Protect Your Art Online

protect your work

Just because we’re not famous artists or writers (yet) doesn’t mean we shouldn’t protect our creations from being used without our permission. I was reminded of that fact just recently.

I ran a Facebook ad for the Creative Fire Cafe, getting the word out to other creatives about this safe space where we share our experiences, a few laughs and interesting conversations about the creative life.


The image I use on the group’s banner was created by a Cafe member and good friend of mine. My friend showed the original to me a few years back and I never forgot it because it’s such a wonderful image. It’s a piece I particularly love because of its ‘creative fire’. I asked for and (importantly) received permission to use the image for the Cafe.

Join The Café

So imagine my surprise when I got a nasty comment on the ad post from someone using the exact same image as her business logo. She claimed a friend created it just for her and she had paid for the image. She ordered me to remove it because it was hers.

I immediately got in touch with my artist friend, who attempted to contact the person who posted. As the artist, my friend has valid proof of ownership and wanted to share that, along with a request to desist using the pirated image.

My friend never got a response but I suspect that other woman’s friend has “some ‘splainin’ to do.”

The conundrum

This is every creative person’s worry and conundrum – how do we protect our original pieces?

We need to be out on social media but once your work is out there, you run the risk of a scenario like the one I described. It happens all to often. Someone passes off your work as theirs while profiting from it.

How to protect your work

So I did some research and here are a few things we can do to protect ourselves from having our work stolen:


1. Take a photo of your image as soon as you complete it and before you post it. Photos have metadata attached, including the date and time the picture was taken. If someone copies your work, that metadata proves your work predated their use of it. (Luckily, my friend has photos of her original piece.)

2. Before putting your work online, protect it with a visible watermark using editing software. Make it part of the image itself. If you simply add it to the edge or a blank space, it can be trimmed off or edited out.

If most of your images are on your phone you can use an app like Iwatermark. If you work from your desktop, almost any photo editing software can be used. Simply add your name, a copyright symbol and the year in an interesting part of your image and reduce the text opacity to about 40-60%.

3. Don’t post high resolution images to social media or your website. Take high resolution photos for reproductions of course but save a copy in low resolution (72 dpi).

A word of warning: When you save your lo-res copy, be sure to give it a unique name. If you save it over the top of your hi-res image there’s no going back.


1. Like images, your documents have metadata with creation dates as well as the last edit date. That metadata proves your work preexisted any unauthorized use of it and protects it from plagiarism.

2. For manuscripts, print a complete copy of the work and send it to yourself via registered mail. When you receive your mail, sign for it but don’t open the envelope. Tuck it away someplace safe. If you ever need to prove your work pre-existed another’s, you now have the postal service on your side. That envelope will be valid evidence in court.

For all creatives, be sure people know how to contact you so they can purchase your work or get permission to quote you.

What about you?

If you have other suggestions to add these lists, please share them in the comments. This is a problem all creatives face so let’s support each other!


Pricing Your Work and Other Things: Business advice for creatives

You need some basic business skills as a creative if you want to earn a living from your work. Pricing your work isn’t always easy.

Here’s some advice on this podcast I did with my friend Joan Sotkin on her Prosperity Place show. 


  • Telling your story is how you connect with your market.
  • Even creatives can learn basic business skills.
  • Too many creatives undercharge for their work or services.
  • We talk about why it’s difficult to decide what to charge for your work.
  • Because your art comes easy doesn’t mean it has less value.
  • Many creatives are multipaths and multipotentialites who are good at a number of things.

Muse Flash: Simplify

Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify. – Henry David Thoreau

Simplify. Sounds so easy but here I am, once again, learning the lessons of simplicity. To ask myself if I really need to do ________(fill in the blank) or is it a distraction? Does this painting need this level of detail or am I fussing too much? Do I really need to do this chore or is it busy work?

Getting too ‘fussy’ results in chases down rabbit holes and procrastination.

I have to stop myself and ask “Who made up this rule anyhow? My standard? Or someone else’s?”

A good case in point is my MuseLetter. I can get so caught up in what the ‘gurus’ say I must do that I overcomplicate things. It’s far more important to listen to what my subscribers say they what.

When I simplify, everything else flows

simplifyTime and again, people tell me they like the MuseLetter I send out because its simple and short. They can take a couple of minutes out of a busy day to be inspired.

That’s also the reason I like it. It’s simple which means it doesn’t take hours to create but it keeps me in touch. When I try to get “fancy” I end up procrastinating.

The same thing works in my paintings. When I keep composition pared down to the essentials, I feel a different energy and I find people respond to it differently.

In my art work, it’s the same question. “What does the viewer want?”

The simple answer for me is they want to share my experience. Keeping it simple feels lighter and I like the idea of inviting my viewer to be part of the creative process as their imagination fills in the details.

Embracing simplicity

So my creative mantra is “Simplify…simplify” because who doesn’t love it when life flows along easily?

What about you? What keeps you in flow?

Muse Flash: Priorities

I have a personal philosophy in life: If somebody else can do something that I’m doing, they should do it. And what I want to do is find things that would represent a unique contribution to the world – the contribution that only I, and my portfolio of talents, can make happen. Those are my priorities in life. Neil deGrasse Tyson

This is something I believe but don’t always practice. Time after time, I have to bring myself back to the studio. Back to what I say is important to me. So much other stuff gets in the way and calls for my attention.

I justify it by telling myself it’s the responsible thing to do until I realize my priority has shifted again. But that’s okay.

The responsible thing is to show up with our gifts and talents and use them. They are ours for a reason.

Like meditation, bringing myself back to center is an ongoing and dynamic process. No need to beat myself up when I drift. Life happens.

The important thing is to pay attention, recover and get back to the studio.

Organizing the studio

organizing and sweeping

Organizing anything can be a big job but I believe an artist organizing her studio faces a special kind of distraction.

I realized this after I took on the job in my own studio and then read Marion Boddy’s Monday post on her studio blog. Seems she and I shared a similar journey. She mentioned books as her brand of distraction and I find the same thing so I’ve learned to shelve them as soon as I finish with them. An open art book is also an open invitation…

Between projects I try to keep some space ready for when inspiration strikes but it seems the Studio Law of Attraction states that all horizontal surfaces should be covered. I have no one to blame but me for cluttered counter tops because my husband learned long ago NOT to dump things there (and the dog can’t reach.)

organizing the creative spaceIt’s usually at its worst when I complete a project. Then it’s like an archaeological dig, going through layers of inspiration as I sort, toss and put away.

Too often, WIP’s (works in progress) interrupt the organizing process. I usually prop up a painting for a bit to let it ‘percolate’. To see it with new eyes, so to speak. Then it seems inspiration hits when I’m trying to straighten up my creative mess.

I’ve learned to pay attention when the muse whispers her ideas because when I don’t, she’ll go away in a sulk and refuse to repeat herself just because I have time to pay attention.

Organizing the studio just isn’t as simple as it seems but every once in awhile, everything is back where it belongs and the tabletops are clear.

I’m discovering that while I love my home to be organized and tidy, it’s a different story in the studio. That’s where I want a little creative chaos. My muse appreciates it, too.

What about you? Organized or mussy? How do you like your creative space? Share in the comments.





Making Space

These last 4 weeks I committed to a daily creative practice – which I’m pleased to say I’ve honoured pretty well. Along the way I learned how important it is to have a place for my art supplies. When I have to hunt for them,  it annoys the muse and she doesn’t hang around very long, impatient minx that she is.

So in order to support that daily practice pledge I needed to get the foundation in place.

First, I narrowed down what I wanted to do. I had supplies for encaustic, oil painting, plaster casting, pottery, knitting, quilting, scrapbooking, watercolours, etc, etc. ad nauseum. While I love mucking about with any creative activity, I finally admitted to myself I simply did not have enough time to do it all. Like my physical space, the time space is also limited.

I decided my 30 day focus would be writing, sketching and art journaling, knitting and quilting. Still a lot of ground to cover but at least I don’t feel overwhelmed by too much choice. In fact, as I set up my creative spots in the house, I got rid of the extraneous supplies. It created physical AND mental space. And by limiting my choices, it’s easier to sit down and actually work on something .

An unexpected benefit to limited options is that it enhanced the creative flow. I used to joke that I didn’t need more time, I needed more deadlines. Now I realise how true that really is. With limits, I have to think more creatively.

I look a lot closer at what I already have before I run out to get the latest gizmo or gadget.  . I break my projects down into smaller actions and set goals that can be accomplished in the time I have. Coming up with new ideas and solutions adds to the creative fun!

Physically, rather than one big, all encompassing studio space I set up separate, designated spaces. Again, this has helped me tremendously with actually getting to work!

In my office, I put together a spot for sketching and journaling. Art Space 2 Art Space

I like to have my tools out where I can see them to inspire me (and so I don’t forget I have them.) There were big mirrored closet doors in this former bedroom so I stuck suction cup hooks to the glass on one side and hung supplies out in the open. On the other side I added white board contact paper.  This is a win-win, because all that mirror creeped me out a little.

What supplies didn’t get hung up went into labelled drawers, sorted by types such as glues,stamps, paints, etc.


Behind those mirrored doors is my knitting stash in bins and drawers and a few more art supplies.


Across the hall, I took over half of our seldom used guest room for my quilting. It’s a long narrow room so my wonderful husband repainted some old shelving units. After I backed them with a cheerful blue striped wallpaper, we turned them sideways to act as a room divider and storage.

IMG_2896 IMG_2894 IMG_2895

What I’ve learned from all this editing, tossing and organizing is that you can find space to honour your creative urge anywhere. If you’re feeling stuck because you don’t know where to start, start by sharpening your focus. Maybe you have too many choices and it’s time to edit your options so you can apply your imagination to space and time.