Monday, July 8, 2013

Products that People Use and Live with - Artists Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick

If you look under the tabs above this post you will notice that we have changed the layout a little bit to fit in a new page called The Moon from My Attic Artist Doodle Museum. This page will feature all artists who came by our booth at Surtex 2013 and left a cute doodle on our board along with a link to their respective websites. It will be a permanent tribute and each year after Surtex we will post the new doodle board for that show!

And not to worry, if you don't plan to go or exhibit at Surtex, we will have a special surprise in the future. In fact, there are a few surprises in store! So don't forget to occasionally check this page and see what else is going to be part of our Artist Doodle Museum!

To add more excitement to our week, I am pleased to present a new interview with two special guests and veteran artists we met at Surtex this year, the talented Andrea and Dennis Brooks. They too are a family business, both of whom are talented and licensed with many great companies.

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - Hi, I am Andrea Brooks, watercolorist and licensing artist. Dennis Kendrick is a graphic designer, cartoonist and licensing artist and also my husband.

Artists Dennis Kendrick and Andrea Brooks
We met when we were both children's book illustrators starting out in the business. Soon we had joined forces and moved into my loft. A year later we were married. Over the years our careers moved in a winding path - we were freelance illustrators working in the fields of editorial and advertising, cosmetic and food packaging, watercolor painting, cartooning, digital art and web design. Ten years later, I made the move into art licensing. Dennis followed and before long we began to team up on projects. I a watercolor painter and Dennis a designer. Andrea Brooks Studio now was run by two artists.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place?

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
Andrea: I loved any form of art as a small child and was always drawing. It was going to the HS of Music and Art as an art student that really crystallized my love and talent for art. I guess some of the real early influences were the John Nagy drawing kit. That's when I learned how to shade. It was very exciting. And paint by numbers. And then of course going to Music and art High School, definitely. I spent every Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum with my friends from High School. We drew from sculptures. That's how I really learned to draw.

Dennis: Agreed that early on for me it was the John Nagy kit. But here I diverge. The other big influence were cartoonists and comics. I went to the Paier School or Art in Connecticut where I studied a broad range of art including commercial art and design. I also played in my high school band and the choice was between music and art. I think I made the right decision.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work?  Andrea: I love the entire process. Getting an idea and letting it develop. Collecting references. Watching a concept evolve as I get to the drawing stage. My drawings are usually very spare. Then the truly fun part for me comes which is the watercolor painting. And that's not the end. We scan the art and bring it into photoshop and Dennis and I sit together and work on the final design. He does most of it. I get to oooh and aaah and once in a while suggest a change. Before I worked with Dennis I did the complete painting myself. I'd like to get back to doing some of that again.

Dennis: I work digitally and just let the design take shape as I move along. I love it when a design all starts to come together. It's fun to get an assignment that gets me to move in a completely new direction. Recently I was approached to create the art for a set of e-books based on books that I had done years ago with Seymour Simon, a well known children's science writer. It was fun to do a more cartoony and wackier style for a change. And of course I love working with my wife!

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing?

Andrea: Well, I started licensing at least 20 years ago on a small scale. At the time I was doing editorial and advertising illustration. Little by little I made the shift to licensing. I was interested in it at first when I learned about the royalties. I like being part of a business where the end results are actual products that people use and live with. I like the marketplace and I enjoy the close contact with other artists in this field. Dennis as I said came aboard around 10 years ago when we did our first collaborative project for Plaid. We did three decoupage kits.

Dennis: I've been aboard for around 10-15 years. I like the freedom to come up with your own ideas. And ditto what Andrea has said.

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? We started doing Surtex together. At first Dennis didn't take to this new market. I stuck with it and began to make a name for myself and then eventually got a rep. That's around when Dennis joined me. We do Surtex every year since we have been working together. Now we also go to Atlanta in July and January to see manufacturers. After this year we'll go only in January. That's really the big show time.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? As I said we did work with an agent for around 9 years. Eventually we decided it was time to go off on our own. 

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? They should go to Surtex and walk the show and talk to artists. Make contacts and learn how other artist are representing themselves and how they put together a booth. It's necessary to have other artists in this business to talk with. Put together or get help doing a professional quality web site. And these days be active in social networking sites such as Facebook, Linked in and perhaps blogging.

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? They are always looking for something fresh and new. This year we found manufacturers were still interested in nature themes, patterns and florals. I, Andrea, had put in time developing a freer, fresher watercolor look in florals and got very good feedback on this style.

TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2013-2014? We usually look to fashion and tabletop to see what trends are.The tabletop shows in NYC are very helpful and we read a lot of trade magazines: Gift and Decorative Accessories, Retailer, and Giftware News to name a few. The fall shows should give a better idea of the new trends going forward.

We think that nature, birds, florals and patterns will go forward. Owls may continue. Bright colors. However, we've been seeing a return to neutrals in the home decor industry which is also a trend setter.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Really love what you are doing because you are going to do a lot of work on spec. That was something that was a no no when we were doing editorial and advertising illustration. Now we accept it as part of this market. Although 10 years ago I must say more companies were paying advances or comp fees. Go to a lot of trade shows. Make contacts at the shows and follow up afterwards. That's how I got my first really important licensing project.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? It allows for a lot of creativity. Don't pen yourself in trying to do what you think the manufacturers want. On the other hand when you get a submission list or a suggestion from a manufacturer of what they are looking for go for it. Timing is important because there is a lot of competition from wonderful artists.

Try not to spend time comparing yourself with other artists. We all do it some of the time, but limit the amount of that time. The alternative is to admire, learn from and connect with these artists. Have fun with it!

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