“Beware of those who don’t fight back. Sooner or later, they will.”
― Joyce Rachelle
My name is Sally Robertson, I am Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of COLORED PENCIL Magazine, and it is time to tell my story.
I have once again been attacked and discredited for the work that I have done. Each time I have been portrayed as a thief and a liar I have kept quiet, deciding to take the high road and not escalate the situation. I am by nature a fighter, but it is more important to me to do what is right than what is satisfying. I am not saying I always do, but in this matter, I have strived for it.
It has come to my attention that Ann Kullberg of Color Magazine has once again dragged me through the mud – entirely unprovoked for something that happened a decade ago! I can no longer sit back and keep quiet. To do so would be to validate these claims in so many people’s minds, and actually … you deserve to finally know my side and decide for yourself how you feel about it.
In 1999 the internet was new, and as a young colored pencil artist, I was hungry for knowledge and couldn’t find a website dedicated to colored pencils, so I made one and called it Scribble! ~ resources for the colored pencil artist. It was very much like our current magazine – each month was called an issue and was updated with a featured artist, Q&A, a “what’s new” section, and more.
Later that same year, Ann Kullberg started an e-zine with similar features, but she chose to charge a monthly fee to access the content. She even contacted me to design her banners. As a fan, I remember how thrilled I was to talk to her on the phone. We only had a few interactions, but they were ones I would remember fondly.
In 2001 I became pregnant with my last child. With a thriving web design business, I had to choose where it was best to spend my time. I wasn’t drawing as much anymore and decided it was time to sell the Scribble site. Gemma Gylling contacted me to purchase it. I remember how passionate she was about running the site and did a fantastic job with it for quite a few years. I was so proud to see it still alive when I peeked in on it from time to time.
In 2008 my business Platte Productions went from web design to a publishing company – designing and publishing over 100 books as an original member of the Blurb Nation team. Blurb would recommend me to their online clients where I would design, and they would manufacture and ship their print-on-demand books.
In 2010 I started working with Blurb’s sister company MagCloud, who creates their magazine print-on-demand products. After working on an “Amazing Art” book series, I had one of those shower moments. It suddenly hit me that there was no magazine in print dedicated to colored pencils!
I quickly thought about Scribble and how great it would be to do a printed version of that and was going to ask Gemma if she would be interested in working with me on this project until I remembered that Ann Kullberg had an e-zine and maybe she would want to partner with me. It was a long shot, but I decided to approach her.
At the time, Ann was in Japan and was not interested, saying she didn’t believe that a print magazine was something artists were interested in. To prove that my idea was a good one, I proposed that I would design free the past year’s of her From My Perspective content into print versions, so she could see that print really would sell, then we could divide the proceeds. With nothing to lose and something to gain, she gave me the green light to try. I designed all the 2010 content (almost 200 pages), and we got enough of a response for Ann to see that print was viable!
The first issue was out January 1, 2011. Our titles and tasks were divided as follows. Ann would provide the content as the Editor, and since she was a former English teacher, she would also be in charge of the copy editing. I would be the publisher under Platte Productions. My role was to take all the images and text from a shared folder and design the magazine. I named the new magazine COLORED PENCIL. I registered the name, and secured our URL www.coloredpencilmag.com. As a web designer, I dug in deep to create the website. Since I worked with MagCloud, I knew how to set everything up to have them process payments, as they print and ship our products. Both Ann and I had access to all the files, accounts, and payment pages on the site. It was also my duty to create all the marketing materials, newsletters, graphics, ordering & processing subscribers, and provide all customer service. As the publisher, I was in charge of accounting in which I sent her a check each month for her 40% cut of all profits.
Everything seemed to be going well, and I was excited that Ann had a class scheduled near the end of the year in my Raleigh, NC area, and that we were going to finally have a chance to meet in person! Originally we were going to meet at a sandwich shop, but once she arrived, she suggested we go over to the neighboring steak house since the business was paying. It was much nicer to get a booth and my first impressions were that she was very bold and outspoken. Even though I towered over her, I was a little intimidated by her big personality and the fact that I was meeting someone I had admired since I was a teenager. We ate and talked in the low-lit restaurant while she puffed on her e-cigarette. (I was quite fascinated with it since I had never seen one before.) We discussed her love of dance and Japan, and she encouraged me not only to try ballroom dancing but suggested I join her on a trip to Japan someday.
As we walked outside to part ways, Ann stopped to say one last thing that really struck me. She said “You know, I have people telling me I am crazy for giving you 60%.” I noted that I was fine with an even 50/50 split and reminded her that it was orignially HER idea to divide it that way. She said that was fine and that she knew how much more work I was doing and seemed to be ok with it. I pondered quietly about who these people might be.
Shortly afterward, I received an email from Ann that she was concerned about not getting enough traffic to her website. She stated that she was losing revenue from her advertisements there. This was never brought up as a concern, so I assured her that we could add prominent links and banners to redirect those interested to her website, but she wrote again saying she had decided to move the magazine to her personal website. I responded basically saying “no” and that it didn’t make sense to do that, after all, I wasn’t asking to move it to platteproductions.com, and that would make more sense since she cited F&W Publishing as an example.
She then wrote me again saying that I didn’t have a choice. That it was HER magazine and that the “good news” was . . . she would LET me continue to design it.
I was astounded! I thought – ‘LET ME?! This magazine was MY idea, something that I brought her into. I could have made it without her and she would still be working on her outdated e-zine.’ She had reduced me down to “just a designer”. I knew that if I agreed – she would “fire” me and hire someone that wasn’t taking 60%.
I wrote fighting back saying it wasn’t going to happen! I said, “You can go back to your FMP and I will continue on with CPM.” I promised to continue to give her a cut of everything sold that we mutually created – and I kept my word – even when things got ugly! She had someone exactly recreate the same issues with the same design I created. She sold them on her website and of course, kept all the profits plus cashed every check I sent.
She really believed that I was nothing – that this was all her. I mean really, what chance did I have against “Ann Kullberg”? We both had access to the maybe 500 emails we gathered (that she still contends that I “stole”). Seriously, that is not a lot!
Do you REALLY want to hear more? I HATE thinking about all this!
Anyway, we exchanged DCMI takedowns of each other’s content. She had the CPM Facebook taken down, and I had to start that from scratch again. In the end, she knew that I owned the website, the name, and proof that I approached her with the original concept. We needed just to go our separate ways. She felt I took her magazine; I felt I gave her one. Not only did she not have a clue how to publish anything in print – she had NO desire to. I was going to make this magazine with or without her, and by bringing her in as a partner, I inadvertently created my own competition.
After hearing her side of the story, many of her followers attacked me, threatened me, called me a whore, and worse. They called for people to cancel their subscriptions, swore to boycott my sponsors, and even discussed changing the name of the medium! (No lie.) I never publicly defended myself, I never wanted to throw mud, I just wanted to focus on the magazine and bringing the best I could to my readers. I accepted that if fate has me defeated, I will accept that, but I wouldn’t go down without giving it everything I had.
To my surprise, COLORD PENCIL Magazine did NOT, in fact, lose subscribers and followers but continued to grow month after month. Each time I braced for a hit – the only hits I had were visitors on my website and Facebook page. I realized that even if people were not voicing it to me personally, they were supporting the magazine and enjoying what I was bringing them – what the contributors were working so hard to give them. I never really wanted people to think about it as “Sally’s magazine”. The truth is – it is YOUR magazine. You create the content, you read it. I don’t want credit for that; I am the facilitator. I am interested in building the art medium I fell in love with as a teenager. I will never forget the disappointed looks when I told people I worked in colored pencil. Despite these challenges, together we have been able to create something special, something that has grown so big that even the most respected art companies are eager to collaborate with us. I believe that we have helped inspire art manufacturers to create new, better, and innovative products to supply your demands as serious fine artists. I know that we are well on our way to reaching the top of this art mountain, thanks to YOU and your support of more than 10 years!
If you have any questions about my story, please email me direct, and I will be happy to reply. What I won’t do – is to give away my peace or focus. I will always fight for us – and I hope you will do the same.
“There is a time for a fight and a time for a flight; knowing the right time to do one or the other can mean the difference between life and death” ― Bangambiki Habyarimana
Proud Editor-in-Chief of
COLORED PENCIL Magazine