Artist to Artist Advice: How to Protect Your Art With an Image Inventory

Now more than ever we need to have a record of our art and prove that we created it from scratch and from our imagination.

A few years ago I received the advice to make a detailed inventory and record of each painting/item I created. And do it now. I confess, I was having more fun creating than doing record keeping. Then with the explosion of social media and now the wide spread use of AI, I got my act together and started on my inventory. I have worked hard on my art, I don’t want anyone else profiting from it.

I am constantly seeing where people will pull images and plop them into their posts with no credit to the artist. Usually the artist’s name has been cropped out or you are unable to read it. I have even asked the Poster who the artist is and they go, “I don’t know.” Using that image without your permission is a copyright infringement, but few Posters know that or care. That is why you need to have an art inventory record, so you can prove ownership and inform them to remove it, give credit, or take legal action.

Here is how I have organized my inventory record:

The Art Image Inventory Record:

First Section:

Painting name and your name as artist

An image of the finished piece and the date you completed it.

Is it part of a series and what number?

Size and the medium used.

Give a brief history of your inspiration or process.

Show images of the piece in progress in your studio. If you posted progress photos include screen shots with date and time.

Second Section:

Current Location and date: This is helpful if you spread your work over multiple galleries or platforms or storage areas. You would be surprised at all the places people store their work, me included.


Third Section:

List everywhere it has been displayed.

Give dates, location, and include pictures of it in that spot.

Did you sell the original? To whom, date, and amount. (Remember, if you did not sign away the copyright to your image, you still retain that even if the original is in someone else’s home. They do not have a right to profit from your image unless you gave over your copyright to it.)

Did you post it on-line? Do the same: dates, what platform, and screenshots that include the date and time.


Fourth Section:

Have you licensed the image to anyone? To whom, and for how long? Be sure and keep track if they are honoring the contract. When the time runs out be sure and let them know that.

Have you uploaded your image to a company that will make items from it and share in the profit? Make sure you retained the copyright. Take screen shots of the items that they will make from it. (My advice here, never give them your best images-save those for your own use.)


Fifth Section:

Have you made other items from your image?

Include what, how it was made, when, and photos of progress and final product similar to how you recorded the original.


Last Steps:

Make a PDF of your record. Save it in several places, including the old fashion printed out way. Add it to the cloud if you wish, but keep a copy handy in your own external harddrive. Sign and date the printed copy. Be sure and update each image/painting’s record each time its location/situation changes.


Final Thoughts:

I know this process sounds tedious, especially if you have many images/paintings. It will be worth it, especially when you want to do a show and they ask you to prove it is yours. Start with your most recent creation and work backwards. Set up a time each week or bi-weekly to go in and make those updates as needed. have to accept art is also a business and we need to treat it as one.

And always keep in mind your art is an extension of you. You have developed your own style and your followers will recognize it. That style is your brand. Retaining copyrights and keeping a close track of where your art is displayed builds and maintains your reputation and brand. Please take the time to keep proper records. I don’t want you to sign in to your favorite social media and see someone has your images attached to their very popular post and not one mention of you. Or, you go to a fair and see your image plastered all over cheap t-shirts people are selling. Or worse yet, AI has turned your image into something you would never have done or thought of.

Good Luck and Keep Arting!


“Every story should paint a picture: Every picture should tell a story.”

“Dream it till you achieve it.”


This article is copyrighted © 2024 by N.A.McConkey and McAlt Studio. You may quote parts as long as the author is credited or a link back to this original article is given. Links to this article are welcome. Thank you!

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Curious about personal brands? Refer to the Writing Workshop Article.

Writing Workshop: Let’s talk about Branding



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