So, as you may have noticed I’ve not been nearly as active as I had initially hoped to be when I came back to this blog in June and honestly the reason for that is a pretty simple one … I’ve just been so busy! I’m working full throttle on the business these days, and it feels good to have fallen completely in love with painting again. It seems I needed a bit of a kick, and the drama that unfolded last month was just the very thing to show me just how much I wanted to keep fighting for this.
The commissions to continue to roll in, and I’m just as busy now as I was at Christmas last year. Don’t get me wrong, that comes with it’s own challenges to overcome (social life, what social life?) but I’m never happier than when I’ve got a project to work on and ultimately I find that my mental health is kept in better check when I’ve got plenty to be occupying my time with. It also has another added perk … I’ve really been able to push and expand upon my skills these last handful of months, and I’m looking into other mediums to branch out into. After watching some YouTube videos and following some incredible artists on Insta (see Sanjana’s Art!), I’m really keen to start working with ink and seeing how that can impact the boldness of my artwork. I LOVE colour (this coming from the girl who mostly wears black …) and the vibrancy of the Dr. PH Martin’s Bombay Indian Ink has got me hooked before I even get a chance to use them, and I can already see that it will add a little something extra to my backgrounds. It also happens to be my birthday coming up this weekend, so perhaps I should treat myself?
I’m also working hard to expand my portfolio on my Redbubble (see Art Sweeties), creating a few digital paintings each week. It’s not a style I see over-taking my traditional art anytime soon, but it’s a welcome change from the often difficult processes that come with watercolour. I’ve just completed another series of pieces, these ratties based off a photoshoot I did of my ratties a couple of years ago, and it was certainly a lot of fun.
I’ve also been revisiting an old project of mine … plushies!! I LOVED making these guys back in the day, and I did start taking orders for them. Sadly, as I hand-sew, each individual rat was taking me so long to do that I just couldn’t charge what they cost me in time and hope to sell them, so they became a bit of a hobby that I would work in when I had a moment. Presently, I’m working on them in my evenings whilst watching some cartoons to chill out, and adding the pre-mades to my new Etsy store (see Art Sweeties Etsy).
There’s also been a lot going on in my life outside of art at the moment! Sadly, it’s not anything that’s going especially smoothly, mind. We are hoping very much to move out of our current little one bed basement home and move into a larger house, firstly so that my partner and I both have more room to expand our businesses. and secondly so that we can finally welcome out first doggy into our lives! It’s been an actual dream my entire life to have my own dog, and I really hope that I can make that dream a reality before this year is out … but finding a home that meets out requirements, and takes pets, is much harder in our town than we thought it would be, and there’s been a lot of disappointment in the time we’ve been looking. It’s one of those things we just have to keep plugging away it, and fortunately my work keeps me from obsessing on it too much …
As ever, I am open for commissions and taking pre-orders for Christmas slots at the moment, so get in touch if you’re interested! Otherwise, thanks for reading, and I’ll try and bring some regular updates over the coming weeks!
So, it’s been many years since I last updated my WordPress account, truthfully I just got so busy with the Facebook Page and the commissions that I just forgot to get back to this. But after the whooooole heap of drama that’s come with a recent instance of art theft by an individual named Maria Nicole Dean, and lots of people asking me for updates on it, I thought I would pick up the ‘pen’ and explain the situation.
It all started with a fellow artist sending me a screenshot of what appeared to be my art, only traced and recoloured by another individual claiming it as theirs. Now, I wasn’t so angry at first, after all this particular drawing has been used without my permission a lot over the years and in every instance all it took was a polite email from me for it to get sorted. Not this time. The individual swiftly blocked me, and decided the best way to handle this situation was to then start stalking my various social media pages and finding more of my artwork to trace.
The next step was getting in touch with Instagram and, if you’ve ever had to report IP violations on Instagram yourself, you know how impossible that is. Instagram refused to acknowledge the clear violation of my intellectual property, and kept the content up. As you can imagine, that was pretty disheartening, but this person had only a small following and little interaction with her posts, so it didn’t seem like the end of the world.
Then, they started to post my drawings on her Redbubble. I think the most insulting part of all this was just how bad her tracings were … yet there she was thinking that she could make her fortune selling stolen art on Redbubble. To their credit, Redbubble were quick to remove the first designs, and after she continued to post they decided to suspend her account.
At this point I took to my personal Facebook account to have a good rant about the situation, and friends quickly jumped to my defense commenting on the Instagram images and tagging myself as the original artist. The individual needed to make their account private a handful of times, and I thought that would be the end of it … yeh, crazy right?
Fast forward, and they have traced yet more of my artwork (even going so far as to look back at pieces I created over a year ago and posted on my Facebook page) and had also created a TeeSpring account to sell her stolen content on. TeeSpring also suspended her account. She proceeded to create yet another, but seems pretty aware that I am watching and reporting and has not attempted to upload my stolen content on that particular account.
At this point, things were getting ridiculous. I have over twenty accounts blocked on my Instagram that belong to her, and she has continued to follow me and my fans on fan pages she has created for herself. Most recently she has taken to tracing artwork that I produced only a handful of days ago, artwork that I created specifically for the purpose of raising money for a rat rescue. She has accused me of being the stalker, despite obviously checking my pages multiple times a day and having spies follow me to read my Instagram stories.
Currently, I have several IP violation reports sent and awaiting feedback on, but I know this isn’t the last of it, and I am speaking to a lawyer. But the big plus of this situation is the HUGE amount of support that I’ve received from friends, family, and my fans since this all went down … I have been able to raise money for charity’s, reach out to a larger fan base, and I’ve currently so much work to do right now I don’t know what to do with myself! It’s been an eye-opener in a lot of ways … this individual clearly has no support and few friends, they idolise Youtuber’s and the drama that surrounds their lives, and it genuinely amazes me that there are people like that out there. You cannot create a loyal fanbase, you cannot reach out to other creators or be part of the art world, without the support of other artists around you, and this person has shut themselves off from that. They are creating a reputation for themselves that will follow them about like a bad smell, when they try and apply for apprenticeships, jobs, they try and reach out to new clients … all it will take is a Google search and their credibility is ruined.
I will also include side-by-side line-art comparisons between the first few images that this individual has stolen. There have sadly been many more since I created these comparisons, which aren’t too hard to spot on her Instagram page.
I am not posting this to fuel a witch hunt … more to make everyone aware of the realities of sharing your artwork online and what you’ll inevitably have to fight one day. Most artists have been here, or will be here at some point during their career, and it’s important to remember that you are strong enough to get through it. I hate the phrase ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ because it makes it sound like an excuse, but this person wouldn’t be tracing my artwork if they didn’t enjoy what I draw. It’s a shame they think that they can take shortcuts, because I’m hella approachable and always happy to support new and growing artists from any background.
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this, and thank you once more to all the support that even complete strangers have offered me through all this … the art community is strong, and I still have such huge faith in it!
It’s close to a month later and as much as I had hoped it would be over, I am still sadly getting messages and screenshots of this individual still insisting on using my stolen artwork.
Since creating this post, things turned a sharp 180, and Maria admitted to copying my artwork in an Instagram story apology, saying that her mental health was part of the reason for acting the way that she did.
She even posted a public acknowledgement of her apology on her Twitter Page.
It seemed like the entire ordeal was over. I truthfully wanted to reject her apology at first (after all, I owed her nothing, and she showed zero consideration for the mental well-being of anybody but herself, even in her apology), but I was keen for it to be over and I have ultimately always been a forgiving person. It was better to forgive and forget, or so I thought. In the end, she DID post my reply to her, and when I called her out on that and mentioned my disappointment that she had not asked me first before sharing a private conversation, she threw another tantrum and blocked me again.
It wasn’t hugely surprising, and I was glad for the block (her following me on Instagram made me very uncomfortable) and it seemed she spiraled into a pit of shame after this. But for me it was over, and I could move on and start to focus on my artwork again without the stress of dealing with an art theft, and second guessing everything I post knowing that it was going to be traced by this girl. It has been good for me, in one sense, because the drama that ensued brought a lot of attention to my art and I’ve since made some really good friends out of it that have had my back ever since … and it seems my fans and friends have been keeping a keen eye on Maria and all her platforms in the time since, as was made evident when I started to get screenshots showing that she was BACK to using my stolen art to advertise.
As of this moment, I have not made contact. Drama is what she thrives on, and I suspect she’s not been getting nearly enough attention these last few weeks and is trying to see whether using my art again will bring it to her. She made a big show over how much she had changed, over how she made a mistake but was learning from it, but seeing is believing and all I’m seeing is a girl who has learned nothing. Who never intended to learn anything. I had made this post private after her apology, but it will remain public from this point on … hopefully others will learn from her many many mistakes, because she certainly won’t.
After all those years belligerently and stubborning refusing the jeering calls of the paintbrush, I now find myself well and truly addicted to watercolours. I sleep, I dream of painting, I wake up, and I’m thinking of what I want to paint next, even when I eat I find myself wondering … can I paint with mushy peas? How well would they mix with my favourite yellow? Could a moldy canvas be the new artistic breakthrough that I’ve been searching for?
Either way, today I have been feeling quite under the weather, so instead of hiding under my duvet with baby rats I figured I’d put on some Doctor Who and paint with baby rats. By that I mean, the baby rats are on my shoulder eating treats, not that I use them to paint with. I didn’t have any real goal in mind, just that loading my paper with water and flicking paints on there looked pretty, and it slowly morphed into yet another ratty drawing, adding promarkers for good measure.
I’m really happy with how this turned out, so happy that I think I’ll get some prints made up of it next week. The yellow is perhaps a bit more intense than it really needed to be, and some areas of the ‘nebula’ background is a bit too sharp, but will work on that for the next one!
Two posts in less than two weeks? Surely I’m just spoiling you? But in all seriousness, it’s nice to have things to write about again!
Last week I was asked if I would like a stall at the Compassionate Christmas Fair, held down in Halisham this December, and I’m very excited about it. The fairs aim is to promote a cruelty free lifestyle, selling vegan products and raising money for a number of different vegan and animal charities in the UK. Compassion and love for our fellow beings is something that I hold very dear to my heart, and I have been vegan for almost four years now, so it means a lot to me to finally be able to get involved in something that I feel so positively about.
I have been working on a number of artworks, my ‘Friends not Food’ series, that explores the beauty and compassion and love of the animals often overlook and exploited by many. It has been a good excercise for me, working with such varied features and shapes, animals that are certainly out of my comfort zone when it comes to drawing, and it has given me a chance to really dig my toes into the watercolours. I am a long way from mastering the medium, that’s for sure, but I am starting to understand how these paints work, and what you can get them to do!
All of these so far have been on 5×7″ paper, a good size for prints, I figure! But I also finished this A4 piece last night. I’m not as happy with how this turned out compared to those above, but I suppose the composition is very different from what I have been working with previous, focusing mainly on the silly, characterful faces that these animals pull. But still, it was an enjoyable piece to pain.
It also pleases me to say that all the materials I work with don’t contain animal derivatives, so that’s always a big bonus!