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February 10, 2009
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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!: www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/…

Thanks for reading!
-Mark


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:iconshaynahall:
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.
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:iconksilver:
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

~KSilver
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:iconcap-n:
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. ^-^
Reply
:iconfenrirbralor:
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.
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:iconsimplecomics:
simpleCOMICS Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2009  Student Digital Artist
Straightforward and to the point without being rude. Works for me.
Reply
:iconinu-rinoa:
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!

~Rinoa~
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:iconninjai:
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.

Eureka?

Haha, i know it's because you're such a nice guy that it took you this long to come to this. ;)
Reply
:iconpointjustice:
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.
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:iconsaray:
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
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:iconsteelsentinel:
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)
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