It's usually helpful to examine and learn from different sources or to look at a problem from different angles. What's the overall best solution for a given situation? In short, situations vary from person to person, so what's the right thing to do?
I like to provide stories of other new or established licensing artists who are working hard and are daring. They are taking their challenging situations in their own hands and working them out!
Artist Denise Tedeschi says: "I'm a beginner in the licensing field. I can't remember how I got started in licensing, but it began last Fall". She must have come across the business online somewhere, she says. She learned much about licensing from Tara Reed's and Joan Beiriger's sites. "These sites are immensely helpful if you read everything there. All the topics and the links are important." She also found Maria Brophy had lots of insights from her blog site. Again, Denise says to follow all the entries to learn the most: "I just took the time to search and read. I web-surfed from link to link and Googled for links from names or subjects. I looked through tons of artist, agent & manufacturer websites for product ideas and art styles. For product mock-ups, I tried to find large, plain images that were free to use from clip art sites, and if not available, I'd look for products from companies and alter them, draw them and make what I needed."
She also walked the Surtex show which was not far from her New Jersey location. She thinks a trade show is important to experience for everyone at some point, even if it's just to be able to know about it if it should come up in discussions with agents or manufacturers in the future.
Originally Denise made an online website portfolio for manufacturers/agents to see. Even though she had quite a few collections one manufacturer commented that there wasn't much to see. She can't imagine a manufacturer hiring an artist that only had a few images as samples. As for agents, she would imagine they vary depending on how much work they want to put into each artist. As to the amount of images in one's portfolio, Denise thinks you should include as many as you can. Newbies are up against experienced artists with many years worth of accumulated images and a few samples are just not going to compete. After that manufacturer's comment she went hard at it again and made some rather large collections of sports images and vintage coastal/beach images. Denise creates artwork and makes mock-ups & tearsheets for manufacturers to download from her website. She has a decent amount of images but, she says, she doesn't have near a full range of categories.
She also thinks she doesn't yet have a distinct style, and may never have as the fun of experimenting with art for her is why she does it. Experimenting is what makes her tic and she will probably always test techniques. Some people say she has a style that comes through no matter what technique she uses, which shows in selection of topic and images and composition. She doesn't see it, maybe because she's too close to it, she says. She seems to see that most successful license artists keep with one technique that they don't deviate from. Denise says,"maybe I'll find a technique that I'll specifically stick to, you never know." She named her business Lush studio because she hoped people would accept multiple styles coming from a studio.
Denise learned about collections from a few of the blogs & websites she's mentioned earlier, and by seeing how many pieces were used as a collection from various artist's sites. She sometimes starts a collection with a product in mind first - plates & dinnerware, paper products, or flags. She thinks about a theme next, like Christmas, everyday decorative, or pets. Then she goes off looking for what is selling by artists in the market (snowmen, Santas, etc.) and she figures out what subject matter would be appropriate for her own art style (winter florals, wild birds, wreaths, etc.). Then she searches for reference images, and starts creating for that product, but also thinks about designing the image to be flexible in other shape formats. This usually means altering the image and background to balance well in all format shapes (rounds, square, verticals or horizontals, rectangles and so on) and thinking about creating a background pattern and borders for wrapping paper or needs in other applications (paper products, journals, scrap booking).
She doesn't make all formats for all of her art though, as some art may not apply to these products. From the very beginning, Denise kept a notebook of everything she's learned along the way, and also bookmarked helpful websites: "It could be more organized, but it's not too bad. Occasionally I would go in and reorganize my bookmarks as I needed categories. Reading over my notebook reminds me of important things and notes reminding myself of ideas I want to try in future."
Denise wants to help other newbies if she can: "Nothing will come to you if you're not out there connecting with other folks in the profession in various ways."