DAVID GREENE, HOST:
OK, now this - clip art. Maybe you've used these illustrations of birthday cakes or handshakes in Word documents or PowerPoints. Well, Microsoft is now getting rid of its clip art library. NPR's Travis Larchuk profiles one of clip art's most prolific artists.
TRAVIS LARCHUK: Before the Internet offered easy access to billions of images, people who wanted to illustrate their documents had just a handful of options. That's where clip art came in. Since the 1990s Microsoft Office provided libraries of drawings users could simply click and use. And many of the most recognizable images were drawn by one woman, Cathy Belleville.
CATHY BELLEVILLE: I grew up my whole life knowing that I wanted to be an artist. And then my senior year of college, it kind of hit me that, oh, my God, I have to get a job.
LARCHUK: She ended up at Microsoft, working on PowerPoint. In 1995, she left the company and came up with the idea for Screen Beans. Screen Beans is a series of simple, black stick figure guys wearing hats. Maybe you've seen the one of the guy jumping up in the air, clicking his heels in celebration, or the one where there's a guy with a light bulb over his head like he's just had a great idea. Actually, Belleville is not so proud of that one.
BELLEVILLE: I see him a lot and think, wow, I really drew that badly (laughter).
LARCHUK: Belleville designed the figures to be universally relatable, and she sees them everywhere.
BELLEVILLE: I've been to Africa and seen them on a menu. I've been sitting on planes and seen people walk by me with them on T-shirts.
LARCHUK: She sold those drawings to Microsoft, but she did not get rich off of them.
BELLEVILLE: Everybody thinks because they've seen your art all over they - oh, you must've made millions of dollars on these things. And I think for a hundred images they paid me $10,000 once.
LARCHUK: Of course, these days just about any image you want is one quick web search away. And Microsoft says that's why it's dumping clip art. Instead, Office users will be directed to the company's Bing image search. Belleville says the decision makes sense, but she's sorry to see clip art go.
BELLEVILLE: I think it's kind of sad for the rest of us.
LARCHUK: And Cathy Belleville is still making art. She's retired from the tech world and now she spends her time with her passion - painting watercolor landscapes. Travis Larchuk, NPR News.
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