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Why we starve

Journal Entry: Tue Feb 10, 2009, 4:23 PM

I'm trying to think of the best way to word this without coming off as some sort of dickhead because it's something that really pressed my buttons this past weekend and I feel the need to vent. I write this not only for everyone else to read and maybe discuss but in hopes that the person that did the deed in question will read it too and better understand his actions as well as where I'm coming from.
   This past weekend I attended the New York Comicon in Manhattan. The New York fans are some of the best in the world and I always have a really good time meeting them, signing books, doing sketches, or whatever else might come to mind. Along with this I also sell copies of my sketchbooks and lithographs of work I have done to anyone that would like them. I think it's very important to be accessible as an artist both personally as well as the merchandise I sell so I try to keep my prices very reasonable so anyone can afford at least something from my table. For many years now I have had people that would bring all sorts of things for me to sign including comics I've worked on, posters, books, trading cards, and even an action figure or 2. Every once and a while people would bring me pieces of my artwork that they print themselves from the web as well and I would usually sign them but recently stopped in the last year or so, the reason which I will get to in a moment.
  This brings us to the event in question. A person walked up to my table on Saturday and produced 6 prints from his bag, 2 were 8.5"X11" and the other 4 were roughly postcard size. He placed them in front of me and asked if I would sign them. I immediately recognized that these were not anything produced by me or Marvel Comics so I asked if he had printed them himself. He said yes so I politely said that I couldn't sign anything that was produced by someone taking my artwork off the web and making their own prints. His response was that not everyone can afford a print or sketchbook and it became obvious that he was getting angry. Again, I explained that this is my living and my artwork is how I feed myself so people downloading and printing my artwork illegally is only hurting my ability to make a living. He then said I was the only one of the 200 artist he has done this with that has refused to sign. I again apologized and explained that I am not the only one that doesn't sign illegal prints. At this point, I had various other people standing around my table and I was a bit flustered by the whole situation since his anger caught me by surprise. He again verbalized with genuine anger and surprise that he couldn't believe I would refuse to sign his prints and then walked off in a huff. I thought on this all weekend and am finally able to put into words what I wish I was able to articulate to the man at the show.
  So now you're probably asking, "what's the big deal? sign the damn prints!". Well, for many years I did and about 70% of the time the prints would end up on ebay. A lot of the work you see on my page is done just for myself so I can have original lithographs to sell at shows and appearances so I was never paid to produce the work. My pay comes when I take the artwork to shows and people buy the lithographs. If someone prints something from the web, has me sign it, and then sells it on ebay he has now profited off my hard work as well as taken away a small percentage of me making a living. Contrary to popular belief, most comic artists are far from rich and most of us are just trying to scrape a living a get by so protecting our artwork becomes extremely important for us to continue making a living. Of course, I'm not saying that this person was definitely going to take the prints to ebay and sell them but I can't take that risk and even if he didn't intend to sell them, my feelings on the subject still stands.
  So, to that gentleman who asked me to sign your prints I ask him this- If you illegally downloaded a musician's latest CD, burned it to a disk and took it to an event where that musician is signing autographs would you ask him to sign your pirated disk? How about asking an actor to sign your illegally downloaded movie or an author to sign your illegally downloaded manuscript from his latest book? Unless you are completely amoral or vacant of any sort of tact I would guess your answer would be an emphatic "NO". So why would you think it would be any different from a visual artist? I, like any other art, really appreciate anyone enjoying my work. After all, it's the reason I got into comics in the first place but equally as important is my ability to feed myself and my family and put a roof over our heads. Will me signing your illegal prints cause my house to go into foreclosure? Probably not but there has to be a line drawn somewhere and I think I was more than kind to this person in explaining this and feel he had absolutely zero right to get angry.
    I can only hope that he didn't realize the full consequences of his actions or how it effects me and any other artist he does this to. As always, these are only my opinions and I welcome anyone who disagrees. Perhaps I am being too harsh or am missing something so I am open to other ideas. In the end I hope the person I encountered on Saturday in New York will read this and have a better idea of where I'm coming from and give his actions a little more thought.

ADDENDUM: We will be discussing this very subject tonight as well as comic book convention etiquette tonight on the podcast "Breaking the Panel". Go to the following link and log in or register to listen in or call in with your questions or comments!:…

Thanks for reading!

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shaynahall Featured By Owner May 19, 2010  Professional General Artist
Coincidentally, who do you use as your printing service Mark? I very pleased with both of my prints from you, they're great quality.
ksilver Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2009
Hello, I am a sophomore at college learning about comics. I happened to stumble upon your gallery and read this journal. It really opened my eyes. I understand why it is important to think this way and I agree with you 100% I am going to start selling my work at cons once I have the courage and self confidence in my artwork, even if it sucks. College has opened my eyes to new ideas about making comics, My prof for my first class in my major wrote comic strips for the newspaper. It was interesting! But I don't Think that I will go that way. I hadn't really thought about trying another style or looking at another company that doesn't "sell manga". But now I am seriously considering it. I need to open my horizons. And I think the first step is to read whatever I can in different genera and research. I have not really started doing this yet because I only just realized that I should open up my horizons. I know My art in my gallery is mostly not up to par, and I am trying to improve and getting small gradual results. But if you had any suggestions for me I would greatly appreciate them.

This journal really impressed me because you stood up for yourself and your art and I'm not really good at doing that or in the position to. And your gallery is really impressive and you should be upset about that guy being insensitive and not knowledgeable about your situation.

I hope you read this, and if you do thank you for your time

Cap-n Featured By Owner Mar 24, 2009
There's always one d-bag in your group of fans. That's how it is with most things, that one guy, or girl, that's a complete jerk. I could try to make up for him by baking cookies? Looking forwards to seeing you at Florida SuperCon. ^-^
FenrirBralor Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
You should feel no shame in how you acted, nor should you feel like a dick about it. I can't believe the guy got that angry over it. I further cannot believe that guy had the cajones to actually APPROACH you with illegal prints. Feel no shame, brother. You gotta keep yourself fed, and all shit like that does is take money out of your pocket.
simpleCOMICS Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009  Student Digital Artist
Straightforward and to the point without being rude. Works for me.
Inu-Rinoa Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
You're completely just in your views, the only thing I would suggest is that you alter all your uploaded works, add watermarks and remove the option to allow people to download them...that is only true for DA though.
I took the liberty of scanning through some of your personal work and can see that it's just too easy for people to continue taking your art.
I know it's harsh and having a watermark slapped over your work reduces the quality a small amount, but in the end if will prevent you further loss then it's worth taking the time to do.

Keep plugging away man!

ninjai Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
My comment is Mark, why didn't you do this a loooong ass time ago? You laid out the obvious reasons why any artist in any medium that is trying to eek out a living should not sign or endorse this kind of thing.


Haha, i know it's because you're such a nice guy that it took you this long to come to this. ;)
PointJustice Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2009
is he asian? sounds like one of us. haha..but dude, sometimes you will find how surprisingly stupid and illogical one can get.
saray Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2009
I think you made the right descision, and I agree on the CD/DVD comparison. If you explain the exploit thing to the fans, they'll understand - if they're really a fan, they should support you ;) I know that doesn't always work that way, but still, if you feel you shouldn't sign those prints you have every right to.

Btw, what the hell is that kid doing with signed prints from over 200 artists? :shock
SteelSentinel Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2009  Student
I don't think that the characters copyright is the problem.its my view that the problem in this situation is respect to the artist's labor.I love your work and wouldn't like anything better than having a signed copy on my wall :) but that should be an original of course.And the price is not the issue.The issue is that it's gonna be an original, even if it;s one of those published here or elsewhere.It's YOUR work and should be appreciated as something worth paying for, as respect to your time invested in making it.

(hopefully you can make sense out of my english :p)
pazzprec Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2009
You're right. Anyone that think diferent, don't need a "subjective" work to survive and provide food to his family.

Keep it on. Your real fans understand.
VikThor Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
He started to get angry... Did Christian Bale stop at your table?

Seriously, though, it's quite frutrating when one tries to make a point and is right (as in your case)...
theresabramblett Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
It is more than reasonable to refuse to sign something that you didn't completely produce. And being a inkjet print, or something, probably not quite up to the standards we set for ourselves. The others in line with him should have vehemently agreed with you.

I mean, preserve the purity of it all.
worldhurricane Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2009
Think about all the money that exchanges hands related to art. Galleries, museums, private collectors. The number of times popular works are bought and resold for wild sums of money. How much of that is seen by the artists that produced all those pieces?

Artists (especially independent ones) are perpetually exploited. The best way to eliminate an enterprise is to make it nonviable. Make hand-signed prints available on a website of your own for a price that the ebay folks could not possibly match without losing money. Evaluate to what extent the ebay reseller problem undercuts your own income and how adjusting your own prices affects your bottom line.

Compare your recent situation to the notion of a music "fan" asking a musician to autograph a burned CD of their latest album. What's the appropriate reaction? Should you feel bad about rebuffing such a request?
I say absolutely not, but I'm an asshole, so take that for what it is.
SweetHeart1 Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2009  Hobbyist Photographer
:clap:Well said.....♥
firstmac Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2009  Hobbyist Artist
i'm surprised that you even have to write about this. this guy has some nerve. and you were so nice to him. it should be the opposite and you were suppose to the one that got angry and not him. but it looks like this is a common problem being a professional artist these days.
J-Mace Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That guy was in the wrong. You definitely did the right thing bu not signing those prints.
ALUNBRA Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2009
hUM HUM ....

Its a hard Subject .

For me is easy as this .

Traditional oils acrylics airbrush , Traditional Art That is physical Sells and yu get profits that yu can se.
Digital Art if its 3d Sculpting As its somehow also physical also sells and give you profits.

So those will be more and more considered "true forms of art" Reaaly profitable the next 50 years. Or more.

All others "non physical arts" Will loose value in front of those, and have to get going on the unstable ground of something that is not that much "true" at all.
That no matter the efforts .
Its the business that is done in a wrong lack able way.

Was the live that yu chosed.


There is a solution to all that anyway ...
... but i'm sory that i cant say about .
Cause in the next 20 years ...
We hope to be our solution to make money out of this things with our own studio and own publisher.

All i can say is that ...
If you are a "real artist" yu will find creative solutions to your business .
And will not let the buziness flaws make of yu a mere one more slave.

Good luck.

TheFaceOfBo Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2009
I have seen this happen many times, its like people dont think of art as a consumer product or someting as a real job.
I've even been in art groups where you get people who claim to be poor or on a fixed budget (not that I am saying they aren't) practically yell at artists for trying to make a living or sell their work.
They want free art and they want it to be quality work.
simply because they cant affor a print or a subscription to their website.
I remember one guy trying to say it was aganst the law to seel good art because of free speeech and blah blah blah.
a debate raged for a while trying to get him to see that free speech doesn't equal free art or free anything else.
ricber may remember who I am talking about if he was in ecc back then.
CatfishS41 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2009
Way to go man. You definitely handled that better than I would have. Thats what I really want to do with y life you know? Make people happy with my art, I'm that good yet but it's what I want to do. I can't imagine how anyone would even consider doing that. Being the loudmouth italian kid that I am I probably would have just cussed him out or knocked his block off. All I can say is that don't stress too much on it because people like that will always get what they deserve in the end.
Risvani Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2009
I do agree with you on all your points. People seem to not understand that art is just as much your legal property as a musician's song or a writer's book. They seem to think that because its on the internet (posted by the artist or not) it is free to take and use as they see fit.

I am glad you said what you said to him at the time and can understand being flustered by the reaction. Artists need to protect their work or else they lose out on the 'making a living' part of it.
mezza-nz Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009   Photographer
I'm surprised to hear that artists sign illegal prints!
I'm a uni student and sometimes print artists work for my work books but I always reference it cause thats law... isn't it.
And I would always buy a real one to have it signed!
I can't believe anyone would be so stupid!
artofneff Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009
I don't know if anyone else suggested this... would you consider some sort of signing fee the next time something like this happens?
rachelillustrates Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Very well said. The comparison to other pirated things, likes music and movies, is a very good point. Whoever he is, I hope he reads this and gains an understanding of what you meant. And honestly, the fact that he wanted you to sign multiple prints makes me think he was likely planning to sell them.
JAHarrell Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009
You are right! It’s not all that complicated, you don’t ask a gardener to mow your lawn for free or a mechanic to fix your car for free so why should you validate an illegally created reproduction of your work.
It’s a fact that the general public does not understand the relationship of your work to your livelihood.
limegintonic Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional General Artist
You've made an excellent point. Sadly though, you shouldn't have to explain your decision. There is absolutely no reason why that douche bag should have gotten upset with you. Some people simply have no common sense or tact.
SOSFactory Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
I think you are completely wrong Mark.

Not really sure if what you call "illegal prints" is really illegal. You are uploading artwork yourself, you assume I can download it and print it for my own use. It would illegal if I sell that prints.

The comparison with cd music is not valid, you are uploading your artwork for free download while music artists dont. Latelly more and more artists offer songs for free donwload, I bet they wont complain if I burn it into a cd for my own personal use and ask them to sign it.

Even if it was illegal, its not a smart marketing moving. Im sure you lost some fans there, that guy and people around probably bought a big amount of your comics and you are screwing your reputation for just a few dollars.

Neither you handled it in the smartest way. You could say Marvel dont let you sign that print, apologize and even sign it at the back. People had know the lesson and everything happy.

And lastly, I find quite demagogic the title of this post... Starving? Im really sure you are not starving (and its worth because you have a very good quality). If you really want to fight for your rights, push Marvel and DC to get a better rate.

Just my opinion :)
diablo2003 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Sorry brother but I have to disagree with you on just about every level on everything you've written. And yes, they are illegal in every sense of the word by American law. Thanks for your post though! I may not agree with you but I appreciate you expressing your opinion.
SOSFactory Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
No problem Mark, maybe I didnt see your point of view, if you can give me some argument maybe I would change my mind.

Just a fix regarding the American law: printing stuff published online by the author and just for personal use is within the "Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials" law... he could even publish your work under certain circunstances.

WIKI: [link]
diablo2003 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
That would be true if the characters in the artwork weren't copyrighted by Marvel comics and Marvel Entertainment. And as I said as a reply to another poster farther down the page. Saving and/or printing artwork, even copyrighted artwork, for personal use isn't my issue. I know this happens and I really don't have a problem with it. It's when people try to profit from it that I take issue and even then I don't get angry. Had he just said "okay, thanks" and walked off this wouldn't have even been mentioned in my journal. It's that he got angry that pushed my buttons.
And here's one argument for your point about musicians releasing songs for free. The song itself is a promotional product to entice people to buy the entire album. Just as I give out a business card or free posters, it's the bands business card of sorts and is supposed to be used to get people to buy the whole album. The free song is also used on the album as well so, even though they get it free initially, they will still pay for it if they buy the whole album. We do this as well in comics in the form of book samples, posters, flyers, or business cards. All of which I would have no problem signing whether the person buys the whole book, lithograph, or sketchbook because that is their purpose.

Thanks again!
SOSFactory Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Im surprised Mark, you shoud know Fair use of Copyrighted Material law is the exception to that Copyright law, doesnt mind if the holder of rights is you, Marvel or DC.
You simply cant denny Fair Use.

I was talking about those musicians who publish the whole album for free (they earn money by alternative sources i.e: advertising, tours, live performance...). In case its just a song, of course I couldnt burn the whole album, just that song... the key is how do you download the files.

In your case I would download the image legally, that is a big difference and make the comparison not valid.

You could add a disclaimer where you state anybody can download or print your images (even for fair use) though again Fair Use law is above your rights.
diablo2003 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Believe me, I'm well versed in Fair Use rights. I've been in publishing for 8 years now and have had it drilled into me. Fair use entitles the printer or user of the image to use it for scholarly or educational use even in terms of printing. It's why school books can run artwork without paying the copyright holder. When some prints work with the intent of profiting from it they go outside the fair use act and step into the realm of illegal use of copyrighted material. That's what I'm talking about and the reson I take no issue with people downloading my work or printing it out for their own use.
SOSFactory Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
It include research, commentary or critique too. In the practice not sure how hard is getting a fair use claim approved, the thing is you cant do too much against so many people (i bet they are a lot) and all what you will get is looks an angry person, and its not good for your business... I just would take it like a sign of success.

Whether we agree or not, thanks for the chat, I have done some research and learn lot of new things.
wrighton363 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009

how can you tell someone that they cannot deny doing something for someone relating to their own work?

You upload stuff in order to gain an audience and have people appreciate your work; not to get it and try to make a reputation from it.

If you want some wall decorations or to share it use the internet or get a copy by buying it.

As with bands, there is this recent trend in free. Which is good. But I am sure, in the long-run, they are using this in order for fans, etc. to keep up with them when they go to release their next album, etc.

As with the title, it's a figure of speech.
SOSFactory Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Mark can denny a sign, of course, what he cant do is denny anybody to print anything published freely by himself. Of course I assume it for personal use.
wrighton363 Featured By Owner Feb 15, 2009
posted as a News and linked to here :)

mujiri Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009
hey you are perfectly cool to do what you did. at least you have a fan here willing to pay you for art :)

rock on
ftzone1 Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009  Professional General Artist
hey BROOKS!! Whats up!!

Dude you are so correct about that. Some people have no common sense or respect for the artist. It was so correct for you to deny him! Props brother. see you in comic con 2010
AthenaTT Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009
Perfectly written. :clap:
Darcad Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009
I think you are totally right. You do the hard work so it's only fair you reap the results. You explained it fairly and clearly.
I'm not a professional artist but I would do the same.
zochiketzali Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009
I don't know the conclusion you reached after dicousing this further with colleages, I find that the part that makes drawing a line so hard is that each artist decides whe to draw his or her own line. I have always believed that a united front on certaing key issues would go a long way into helping fans undesrtand why we do certain things the way we do them.
badash13 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2009   General Artist
that makes total sense, and he had no reason to get angry, nor are you a dick. lol.
MevTheDreamer Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2009   Digital Artist
BabyGrater Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009
RodBuddah Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009
"Fan or Fiction: A thought to those who stay hungry"

I see your point.
I can also see other avenues as well.
Feel free to comment/hatemail, etc.

Wherever it's wrong, let me know.
diablo2003 Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2009  Professional Traditional Artist
Actually, I agree with your blog for the most part and I do accept the internet for what it is and have no delusions about why I'm here and why I post my work. My living is made on my reputation and how my work is percieved. i.e.- the more popular I am, them more my artwork is in demand and the potential for higher monetary gain is reached. But, I do have to take issue with a couple of statements you made mostly because they are assumptions on your part and never said in my original journal. Firstly, the man that came to me was not a young man, he was easily between 35-45 years of age. I have had many young people come to me with simple photocopies they printed off a inexpensive home printer. These are usually of low quality and the person rarely has more than a single copy for me to sign. For the same reason I always sketch free for kids, I usually sign them because it's obvious to me that these will likely just be pinned to a wall. Is this an assumption on my part? sure, but it's a gray area we all have to work in and I like to ere on the side of the fan whenever possible.
Secondly, you assume I have a problem with people downloading my artwork to their personal computer with the handy-dandy 'right-click-save'. This is actually not true and I have long ago accepted this is something that can and will be done on a regular basis. I even hear tell of people saving artwork and printing it to me hung on their wall or for reference later when creating their own work. Again, I have absolutely no problem with this and like the idea that my artwork is appreciated or can aid someone else in creating their own work. The problem comes when I sense a chance that a person is taking advantage of my work and profit from it and even then I don't get angry. Had this person said "okay, thanks." this incident would go unmentioned. My issue came when the person had the audacity to get angry, plain and simple. I long ago accepted the good with the bad when it comes to the internet and people's motivations for doing what they do but I also know it is within my right to stand up for what I believe it and not participate in someone's actions when I don't agree with them. Could I have handled it differently? yeah, but as I said, I was flustered at the fact that this was happening in the first place and had little time to gather my thought. The benefit of hindsight that you and I both have with our respective journals gives us the ability to think long and hard and come up with various solutions to the situation but I dare say you might not be as quick on your feet had this happened to you with no notice or ability to plan your words.
Thanks for your thoughts and I hope to chat with you again!

RodBuddah Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2009

Without a doubt, I sincerely appreciate the return word.
As far as being quick on my feet--- they're pretty big, so the struggle continues.

Thanks, Mark

Big respects!
Monkeyhouse Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009  Professional Interface Designer
I am only sorry that this event flustered you, sir. You were very much in your right to do what you did and this person was wrong to be angered. It only confirmed that he was just there to make a profit on your name (that and the fact he wanted 6 signatures.) A true fan would have understood and been happy to at least have been able to talk to you about it.
TracyWong Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009  Professional Digital Artist
Hi ya, Mark! I totally agree with you here. When I used to do BBW modeling I had a guy ask me to sign illegally printed photographs of me and it really burned my buns! I mean, as a model advocating Size Acceptance I got little to no money in return for the hard work I put into promoting the movement and what little money I got out of the modeling would come from things like charging 5 dollars for a signed print of one of my photos. When you think about it, five bucks is pretty cheep for a signed print. And for someone to print one of MY photos (which are all clearly marked with copyrights) off the web from their own printers and then have the nerve to ask me to sign it... I was more than a little annoyed. Art theft is very serious and so is breaking copyright laws - but any more soooooo many people think that if it's on the web then it's automatically free for them to download and/or use any way they want.

I think you were MORE than fair to the guy - and the fact that he was so thick headed as to not even understand the reasoning behind your refusal to sign them - well, that dude (along with an INCREASING number of teens and young adults) is in desperate need of a reality check and some lessons in copyright laws.
eatingjimmy Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2009  Hobbyist Interface Designer
I fully respect your decision and reaction to his request. If I had the opportunity for an artist such as yourself to sign something for me, I would endeavour to get an original for you to sign. That's where the respect for the craft lies. I am always amazed at the artistic works that you and your fellow artists produce. Its one of the main reasons I buy graphic novels.
I'll admit that I download comics to view. But if I really like them, I'll go down and order them from my local bookstore (and usually as a hardback if its available). If I don't enjoy them for whatever reason, then I delete the comic.
Keep up the brilliant work. I love the direction comic book art is going and I hope it never dies but continues to astound and amaze.
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