Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of Photography in Licensing - Artist Dianne Woods


While working away at tweaking my new website and creating new collections, I've been learning more Photoshop shortcuts... vital to know in order to swiftly produce a series of designs and tearsheets for a deadline! 

And speaking of mastering tools like Photoshop, I invite you to read this great interview with artist Dianne Woods. She is a professional photographer and also creates beautiful images for licensing. Here's her story:

Artist Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself – I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in photography from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Over the next 30 years I worked on location and in the studio shooting assignments for clients in the wine industry, design and advertising, manufacturing, and for publishers of books and magazines.

Today I live happily in Berkeley with my husband Brad and our tuxedo cat Sunny. Moving from one passion to another, I am retired from commercial photography and now devote my time to creating art for commercial applications. My client list includes companies in the stationery and giftware industries, wall art manufacturers and the music business.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I am particularly intrigued by the process by which an image moves from mere idea to something tangible and ready for licensing to a manufacturer. For example, last year my agent suggested I develop a collection combining two themes that sell well in the licensing industry and are of artistic interest to me – cats and flowers. I immersed myself in the idea and when I came up for air we had 20 new images that had not existed just weeks before. We called the collection "Felines & Floral" and Kimberly (my agent) placed them with a calendar company almost immediately.

In another example, I have a client on the east coast who manufactures wall-art for the home d├ęcor industry. She contacts me frequently with requests for art with specific themes. She might send me an email saying, "I need two pieces with poppies" to which I respond, "OK -- give me two days and I'll send jpgs for your approval." There is something endlessly fascinating and exciting to me about the path from envisioning an idea to a tangible result.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My late mother was my original source of inspiration for my attraction to art and photography; she graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York in the early 1940s. While she exchanged a career in commercial art to become a wife and mother, her personal history as an artist and her interest in art as an avocation in later years served as a model and paved the way for me.

I am inspired in my art by beautiful things to look at; great design; color usage and relationships; imagery that stirs emotions; and - at the top of my list - the quality of light. I notice its source and direction; how it draws shape and renders texture; and what feelings it evokes. In real life, as in art, I'm habitually alive to and inspired by the quality of the light.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I signed my first contract three years ago with a greeting card company - which is a great place for an artist interested in licensing to get started. If you would like to explore the potential in the greeting card industry, I recommend Kate Harper's blog. There you will find a comprehensive list of greeting card publishers and their submission guidelines.

Over the course of my career, I have taken classes and workshops to stay on top of my game. It was in one of these classes that I became acquainted with a painting program. From the minute I booted the software I felt I was in the zone. 

I was delighted to find my years of experience as a photographer translated directly into the new medium. The learning curve was steep, but once I had a grasp of the software concepts, I was off and painting. While creating imagery is its own reward, the additional challenge and reward of selling my art adds to the satisfaction of working in this industry. 

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I signed with Kimberly Montgomery of Montage Licensing last year. In the three years I've been in the industry Kimberly is my second agent.

This partnership has been beneficial to me in many ways. Working as a team, brainstorming on everything from business development to fine tuning imagery, I feel less isolated and have acquired a broader understanding of the industry and my place in it.

It's the agent's responsibility to negotiate the licensing contract. If an agent stays current with the players, politics and changes in the industry, they have a better sense of what to ask for in a contract, when to ask for more, and when to be satisfied with what is being offered. That's not to say that an artist can't negotiate a contract on their own behalf; they certainly can, and many do. I simply notice that I'm more comfortable leaving the negotiation of a contract to someone with more experience than I have.

© Dianne Woods
The keys to a successful working relationship with an agent are first and foremost: find a good fit. After that, be your creative self; work hard; never, ever miss a deadline; and give your agent the support they need to promote you.

And here's the best part: with each potential client Kimberly pursues and each new contract we sign, my work gets stronger; I feel more focused, and I'm having more fun!

TMFMA: In your view, what's a key/most important quality to develop as a licensing artist in order to succeed in this design field? Have the emotional wherewithal to hear requests for changes to your art and the technical skill to execute them promptly. If your art is rejected, and it will be, don't take it personally. Rejection is not necessarily a statement about the quality of your work – it's more likely a statement about market trends. Art licensing is a business. Be persistent.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? A topic frequently explored on artist and licensing blogs is the tendency for artists to become isolated. While solitude can be a great contributor to the creative process, it can also make you a little loopy.

My solution has been to join a group here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We meet once a month to discuss the industry, review portfolios, give and listen to feedback, get inspired, vent frustrations, hear guest speakers, swap technical tips, and just generally be connected and enjoy each other's company.

© Dianne Woods
Being a member of "Bay Area Licensing Artists" has been the antidote to isolation for me. I'm sure I wouldn't be enjoying art licensing as much if it were not for this group of creative people, all of whom I count as friends. I cannot recommend enough being connected with a group of licensing artists on a regular basis.


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