melissa Findley, and I could never be as eloquent as she is, so please, if you would like to know how to Commission Artwork, pass by her blow and read this excellent article.

A personal pet peeve of mine is when I get the “Meh, it is an easy project, it shouldn’t take you more than 5-10 minutes to do it”. Well, let me judge if it is an easy project or not. If it was, why don’t you do it? And please consider that before the piece is started, much time goes into concepts, ideas, thumbnailing and trying out different compositions.

Also, please watch this hilarious (and tragic) video to know how artists feel most of the time when trying to establish a relationship with a new client:

So, next time that you want to commission art, please think about the artist, all the work that goes into a piece, and be respectful.

About pricing one’s work

17 04 2009

I was listening to the Ninja Mountain podcast of this week, a very interesting topic was brought up, and it is about pricing one’s work. This is a topic that comes over and again in the art community, because it is not easy for a beginner artist to price their work. But this topic also brings a lot of argument about artists that charge close to nothing to our standards for a job done, usually with the remarks “you get what you paid for”. Not always true, sometimes you get really good quality.

I would like to start with an anecdote from the Renaissance, just to make the point that this is not a new argument, and probably will go on for many more years:

Tintoretto was the son of a clothes dyer, he was not a high society guy, and unlike with may of his contemporary colleagues aristocracy was not attracted to his work and he had no patronage from them. He took on the strategy of appealing the less rich middle-class by having a high turn over rate and lower prices. He was widely criticized by other artists because they said it would hurt their work. This does not make him a mediocre artist, he had to eat.

The Deliverance of Arsenoe by Jacopo Tintoretto

The Deliverance of Arsenoe by Jacopo Tintoretto

It is easy to point at those that do what we consider denigrating to the profession from our comfortable position. Yes, I’ve seen those that would go low for a ‘gig’ offering themselves to do a full illustration or logo for $10-20 but then they refuse to give help to a newb without Photoshop and they ask for $15-20 to boost brightness/contrast in a bad scan (unbelievable, I actually have seen that situation!). But I want to talk about something different today, something relatively new for the world, but absolutely prevalent, and it is a globalized market.

I know the financial/economical situation is rough in USA, but I would like to ask the art community to think outside of the USA and Europe for a moment. There are countries in which the currency exchange goes for 50-200 (and more!) respect to the dollar. Yes, I am sure the cost of living might be higher there too, but if you get paid US$10, you might be receiving 2000 of whatever coin that country has. That might be good enough to pay rent that month or to feed the family. Today, with access to internet two people might be interacting from different continents in real time! These people might be really good artists too, and the employer might get a very good end product for much less than what they would pay a USA artist. Is it fair? no, not at all, but it is the reality of the world and one of the consequences of a globalized market.

Internet usage in the world. Map obtained from

Internet usage in the world. Map obtained from

This puts us, those who live in the ‘developed countries’ with decent economies in a rough position. What do we do about it? Should we bring our prices down? Not at all. As I once told a potential costumer that wanted to pay me $2.50 per illustration (with commercial and exclusive rights, mind you), that does not even pay for a pound of meat, I cannot put hours of work into something that will not help me to reach the end of the month. And I am talking from a very comfortable position here, I do have a day job, the pay is not crazy good, but I like it and it certainly helps a lot with the bills. So we should not lower our prices, and those artists that are producing excellent work should not bring themselves down.

I have been having very interesting conversations about this with Patrick McEvoy, and earlier with Angela Sasser and I guess my point is that if we don’t know where the artist is coming from, if we don’t know what US$10-20 mean in his or her country, can we then speak of them bringing down the value of art?  Maybe for that person, the rate they would receive in their own country is $0.25, and this is a great opportunity for them. It does not make it easier on us, those that would expect a certainly much higher pay for a work that takes many hours and previously many hours of study, but it would not be fair to look down or criticize those artists that, after all,  are just trying to make a living like the rest of us.

I wonder if this puts the responsibility on the employers. I understand that they will try to get the most of their investment, but they know when they are abusing the system. They know they will be getting thousands from an art piece that cost them several orders of magnitude less.

Obviously there is not an easy answer to this centuries-old problem, obviously we face new challenges, like interet access around the world and different currency rates, and obviously it will take some time for the hole world to addapt to this. In the meanwhile, let’s keep the discussion open, let’s keep searching for the answers, and I would really like to know your thoughts in this particular issue.