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September 7, 2003: "Top Five Problems With Art Submissions" by Nick

UMBC has a talented community of visual artists, and Bartleby publishes several of the best works by these individuals in its annual edition. Sorting through the numerous submissions is a daunting task for our art staff members, and the criteria they use to select visual artwork for publication are certainly different than those used by our written work editors.

I've had the opportunity to see every art submission as we receive it for a couple of years now, and I've noticed a few problems that appear every so often that make an otherwise excellent work unsuitable for printing. So if you're planning to submit art or photography for consideration, please check to make sure that you're not falling into one of these traps:

1. The low resolution trap. About half of all art submissions are sent to us on disk. Most of these disk submissions are photographs, but some are scans of other media. Whenever submitting art on disk, make sure it's at a high resolution. Bartleby requires all artwork to have a resolution of at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). If we were to publish something at a lower resolution, you'd be able to make out pixels (tiny dots that make up every computerized image) on the printed page.

Please note that most images on the Internet are at a resolution below 100 dpi. They might look realistic on the computer screen, but printing the same image on paper at a larger size would produce a non-photo-realistic picture.

2. The all color, all the time trap. Each year, Bartleby includes a mix of color and black & white artwork. Color artwork is extremely expensive, so we are forced to limit it to the covers (and occasionally an insert, but these typically cost more than the rest of the journal). Thus, about 90% of our published artwork appears in black & white. (Note: Since Nick wrote this in 2003, our budget has increased and we now publish several color inserts a year. Never-the-less, black and white images ARE still cheaper to produce and your artwork has a greater chance of making it into the journal if we are on the fence about it if it is in black and white).

If you submit only color artwork, we often create a black & white copy before making a decision on whether or not to publish it. Some color art still looks good (and sometimes even better) in black & white, while others lose too much during the transition. In the latter case, unless that artwork is chosen for one of the very few color prints, the submission must be rejected.

So when you submit your artwork, check to see if your artwork loses too much if it's converted to black & white. While you certainly can still submit color artwork in the hopes of snagging a color print spot, submitting pieces that also look good in black & white (or that are black & white in the first place) will dramatically increase your chances of being published.

3. The copyright trap. Bartleby, like all student organizations at UMBC, does not like being sued. If we published something produced by someone other than the person who submitted it, we might face a lawsuit from the original author or artist. That's why we've set up a strict anti-plagarism policy for all of our submissions.

Some of our submissions, particularly written works, fall in a gray area in that they imitate the form of another person. There's usually nothing wrong with this since you can't really copyright a style of writing. Now if you start taking characters out of Shakespeare and putting them in your stories, you're bordering on infringement. But even this is often viewed as acceptable, especially if you're using characters created by someone who's been dead for 400 years. Rarely do people come back from the dead to sue you (watch out for their money-grubbing great-great-great-great grandchildren, though).

Unfortunately, this "borrowing" concept doesn't work the same way with art. Some artists enjoy reproducing characters created by other people, often throwing in their own artistic interpretations. In today's Internet culture, you can find millions of such pieces of "fan art" for characters from books, TV, and movies. Bartleby receives several fan artworks each year, and we're forced to deny each and every one of them for publication for copyright reasons.

If you'd like to show your fan art to the world, the Internet is still the best way to do it. You can place your artwork (fan or non-fan) on sites like digitalart.org and DeviantArt. If you still want to showcase your work in physical form, then consider conventions with art galleries and auctions, like Otakon for anime fan art and Balticon for sci-fi (both of which take place right here in Baltimore).

4. The scratched print trap. Submitting artwork on disk (or by email) is, without a doubt, the best way to go. It saves us time, and it allows you to keep your original (if you scanned it in). But we still accept and give the same consideration to prints, originals, and slides. If you want to submit your artwork in a physical format, please give it extra handling attention (and we'll do the same on this end). We sometimes receive prints or slides with small scratches or smudges on them, and these marks would show in the printed form, making it look unprofessional. We try to contact the artist for another copy, but sometimes we learn that the mark is on the original.

Package slides in protective plastic sheets, and consider using a bubble-wrapped envelope. Photographs on glossy paper can easily scratch, but inserting them into cheap plastic sheet protectors works wonders.

5. The print size trap. If you absolutely must submit a print or original, make sure it's no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches. Otherwise, we can't scan it in unless we get access to an industrial-sized scanner (which we usually can't do). If your work is larger than this, scan it in on your own and put it on a disk.

If you have questions about these or other art submission guidelines, feel free to post them in the Bartleby forums and our staff will answer them ... sometimes before you even finish typing. Or, feel free to contact the Senior Managing Editor at Bartleby@umbc.edu. See y'all next time!