I have a CONfession… 2 years ago I went to my very first comic con. About 8 months later I attended my first comic con as a vendor. I’m a newbie to the convention scene and a veritable virgin to horror conventions – which is rather surprising since I’ve loved horror movies ever since I can remember.
When a seasoned convention-goer said I should bring the Bitty Baddies to Motor City Nightmares Convention I jumped at the chance, but as soon as I paid for the table I began to feel a little trepidation, so I need your help peanut gallery – who should I be working on to bring to the party?
“Where do you see this going?” I was asked this very question from a fellow entrepreneur friend regarding the Bitty Baddies. “I can see this blowing up?!” She exclaimed. This assessment is a high compliment coming from her. She’s done some incredible things with her own business ventures.
My reply was this, “I don’t know. I really just like doing them. I like drawing them. I like going to conventions and nerding out with the attendees. The money I make from selling prints and whatnot pretty much gets funneled right back into my artistic endeavors. It’s a great way to support my “art habit.”
That said, I do have one thing on the horizon that I’m pretty pumped about. I’d like to start producing trading cards that would double as business cards and also play as a simple War game. I’d have a new one at each event I attended. I may even sell decks, and expansion packs eventually.
As a game of War I’ll need to assign them a value. I’d like to do it based on their perceived “badness”. I’ll need some help with this peanut gallery.
Recently I got a communiqué from Downtown Port Huron reminding me of the upcoming Fall Art Hop happening downtown Friday, October 12th. As the Raven Café’s marketing person, I’m in charge of scheduling an artist for the event. While brainstorming who’s art would be perfect for the October event, I had an epiphany – the Bitty Baddies!
October being the vessel month of Halloween, my cute little ghouls would fit right in. My next scheduled Comic Con isn’t till March of next year. My spawn are languishing at home, unloved. Many folks ask if I have more designs printed than what I have available at the Raven – YES, I DO!
“So, Boils and Ghouls, get out your diePhone and open your KILLendar and pencil me in!” <insert Cryptkeeper laugh here>
Thank you for taking down my crown. I realize I’ve been a pain in the ass the last few days. Please know my crusade had less to do with seeking personal compensation and more to do with the principle of the thing. Designers like Marcus Lee Tam erode trust in the online creative community. I’m not the first DeviantArtist he’s taken from liberally.
It’s one thing to be inspired by another artist’s works – it’s another thing entirely to crop their work, claim it as your own, and to add insult to injury, collect compensation. My wish is that you make a statement to your designers that blatant plagiarism won’t be tolerated. Your app relies heavily on creativity. My hope is that you respect and value artists and their contributions to the online community.
Recently I was alerted by another artist that a Covet Fashion designer named Marcus Lee Tam was using my art and selling it as his own. As you can imagine I was very angry. I wanted to publicly shame him for his crime. I knew the truth was on my side and I have evidence for days. I could have just quietly contacted the company, but I wanted him exposed. I wanted potentially unethical artists to think twice about stealing someone’s work.
Well Marcus Lee Tam is kind of famous (who knew) and his fans are brutal, so after a day of wasted time and energy I was about to throw in the towel. Shouldn’t it be enough that I know? Could I reclaim my zen by thinking “karma’s a bitch”?
I could, but then I was contacted by various Covet players who encouraged me not to give up, not to let him get away with it. If he’d done it to me it was likely he’d done it to others.
So here are the points of contention…
I do fan art. It is based on pop culture villains in the style of Margaret Keane’s big-eyed waifs. This is no secret. This is front and center on any article you’ll read about the Bitty Baddies series.
His followers are loyal and they’d like to believe that Marcus and I used the same reference piece, BUT the smoking gun is Akasha’s bouffant. This shows without a doubt that Marcus’s piece was directly cropped from my file.
The piece is based on Akasha, Queen of the Damned. It is fan art. That’s literally the point. She’s a bad guy re-imagined in the style of Margaret Keane’s big eyed waifs.
Here is my various digital evidence proving that I created the piece. If COVET FASHION contacts me I’ll happily supply my working Adobe Draw file that’s still in layers as proof also.
Marcus Lee Tam, tell the truth. For the sake of fellow artists trying to make a living just like you… be honest.
Covet Fashion has removed my design from their game. I want to give a HUGE shout out to all the wonderful people who supported me during this ordeal. You took the time to stand up for a stranger because it was the right thing to do. You are all heroes in my book.
I also want to publicly apologize for PMing Marcus Lee Tam’s followers. I was angry, I lost my temper, but it was wrong.
I am not sorry that I spoke up for myself and other artists like me.
I’m not sorry that Marcus’s reputation has been tarnished. An artist who would steal from another artist, publicly claim it as his, should be publicly shamed.
What he did is not harmless. Artists bring so much to the online community. They should be respected.
My love for Margaret Keane’s Big-Eyed Waifs began with Tim Burton’s movie “Big Eyes” about her tumultuous life. I appreciated that he didn’t paint her as totally non-complicit. Humans are complicated creatures and are never all good or all bad.
Margaret wanted to make art in a time where female artists weren’t being taken seriously. Walter waltzes in with his big personality and does what she can’t. He hits the pavement and markets the pieces, and markets himself. As a man, I’m sure it was easier for him to do so.
Once upon a time a college art professor told me that talent only goes so far. No matter how good an artist is, no one is going to come knocking on their door to buy their art. To make a living, an artist will need to sell their work and on some level sell themselves. A buyer doesn’t just want something pretty to hang on their wall. They want a story, the artist’s story.
Tim Burton did an excellent job with the film and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should! So inspired by Margaret Keane’s soulful eyes, I decided to paint a portrait of my son Judah who has big beautiful eyes. Coincidentally Margaret Keane was inspired to paint children by her daughter.
“Judah Big Eyes”
Judah Hossain with his painting at Raven Café.
From start to finish it probably took me two years to complete — being a mom of a busy 4 year old boy and the birth of a new baby kept me busy, so I only worked on it a little at a time.
As it was nearing completion, I had a work incident (where I’m a boss) that painted me the villain. Being a mom I was used to being the bad guy, but that day, that moment, I was frustrated with my bad rap.
Was I really a bad guy? I am direct and honest… sensitive people might call this tactless. I accept that, but I never intentionally hurt people. I don’t hold grudges or seek vengeance when I feel I’ve been wronged. I move on and do my best to let it go. Time and energy are precious these days I’d rather not waste it on negativity.
As I contemplated my villain status an idea struck. I’m a fan of a good villain with a compelling backstory. As a tween I watched Bram Stoker’s Dracula at least 100 times. My heart broke for the cursed man who tragically lost the love of his life.
Already loving how my son Judah’s portrait was turning out I decided to create villains with the signature Margaret Keane big eyes. I purchased a new iPad pro and Apple Pencil which is an artist mama’s dream come true. Its compact size makes it easy to pull out here and there when I can find the time with little to no fuss.
My first Bitty Baddy was Disney’s iconic Maleficent. Still learning the iPad software she was a little rough, but I could see the potential for a series.
Second was Cruella with her two-toned hair holding a scared dalmatian puppy. As I created them I often considered their origin story. If they didn’t have one established sometimes I’d write them. I would lay in bed and wonder how life twisted them into villains.Eventually I did Donald Trump who I, as a bleeding-heart liberal democrat, consider a villain. As I worked on him I considered that to some people, he’s a hero, and wondered how much of villainy is perspective.
I did a presentation for a girl scout troop and they questioned my choice of Edward Scissorhands. They said he wasn’t a villain and while I agreed with them I pointed out that the townspeople thought he was and the movie ends with him living alone in the mansion on the hill. They weren’t convinced so I asked them if they knew who George Washington was? They did, so I asked them if they thought he was a hero. They said of course he was. I then asked them to consider how the British felt about George Washington during the revolution. To them he was a rebel who was stealing their land. To them, he was a villain. They were silent a moment so I took this opportunity to lecture them a bit about their parents who can sometimes seem like “bad guys.” When parents make decisions they have their children’s best interests at heart and sometimes that means seeming the villain and saying “no” if their child is potentially engaging in activities that could put them at risk.
To date I’ve done almost forty Bitty Baddies. I plan to participate in various Michigan Comic Cons. I make art prints, postcards, pendants and pins that I sell at the Raven Café in Port Huron, Michigan. I also have most of them available on REDBUBBLE for purchase.