Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Artist Rose Berlin


The artist community in general is so friendly and generous. I feel fortunate to be part of it and to be able to bring amazing stories to the world through this blog. It's my pleasure to share tales from all walks of life and help dissect this very complex maze called art licensing. Thank you all for your continued participation and support through your one-of-a-kind interviews, articles, and your always lovely comments and emails.

The artist I'm featuring this week is Rose Berlin. She and I became friends through a Linkedin forum when I first started in licensing and we met in person at Surtex last year. She was very helpful answering many questions I had - a very dynamic and giving person she is!

Artist Rose Berlin
Rose grew up close to NYC and attended the School of Visual Arts. She says: "It was a relief to know I could have a career in art that didn't involve starving in an attic! My first jobs were in the advertising, editorial and education markets. I had taken one little course in Children's Book illustration, and by the time I had my kids, I decided to try it because the deadlines weren't as stressful."

She has been illustrating children's books since around 1994 and discovered Surtex while walking the National Stationery Show in 2003. In 2006, she tried Surtex for the first time. Rose adds: "Even though I didn't feel quite ready, I learned so much by being an exhibitor and met lots of helpful people."

© Rose Berlin
Naturally, her early style - she comments - was similar to her children's book work. "Cute animals, bright colors. But I found that style appealed to a limited market. My art was all over the place and I didn't have enough in any one category. I'm still experimenting with different themes; I did some dog images and they were well received and now I'm painting Santas and Christmas subjects. I feel like I'm still evolving and trying to find a look that I can create volumes of work with and not get burnt out. I usually start most paintings traditionally - using watercolor and gouache on Arches watercolor paper.

Lately I have tried using permanent markers like Pitt pens or Coptic markers (inspired by Mary Engelbriet!)." I also use Photoshop to add more details, borders or reshape. This skill is essential to making your art suit your clients needs. My Santa's List image was originally him and the kitten sitting by the fire. Vermont Christmas Company wanted to use it for a puzzle but needed more detail. So I painted the cat, puppy, gift, teddy and the coatrack separately and put them on layers. It's a best seller for them now!"

© Rose Berlin
Rose is developing a new collection inspired by sketching on a brown paper bag. "I loved the earthiness – and working with pencils. But kraft paper doesn't take paint well so I do a gouache and watercolor undertone on watercolor paper. I have been doing woodland scenes with bears and other American animals. I hope to have a farm/country collection in time for Surtex as well. I think this style will work beautifully on recycled paper products and maybe burlap, which I hear is popular now."

As you know she launched her art licensing at Surtex. She also tried CHA in LA, the Atlanta Gift Show, and last June she tried the Licensing Expo. "Each has its own strengths," Rose says. I have licensed my art on cards, puzzles, flags, gift bags, and so on. I feel the buyers who attend Surtex are the ones who will be most interested in my images."

© Rose Berlin
"I have to say, probably half of my licenses I found outside of shows, either contacting them myself or they contacted me through my website. Ultimately, I hope to have licenses in calendars and prints - I think of myself as more of a painter than a designer. My strategy will be to carefully research where I want my art to be and pursue those goals. I have a million ideas, but there are only 24 hrs in a day so I do have to choose the ideas that will lead to my goals."

One unexpected and exciting license that is happening now with Rose is that her art is being tested for a direct mail campaign. She says: " I can't say who, yet! It's the kind that sends you mailing labels and stickers, asking for donations. They judge by sending a limited mailing using 3 different artist's work- whoever brings in the most donations wins the campaign for next year. So if you get an envelope with a cute yellow duck in red boots please be generous!"

© Rose Berlin
As she grows her art licensing business, she continues to work in children's books and magazines. Rose continues saying that she worries that it might slow down her progress in licensing but she also thinks she has learned techniques that work in either field and make her a better artist overall. "Writing my own books would be another goal I would love to achieve. I feel fortunate that I am in a position to have this flexibility and I owe that to the emotional and financial support of my husband of 25 yrs! One day I hope I can return the favor and  give him the freedom to pursue his dreams."

Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience, Alex! I look forward to seeing everyone in May at Surtex, Booth 355.

© Rose Berlin
You can find more about Rose Berlin through her website: www.rosemaryberlin.com

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