25 June, 2013

More Birdwatching pics

Lovebird and a couple of native finches, (house finches I believe), on the thistle seed sack and sunflower feeders, June 2013, backyard. They come in the morning and again in the evening, taking a siesta from the heat during mid day, usually.
 Lovebird and finch again! And below, just lovebirds.  They seem to come in shifts. Sometimes it's all finches, sometimes mostly goldfinches. Still trying to get a really good pic of the goldfinches where it's obvious that's what it is.  When the lovebirds come, they usually chase off some or all of the finches, sadly, but the finches are not easy pushovers, and they do come back and hold their own. The lovebirds are almost certainly the culprits who chewed holes in one of the thistle sacks, but I'm saving up recycled materials to make a bird feeder that will be harder for them to destroy, and disposable (recyclable) when they do destroy it.
We also saw a PYRRHULOXIA a gray and red crested bird related to cardinals.  The bird's crest was amazingly tall and held in a forward position. They really don't look a whole lot like the pictures in bird guides, and it seems the red areas can vary.  I don't think I'd ever seen one before!  I saw it again the next morning, and it appears they know the feeders well now so they probably visit often, we just don't always catch their visit.

Doves also balance on top of all three feeders including the round wire mesh basket hanging from a tree. They seem to be able to manage getting some food out, but mostly the pigeons and doves hang out just below the feeders and scoop up what gets dropped.

About Phoenix's feral lovebird population

More about feral lovebirds in Arizona

The weather report says we'll be near 120 by the weekend. And yes, we have a birdbath too, I fill it at least once a day!

12 June, 2013

Beware of so-called copyright-free source material

Read an article that is important to anyone relying on stock image type sources for their art or illustrations. Blogged about it over here already: http://cindyschnackel.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/beware-of-licensing-organizations-offering-free-images/

The article I blogged about was in Plagiarism Today recently, and it really hit home, because though I don't use clip art, etc, an infringer offered some of my work up to one of those type org's, and I don't yet know what extra hassle or damage that's going to cost me.  I was able to get my image removed from his site with a DMCA takedown, but that may not fix any damage already done.  Anyone using my work without my permission is using it illegally; someone giving it away to Creative Commons does not change that.

The sad thing is, the guy who thought he could just give my artwork away was an ART TEACHER, of all people, someone who should respect and value art, including the copyrights of others.  You may suddenly think, "Oh, isn't that educational and ok?" No, it's not.  There are limits to what is legal under copyright law's fair use exceptions, even educational uses, and he overstepped it. I almost looked the other way on his infringement until I saw that he was offering everything on his site to Creative Commons! That was in no way allowable by law.

To make matters worse, the site host, Wikispaces, played games with me, implying it was beyond their powers to remove the infringement. This is just ludicrous, as a site host in the US is obligated to remove infringements upon getting a valid DMCA takedown, it's not optional. (And it was a valid takedown, they never disputed that.)  Instead, they jerked me around. Then gave my email to the teacher. I suspect they directed him to "apologize," because I got one of those disingenuous "I'm sorry but's" that goes on to accuse and insult.  He accused me of "strong arming education." Since he emailed me, I replied, with links to the US Copyright Office's FAQ page, and a Copyright Myths site, that I hoped would educate him.  I doubt he read it, but you never know. I never heard back.  Either he or the site did remove my image, and I can only hope I found it before anyone assumed wrongly that it was free thru Creative Commons.

It was this and so many related problems with infringement that made me stop selling reprints online.

The last straw for me was probably when Google and Bing both rolled out their new huge image model, that makes copying and infringing very easy, and going to the real site not so much necessary anymore. Bing even added a Pinit button, bypassing the no-pin code I use.  I began to find infringements credited to Google, (if credited at all)!  So did many other artists.  Probably not coincidentally, many artists noticed at this same time that they had a drop in traffic and sales.  Ironic, if the very search engines we worked to be found on, were taking traffic away from us, huh?  (I have not looked to see how many other search engines are doing the same, but last I did notice, Yahoo still displayed thumbnails that easily linked to the real site.  If that has changed then shame on them too, or any search engine doing this.)

Had it not been the many infringements that sap me of time and energy, the money losses, Pinterest hoarders who do not even credit you, or restaurants and coffee co's using my work as their ads...it would've been the proposed "orphan works" laws that will increase infringement problems for many visual artists online.

Because the site I display some of my art on is like most, it can't adequately protect images, I replaced all of my images there with really small, low resolution ones, that have my name and copyright notice prominently on them. Helpful regarding infringement, but no longer possible to make reprints that way. I know there is no 100% protection, but I had to do what I could, to stop the bleeding, as it was seriously cutting into my ability to do art as a profession.  I know so many artists now making the same decisions, because of rampant infringements that were often commercial and damaging, that they had no real choice but to spend time and even money on fighting it.

Everyone...what you see online or on search engines or even on so-called copyright free sources, is NOT in the public domain just because it is there.  Public Domain is something only the artist can make it available as, or if they have been dead long enough that their copyrights expired, and their heirs no longer claim it either.  Public Domain is not the same thing as public place!  If you rely on stock images, etc, do your research before using, much less selling, your work.  The site you got it from does not have your back! Their Terms cover them. Nothing covers you.  You could be liable for damages if sued for infringement even if you got it from a source that said it was free to use.  And obviously Google, etc, do not have the authority to give away anyone's work.

11 June, 2013

Finches at the feeder; Ink Sketches


Ok, I'm no photographer!  This is a snapshot of gold finches and house finches at our thistle seed feeder, taken this morning. It's taken through the patio window with the camera's telephoto lens, (such as it is), out to the max

We do have a species of goldfinch here in Phoenix. The females and juveniles are not as intensely colored as the males, and both sexes have quite a bit of dark on their backs. When the males are there, we often get a glimpse of their bright yellow underparts as they climb around the thistle sack. They are very tiny.  The larger ones are house finches, which have reddish heads (males) but the females and young are more drably colored. I can tell the two species apart more by size when no males are on the feeder.

My husband took several shots with his iPhone, before I got up, and captured the feral lovebirds as well. I look forward to his posting of them on Facebook, or perhaps his blog, later today. 

With the temps being 110-ish, the wild birds come to the feeders in the morning and evening, not so much during the middle of the day, even though the feeders are in some shade.  I think they all go take a siesta til the sun starts to go down again.


More of the Pentel pens and Aquash brush that just holds water.  I love sitting there drawing with these pens in the evening while my husband and I watch TV.  Lately I've been drawing more than painting, always an uneasy feeling as paintings sell better, but maybe it's as one artist referred to it, "a necessary fallow period." And though drawings seem not to sell as well as paintings, I love doing them.

Sort of an Octo-Tree thing, maybe female since she has girly eyelashes? As are this entire recent series, this is also 5 x 7 inches in a cream colored sketchbook.  I've probably used about half the sketchbook already.

 More from the same pens and sketchbook, another mammal sketch, but this time I added some light blue from another wide tipped brush pen, (different brand, not the Pentels). I may do more with this, or just do a painting based on these creatures, I dunno yet.

I've only scanned some of the drawings, and uploaded still fewer of them. There is almost never a plan for these drawings, they just come automatically.  I am still in the mammal-udder phase.  I like leaving out the babies and letting people imagine what they must look like.

04 June, 2013

Chicken Scratch; Wild birds

Digitally drawn tee shirt design
Cindy Schnackel


Chicken Scratch is drawn quickly in Photoshop, with a mouse, directly onto the tee shirt template Redbubble provides.  I enjoy drawing these simple cartoony characters and they work well on tee shirts.  The dots on the chicken's neck are actually unprinted areas. They'll show the shirt color and increase air flow through the design.  My husband and I have several tees from Redbubble now and really like them.  The shirt fits well, is cool, (very important here when it's 110+ in summer!), and the printing has always been true to the art that's on it, even when I used one of my paintings that had a lot of detail and shading. I prefer bold graphic designs on a shirt, and less ink, so sometimes I make my cartoonier pieces into shirts. 


If you're into wildlife and birds, check out Wildcare Oklahoma's Facebook page or their regular site, Wildcare Oklahoma  We lived in the OKC area for a few years and got to know this organization and the amazing woman who heads it up, Rondi Large. They do incredible things.  We discovered Wildcare when we found an orphaned baby finch after a bad storm. We've been fans of them since.  As you probably know, Oklahoma got ripped by numerous tornadoes and hail storms in May.  Wildcare also got some damage and sadly they reported some birds were killed. They've had lots of orphaned and injured wildlife brought to them.  If you're looking for an animal rescue to donate to, I really love this one, and it's nice to have gotten a chance to see it in action and know the money's going to the animals.

In our own backyard here in Phoenix, we finally got a couple of bird feeders again.  Just a thistle seed sock, and a small mesh ball for holding chunky stuff like peanuts and dried fruit.  Goldfinches found the 'sock' within the first day it was hung.  Within about 4 days, feral lovebirds and a native curved billed thrasher were getting the goodies out of the mesh ball.  We hope that it's cool enough in the morning to sit outside this weekend and try to get some snapshots of them feeding.  Below is a snapshot I took last year of the feral lovebird flock. They're quite common in Phoenix now, though not native. They are native to Africa.

The lovebirds don't seem to like going on the ground.  We throw out uneaten bird food from our cockatiels every morning, and it's quickly gobbled up by several species of dove and pigeon, and sometimes trashers. But little else lands on the ground. Could be the numerous stray cats in the area make them afraid to.  But they like hanging feeders really well!

Though it's unlikely you'll see realistic drawings or paintings of birds in my portfolio, no doubt the feeders will attract some birds that, in spirit anyway, end up in my work sooner or later.

03 June, 2013

Painting in R. Pela gallery in June; feeding finches

 Below is a link to my Redbubble journal about my show activity in June 2013, (and a few other things!).

Clown Eater
Cindy Schnackel
Acrylic on canvas
40 x 30 in.

I almost feel sorry for that clown. Today, I delivered the painting to R. Pela gallery, and the show opens Friday June 7 at 6 p.m.  Looked like there was a lot of interesting art coming in, and it was nice to see I'm not the only one who finds clowns creepy. Details in the link above.

I've been doing a lot of small drawings, playing with new ink pens, and gearing up to spend the long hot summer indoors painting small works until it's paint-friendly outdoors again. Right now it's about 110 degrees during the day. I finished the Clown Eater before it got so beastly, when it was "only" in the 80s or 90s.

On a different topic, I've been pleased to see gold finches coming to our thistle seed feeder. They discovered it in less than 24 hours and except for the hottest part of the day when most birds seem to seek shade, they can be seen clinging to it and pulling the tiny seeds out through the mesh. They are skittish, and I haven't gotten even a bad snapshot so far! Maybe eventually.