Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - A Late Bloomer’s Path by Artist Natalie Timmons

I have been experimenting with some new and fun techniques, and ended up with a couple of new collections that might be perfect for upcoming potential clients. Sometime good things come from unplanned actions and become useful at a later time, when the right time comes.

This is just like the experience of today's guest artist Natalie Timmons, who says she is a late bloomer as far as art and art licensing go. She also adds, "The first half of my life I enjoyed a very successful career in marketing communications and graphic design while raising an amazing son with my husband. Ten months before I turned 50, I left a full-time job to return to consulting part-time so I could seriously pursue my art and art licensing. Something inside me kept telling me 'now was the time.' My friends thought I was nuts to leave a good job in this economy. But I've never pursued things in the normal way and tend to follow my heart. Not willy-nilly, mind you. I saved my pennies, so I'd have a financial cushion."

As it turned out, she was lucky enough to leave the job she had with a contract already in hand. "I've had the best of both worlds this past year working part-time as a project manager for a global website project and part-time on my art" - she adds.

© Natalie Timmons
I asked Natalie how she discovered art licensing. She replied, "I've always been a huge fan of Mary Engelbreit, Marjolein Bastin, Kathy Davis, Amy Brown, Debbie Mumm, and Susan Winget. In fact, our first floor bathroom is a shrine to Mary Engelbreit. It has a pretty black and white checked border that I sponge painted by hand, five of my favorite ME calendar prints framed in black, a display of ME collectibles and a floor canvas that I designed and hand painted with Mary's trademark cherries and a black and white border."

Natalie thinks the catalyst was an article she read about Kathy Davis in the September 2009 issue of More Magazine. "After reading Kathy’s inspirational story, I started gobbling up everything in sight about art licensing. I read every website, blog and book I could get my hands on. I also started dabbling in sketching and painting my own designs."

© Natalie Timmons
In early 2010, she had a one-hour consultant with Carol Eldrige to see if her art was appropriate for art licensing. "I'm almost embarrassed to say I brought about 20 frogs and a few other paintings to the meeting. Carol thoughtfully reviewed them all and basically said, 'You're going to need a lot more than frogs'. She was a sweetheart and gave me solid next steps to pursue as far as expanding my portfolio."

In September 2010, Natalie left her job and diligently began sketching and painting new designs for her portfolio. After five months as a part-time artist she created about 5 small collections, she says. "At that point, I wasn't sure if I was heading the right direction so I signed up with Tara Reed for 6 coaching sessions. I can't say enough about Tara Reed Coaching. Her coaching approach is detail oriented and fantastic. I really feel I cut out a lot of trial and error by coaching with Tara. Using my expertise in marketing and what I learned from Tara and Joan Beiriger’s Blog, I spiffed up my approach so much that one agent said my sell sheet presentation was one of the best she'd ever seen. This inspired me to create a free eGuide on How to Create Killer Sell Sheets for Artists."

© Natalie Timmons
Natalie also walked Surtex for the first time in May 2012. Surtex was a fantastic experience for her - finally in one place was all her favorite art and many of her favorite artists, she added. "I was in heaven. I also attended all ten workshops which I found extremely informative. If you missed the workshops you can read the Surtex 2012 Conference Re-cap on my Creative Leaps Blog."

It's now been 14 months since she began her art licensing pursuit. "I've finished ten collections with a total of 108 icons, 205 mockups, 165 patterns, 29 borders and 4 designs or 511 art elements. Half of the collections are rather large, so my goal from now until Surtex is to create smaller collections to show a larger variety of themes. This will be my first time exhibiting at Surtex. I am equal parts exited and scared to death!!"

Natalie tells us more about her art licensing adventure: "I am unapologetically perky and so is my art. My tagline is 'Contagiously happy nature and animal art.' My inspiration comes from my gardens, walks in the countryside and the sweet spirit of animals. The work of other artists can also spark a creative fire."

She hand paints her art elements or designs in watercolor, pen and ink, scans the paintings, and then manipulates them in Photoshop to create designs, patterns, borders and mockups. Her last collection, called Rooster Country, was her first attempt at digital painting. "It was a blast! I sketched the 4 roosters, drew their interior patterns and outlined them with a black Micron pen. Then, I scanned and digitally painted them in Photoshop. I really enjoyed the flexibility of being able to change colors without having to redo the whole painting. It was liberating!"

© Natalie Timmons
"You (Alex), Cherish Flieder and few others have mentioned the value you've gotten from art licensing groups. I couldn't find a group like that on the East Coast, so I started one. Although I am very blessed to have incredibly supportive family members and friends, none of them are artists. And, I felt surrounding myself with like-minded people was very important. The first meeting of the Art Licensing Group of New Hampshire was in June and we now have 12 members."

Natalie runs the group similar to a Mastermind group, she says. "I'm a bit of stickler about the members setting and achieving small doable goals. I really believe that taking small progressive steps towards a dream is better than setting off in some vague direction. It's just too easy for life to get in the way of such a wishy-washy undertaking. Each month the members set a goal. I route the list of goals to the members and we hold that intention for each other until the next meeting."

© Natalie Timmons
Her group addresses the concrete aspects of art licensing such as how many pieces should one have in a collection, do they need an agent, copyright law and contracts, marketing, etc. She also adds, "But for some of us, it's not knowledge or lack of talent that holds us back from our dreams; it's our inner gremlins such as fear, low self-esteem or the negative stories we tell ourselves. We tackle those issues too by sharing techniques for overcoming resistance, designing our ideal day, and giving each other support and encouragement … or a gentle kick in the but.

"It has been amazing and wonderful to witness all the information sharing and encouragement that goes on in the group. In just six months one of the members found and signed with an agent. While other members have created new websites or gotten really focused and productive in their creative output."

Natalie also says she secretly wanted to be an artist. "However, when I was young I never thought I was creative. I had friends that could draw amazing things. But drawing never came easy to me so I tried other things like crotchet, tin punching, cross-stitch, quilting, poetry and creative writing.

© Natalie Timmons
They say, 'what you want, wants you' and I think my secret yearning to be an artist attracted me to a creative industry like advertising and marketing and kept me dabbling my way through a variety of creative hobbies until I was ready to own up to being an artist."

When she was 22, she took a decorative painting class at the Creative Cricket in Stratham, NH. The classes were essentially paint by numbers but she was hooked on paint. She painted signs, stools, and holiday decorations. She continues, "Although I've moved well beyond painting other people's designs, I learned a lot about paint and brush control from those early years. I used to practice my decorative strokes while watching TV with my young son at night.

© Natalie Timmons
I took my first watercolor class about ten years later. When I walked into the first class, everyone had an easel and the instructor pointed to a detailed landscape and said draw this. I thought, 'Oh boy, this is a real art class!' From then on, watercolor has been my medium of choice. In fact, I wouldn't touch my acrylics for two years because the whole approach to watercolor was so different. In acrylics, I painted darks to lights. With watercolor, I had to reserve the whites and lights."

Slowly but surely Natalie began painting her own compositions, mostly landscapes, home portraits, and floor mats. In October 2009, she sketched and painted her first frog. "Why is a little frog so exciting? Well, I was trying to channel the light, sweet style of Rachelle Ann Miller whose work I adore. But, my little frog painting came out nothing like her work. My colors are higher key and much more saturated. It was also hand-painted rather than digitally rendered."

© Natalie Timmons
"No matter", she says, "the important thing is that I became obsessed with painting happy little frogs. And, it was in sketching and painting frogs that I gained a lot more confidence in creating my own designs. More importantly I discovered my sweet spot – a way to marry two skills that I love – graphic design and painting. So, in a strange and wonderful way, my cute little frogs led me to the possibilities of illustration and art licensing."

These days, her primary goal is to keep designing and painting a greater variety of images and themes so her style and voice evolve more strongly. "I'm a firm believer that my art, and my heart, will show me the way."

You can learn more about Natalie at:

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