Followers of this blog might remember the posts I did last year featuring my old greetings cards designs, and how I highlighted the problems artists had (and I guess still have) ensuring that their designs are not stolen by card publishers . After being ripped off myself I resorted to sending in preliminary rough sketches only for consideration. Although this did not necessarily stop unscrupulous publishers stealing the concepts, or the jokes themselves, it did at least mean they had to come up with their own finished style. With my “polar” series, I was as upset with the fact the company stole the distinctive look of my designs – and then ran with them for decades, as I was by their theft of the individual jokes.
Anyway, with the Christmas card examples posted below at least, my new method worked this one time. The company in question signed a “special” contract with me before receiving finished colour plates for the images they chose. As things turned out, they went with most of them, except I think for two, which, as I recall, they informed me were a “bit too irreverent for our customer base”. See if you can guess which two? A clue to one of them is that I went ahead and coloured it for myself anyhow…
(You can see my other two non-Christmas greetings card posts here and here…)
Of all the people I ever dealt with in the various branches of the art world – “fine” and commercial – by far the most disreputable (and this includes gallery owners, art dealers, advertising bods, and even agents!!) were the greetings cards companies.
A good example of what I mean is represented by the set of cards displayed below. Around 1990 I had the idea of doing humerous cards based on Arctic/Antarctic/Polar themes. I was particularly pleased with the way the dark blue starry skies and snowy landscapes threw the subject matter into sharp relief. They just looked great and I knew they worked and I knew they would sell well.
Anyhow, that Spring I arranged a meeting at the offices of one of the UK’s leading card companies to see what they thought of the designs. After a brief discussion the lady who interviewed me asked if she could keep the pictures for a week or so to enable the “production team” to give them full consideration…
Stupidly, I agreed to this, without even so much as a signed receipt from her proving that she had taken temporary possession of the designs.
About a week later, the lady met me in a cafe behind Selfridges in London and returned the artwork to me, saying that “the team” had decided that the designs were not for them after all.
To my dumb and ingenuous horror, my designs, redrawn by different artists appeared in the shops later that year. After speaking with a top London copyright lawyer I realised that my position was probably hopeless as I had no sure way of proving that the company had had possession of my designs, or that my designs predated those now being printed and sold – in their thousands! Moreover, he told me, even if I did win a legal case – back in those days at least – I would still most likely have ended up out of pocket.
It was an exceptionally painful lesson which contributed significantly to my decision to turn away from art.
Nevertheless, presented here, for the first time is that series of original designs. I think you’ll enjoy them – even if you’ve seen them before – sort of…