Monday, April 2, 2012

Character Licensing - Part I: Artist Bill Abbott


Last week was a happy week for me as I completed a few more collections to add to my Surtex debut binder and also discovered that I had been featured on the Print & Pattern blog - marketing through networking and social media is also a new adventure for me but it's been fun so far!

And speaking of fun, this week I'd like to start a special editorial in two parts about character licensing - I have been pondering about this branch of licensing for some time but have not looked into it too deeply yet. It's actually rather exciting to learn more about it from two fun and humorous artists like Bill Abbott and Marty Qatani.


Bill in Iraq - Bill in Virginia
I'll start this week with Bill Abbott - he was born and raised in upstate New York and had a pretty eclectic career path, Bill says. "I've been a stockbroker, followed by nearly 20 years in the military in Naval Special Warfare with the Special Boat Teams (I'm a Navy SWCC), and now I draw funny little pictures featuring people with absurdly large glasses."

Bill also adds that "my style is your pretty common single panel gag cartoon format, with a bit more emphasis on quality coloring." Amazing cartoonists like Charles Schulz, Mischa Richter, Jim Unger, and so many others have had an influence on his work and provided the inspiration to always try to improve, says Bill.

"As far as a theme or overall effect I try to create, it's pretty simple – I hope to get a chuckle out of the people who view my work. The process I use is really straight forward: I first pencil my work on Strathmore Bristol board, then use an antique Pelikan fountain pen for the inking. After that, I scan it with an Epson something-or-other scanner, then import it into Photoshop for the color. I'm not a believer in hiding techniques or methods – either an artists work stands on its own creative merits or it doesn’t. We are better as a community if we encourage and assist others who are trying to achieve success for themselves."


© Bill Abbott
Bill says that he's not sure there's anything particularly exciting about his work, other than he looks forward to working on it – "thinking of goofy scenarios for my characters is pretty enjoyable process." I think Bill's work is really fun!

Along with the cartoonists he mentioned above, there are so many people, artists of all stripes, that inspire him, like illustrator Brian Despain. Bill says his work is brilliant. Since humor is the cornerstone of effective cartoons, he also love reading H.L Mencken – "his dry wit transcends time," Bill adds.

"There's a few things I'm working on now that I'm pretty excited about. I've had the extreme good fortune to have my work licensed by Hallmark, which has just happened, so I anticipate creating the collateral artwork for that. Mead Westvaco will be releasing 2 wall calendars and a Year In A Box calendar in 2013 featuring my "Spectickles" characters. I've recently been syndicated by Ink Bottle Syndicate who will carry Spectickles in their Funnies Extra. Additionally, I'm collaborating with the Funnies Extra publisher, Richard Cross, on a new comic we call "Karma Café" – also syndicated in the Funnies Extra. There's a few more irons in the fire, and we'll see what happens!"

© Bill Abbott
Bill returned from the Middle East in 2008, and says he was fortunate to have his work picked up by licensing agent Suzanne Cruise. "We secured several deals, including greeting cards, figurines, cocktail napkins, and calendars. I then began working with agent Grahame Allan in Australia, followed most recently by MGL Licensing in the UK; they were the talented group who brought about the Hallmark UK deal."

Character licensing is very competitive, Bill comments - "It can also be massively lucrative, such as the case of Jim Benton's Happy Bunny and the Hello Kitty brand. For those seeking to enter this arena, I would strongly recommend knowing precisely which audience you’re targeting. For instance, while children's markets are by far the most sought-after, I know my work is entirely inappropriate – it connects best with older adults. As we seek licensing opportunities for Spectickles, it would be a waste of a potential licensee's time to present this brand to a company who produces products for teenagers or children – it won't make the connection required for it to be successful. Of critical importance is understanding the contracts you sign. Know what rights you're giving away, what territories are covered, contract durations, and everything that could potentially impact the future use of your art."

© Bill Abbott
To conclude Bill says: "It's becoming increasingly apparent that my wife won't let me rule the world, so my future aspirations are to increase the visibility of Spectickles, to enjoy new licensing opportunities and, when appropriate, introduce the Karma Café brand, and very importantly, to help others achieve their goals as well."

Bill started drawing when he was very young, as his curtains and bedspread were Peanuts, he began with Snoopy and Charlie Brown. He continued on and off till he started with the military at which time he gave it up. Bill began drawing again in 2001 and between deployments started sending them out to magazines to get published. He didn't really ramp things up till he returned from his last deployment in mid 2008 when he'd read about licensing and contacted Suzanne Cruise, who then became his art licensing agent.

Bill Abbott's Links:
Spectickles on Zazzle: http://www.zazzle.com/billcartoons
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