Artwork and Apathy

Now mobile friendly!

I’ve been working on improving my blog, trying to come up with ways to make it more interesting and more functional. I’ve changed the theme for now to make it easier to read, and also because this theme has a mobile version. The last one did not. So, when anyone clicked on my Twitter links on their phone, they probably didn’t bother looking at it, because the website was only half displayed and it was a pain in the butt to read.

So that much is fixed for now. And I will customize it when I have artwork.

Which leads me to one of my frustrations these past couple of weeks. I am planning on getting some awesome illustrations up here and will soon, I assure you. I have an amazing artist working on character portraits and other elements. She is working hard and not at all what’s frustrating me. But with a nudge from Andrew over at Andrew’s View of the Week, I decided to scour the web and put up some artwork in the meantime, to accompany my posts and give them a bit more appeal.

But it’s been frustrating.

Last week’s samurai image was not nearly my top choice from what I found online. I found some fantastic pieces on Deviant Art, one of which was absolutely perfect. This samurai had just finished a brutal cut, chopping his enemy in half. He was doubled over at the end of his swing and looked somewhat pained. He stood on a battlefield and had likely been fighting and facing death all day. I’m probably reading way too much into it, but it was awesome.

There was a download button on the page. I could’ve just taken it and used it.

But I want to do this legitimately. I didn’t just want to grab it and repost it without permission, even though I could’ve easily done that. And certainly it would only benefit the artist if I did, right? I wouldn’t be trying to sell his artwork or take credit for it. I would be promoting it. But it states clearly in the rules on Deviant Art that you need to ask permission. I get it. Maybe the artist wouldn’t want to be associated with my blog for some reason. Or maybe he is just extremely protective of his art. It’s his creative property. He should set the rules. It’s understandable.

But there’s a download button.

So I asked. I sent messages to two different artists requesting permission to repost. I sent an email to one, and I used the online message form for the other.

No response.

Couldn’t be bothered.

So I didn’t use either one. Instead, I found a mediocre free image and used that.

So is this just apathy? Laziness? Is there some unspoken code that I’m unaware of?

Either of their pieces would’ve looked amazing with my post. And the artists would’ve gotten a tiny bit more exposure. For one of the artists, I even mentioned that I might be interested in hiring him to do my book cover art. As in, actually paying him.

But no, can’t be bothered to respond.

And I would’ve accepted a “no” response too. I would’ve respected that. I might not have understood it, but I would’ve accepted it. But I got nothing.

I’m trying to play by the rules.

With the lack of response though, I kind of don’t want to use their art anymore. Why should I promote these lazy bastards when they couldn’t care less, no matter how great their art is?

It reminds me of when my wife and I were hiring caterers for our wedding. The company that had the most amazing food wouldn’t get back to us without prodding from the venue. We went with the company that was responsive and easy to work with even though their food might not have been quite as amazing. But that’s another blog post.

So, I’m irritated about this.

And okay, maybe the artists aren’t lazy. Maybe they’re overwhelmingly busy on some other project and don’t monitor their Deviant Art pages anymore. But they both had recent posts, so that’s out.

I get that artists might be worried about someone taking credit for their work or whatnot. Maybe they’re concerned about someone selling their work. But I would always credit and link back to the artist’s site. And I would never post a high quality, reproducible image that someone could make into their own poster or something. Just as I wouldn’t want someone else posting a short story or book of mine without credit, and especially not for free if I have it for sale on my own site.

But with a link back and credit given for something that is posted online already anyway, I don’t see the trouble. Why can’t you just respond and say, “go for it?” Is it too much trouble to take two seconds out of your day to get a little free promotion? Especially when I asked! I am one of the good guys. I didn’t just take it. I’m showing respect. Where’s mine?

Writers, what do you do for artwork? I know some of you are great photographers or artists yourselves. I used to be an artist of sorts, but I’m rusty and have just lost my touch, I think. Maybe never really had it. Although, I may throw up some simple sketches now and then, I’d much rather focus on my writing and let someone else’s brilliance complement it.

If you have used online artwork sources before, what is your experience? Do you just take the artwork and repost without asking? On Deviant Art, there is a download button on a lot of it. It makes it seem like they must not mind.

I know I could pay to get royalty-free photos on a number of different sites, but what I want are illustrations. I don’t want photography.

Are there sources out there I don’t know about? Deviant Art seems to have the coolest stuff, but it’s useless if I can’t actually use it. And that’s redundant. But is there a community of artists out there that writers can connect to and has members that actually want to get some free promotion, that would be interested in a promotion exchange of sorts? I promote your cool art and you link to my blog? Makes a lot of sense to me. There should be a website. If there is one, I haven’t found it. Leave a comment, please, if you know of one.

Also, artists… am I being unreasonable? Should I not expect a response for some reason? If you have a download button on your Deviant Art site, is it implicit that I can use the artwork? Or is getting permission still the right thing to do? I would imagine it is. But I would really like to know what the common logic is here.

Okay, back to working on what really matters… the book itself.

Tristram Lowe

Tristram Lowe, Los Angeles, CA