Monday, July 15, 2013

An Idea that Stands the Test of Time - Artist Diane Beginnes-Phalen

How important is to do research for companies that are a match for your art? I have been asking myself this question over and over for some time. One answer to this riddle is within this interview, in fact I want to thank my very talented guest, artist Diane Beginnes-Phalen, for sharing her amazing story with us this week.

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - My name is Diane Beginnes-Phalen. I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and in my early 20's I moved to California. I packed up my car and drove cross-country by myself. I wanted to attend college and was able to go to San Jose University in San Jose, California. I wanted to study art but was encouraged to study engineering instead. I was employed by two different companies while studying. I worked on ships and submarines at Mare Island Shipyard in Vallejo, California and military tanks at FMC in San Jose. I did drafting for the ships and welding drafting for the tanks. In my off hours, of which there were few, I painted! My schedule consisted of 60 hour work weeks and 16 credit courses. I survived on a few hours of sleep nightly.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Amish Roadside Market

I was fortunate to finally be able to do my art full time. I still free-lanced technical drawing for various California companies and did art shows every weekend. At one of my shows a lady admired one of my paintings which included quilts and invited me to exhibit at a Quilt Guild show. That began my wonderful experience in the Quilting World - the Quilters I met were as passionate about their quilting as I was with my art! To this day I am amazed at what they do with I can hardly sew a stitch. It's the reason I say that "I quilt with my paintbrush."

The Americana Quilt series was born some 20 years ago and is still going strong. In those 20 years I moved around, living in California and Oregon, was married, divorced and came back home again to Pennsylvania. I have been "home" 8 years already. My life was very full with having my Mom and Dad close by once again; it was difficult to be so far in miles from them. My Dad sadly passed away at the wonderful age of 87. My Mom is my constant joy and I visit with her several times a week.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Harvest Quilts

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? My art has always been a part of me. I always loved the colors in nature and am still amazed at a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or thunderstorms; I love watching the wildlife that surrounds my home in Allentown, Pennsylvania - baby foxes, bunnies, cardinals, and deer.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? My art is always exciting because it is always a challenge! I start out with an idea and watch it evolve before me. Sometimes it changes but it always surprises me.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Holiday Airing

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I work mainly in watercolor but sometimes I add acrylic, ink and colored pencil. Every painting starts with a penciled outline, then watercolor washes. I use lots of brushes from the tiny single hair to large 2" brush and even a slant bristle. I absolutely love watercolors from Daniel Smith in Seattle, Washington. I used to love to shop in their warehouse but must now shop by mail order!!
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I have always been drawing since I can remember. My greatest inspiration was going into the woods that surrounded my home. It was here that I discovered nature, wildflowers and all the beautiful birds and wildlife that go in to my art. Every day after school nature was my teacher. I filled up sketchbook after sketchbook. I think it is so important that an artist observe shadows and detail before working in color.

My parents gave me my first oil-painting kit when I was 13. I painted for years in oils and always hated the turpentine smell that filled my studio. I picked up a watercolor kit and started experimenting with it. It was so much fun. I found a book on watercolors by artist Zoltan Szabo. I could not believe it when I saw he had a week long watercolor workshop near by!! I signed up for it and met a man who loved watercolors and teaching. His demonstrations and happy, positive vibes filled me with inspiration. I have all his books and took several more workshops through the years. He is gone now, but his art lives on in all his students. This was to be my only formal training in art and painting!

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Hole In Barn Door

The quilt inspiration in my art came when I was in my early 30's. I was driving a back road and saw a country store that I just fell in love with. I took photographs and even met the owners who ran it as a quaint market. Stepping inside their doors was like stepping back in time with old floors and counters and their friendly welcome. I decided to put quilts on the porch when I painted "Country Store Quilts." Everyone loved this painting at my art shows. From this I decided to do another scene featuring quilts, "Amish Spring," then I could not stop! I had to do all the seasons:  "Harvest Quilts," "Holiday Airing," ... to this day I am inspired by quilts, their history, patterns, and colors!

Inspiration for the quilts came to me even more as I was asked to exhibit and sell my watercolor quilts at Quilt Guild shows. While at the show I was able to see all the beautiful quilts that were made by the quilters especially for the show. I took so many photographs. I have tubs of them in my basement (before digital and computers). Today, I still look at them and am inspired.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I started art licensing over 20 years ago. I was at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas with a booth when a company approached me about publishing my art on note cards and tins. I was just starting out and was thrilled. I did not have a lot to offer with my art other then originals. The originals were a high price ticket purchase. It was great to be able to offer my art in a more affordable price range. The company paid a royalty and I was able to purchase my cards and tins from them. It increased my sales significantly.

Other companies then approached me to have prints, calendars, puzzles and fabric manufactured by them. I was able to have the products to sell at my shows. With the capital I was also able to sell my art as prints and limited edition prints. I also printed more note cards and was able to wholesale and retail my art. I was then asked to author several books. One was a "how to paint" book, the other two books were stories about my quilts and how to make them into quilting and fabric projects.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Amish Spring

I did licensing for years, attending shows and contacting companies. I am currently working with a licensing agent, Lance Klass at Porterfield's Fine Art Licensing. I was looking for more free time to paint and found that Lance has lots of contacts and excellent insights into the market.

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? Most important is to have a unique style and especially important a series that go together. My niche is the quilts. Some artists specialize in a wildlife or flower theme. It's very important to have your very own style and ideas.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think the market is good and there are always companies looking for art for their products. The match just has to be made! I also think that brands seem to always be there. The tried and true seem to last forever. I am always seeing existing images still going strong. For example, Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, Thomas Kinkade, Suzy's Zoo, or comic book heroes such as Superman. They are all celebrating 30 or more years in the industry.

So if you can develop an idea that stands the test of time it is priceless. I use to make my contacts through mailers and phone calls to companies. Fortunately, I now have a good licensing agent in Lance Klass making contacts for me. Now contacts are digital. Companies want to see your art on disk. Responses are quick and instant thanks to the computer age of e-mails.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Country Store Quilts

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Most importantly always be aware of the trends and colors that are coming into vogue. There are companies that research what will be happening years in advance. Trends come again years later too. If it was popular before it will be popular again!

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Most importantly, do not copy what is already out there. For some artists this might work but I think your own unique vision is more important. Besides watching out for trends and colors, paint what you love - the Quilts are what I love. I love that they are functional for the family home but also an art form. The colors, stitches, ideas are a painting in fabric! I love that for me they are exciting to work into a painting. There are so many traditional patterns that can be worked into a concept. Ocean Waves, Log Cabin Quilts, Hole in the Barn Door, the list goes on forever!

Diane's website:
Diane's blog:

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