Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Professional Approach to a New Design Field: Art Licensing

There are many approaches you can take when entering into a new design field, or any field for that matter. One can go about doing it in any old way and end up with a result - though it may not be the result you intend. I have been pondering about that for myself and I've concluded that a professional approach to any endeavor is the best way to go. Why not win at it? But more importantly, what does it mean to take a professional approach? Indeed, what does it mean to be a professional? A great example for me is how artist Regina Chiu has decided to approach art licensing. She shares her views on what it means to approach a new endeavor in a professional way in this very informative interview.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? First, I want to thank you for featuring me in a post for your site. I feel honored to be included among the other established and successful artists and designers you have interviewed.

© Regina Chiu - BB&B
I started off as a fine art painter in school. When I moved to NYC after graduation, I wasn’t sure what I would do. I had a nice job working in a high end poster gallery called Poster Originals, Ltd. On Madison Ave. for a few years. They printed posters for the National Gallery, MOMA, as well as printed limited edition silk screens and posters of major artists like Willem DeKooning, Will Barnet, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana just to name a few. I became very good at recognizing specific artists' work on site and it's also where I fell in love with Wolf Kahn – well, his paintings, anyway.  

© Regina Chiu - Stark Carpet
After that I landed a job at Stark Carpet, a custom carpet and rug manufacturer to the trade. I knew less than nothing about design, but I could paint. The Art Director who hired me told me, "I can teach you about design, but I can't teach you how to paint. That you already know how to do, the rest is easy." I eventually became one of the more requested artists to design the more complicated custom Aubussons and Savonneries. I did other types of wovens for the home interior market for several years, but I was getting bored and needed a new challenge.

I eventually became the Art Director at PTS America, a dinnerware manufacturer selling the brands 222 Fifth, Westbury Court and Coventry.  The job eventually morphed into an 'on contract' position that allowed me to work from home.  I've created dinnerware for Home Goods, Target, TJ Maxx, Ross Simons and Macy's.  I’ve had my designs in Pier 1, Bloomingdales, Bed Bath & Beyond, Horchow and Z Gallerie

© Regina Chiu - Home Goods
I've also had the good fortune of creating art for Crane & Co. for stationery and desktop collections. While working at PTS I completed the Botanical Illustration Certificate program at the New York Botanical Gardens some years ago. This has had a huge influence on my fine art, but also improved my skill level immensely.

At the moment I am working towards creating designs that I hope will land some licensing deals. I am also trying to pursue my own art and illustration work, separate from design.
TMFMA:  What is exciting about your creative work? I've always done some freelance work throughout the years, but recently it's become my full time job. Although it is a bit scary and daunting, especially when I look at all the talent that is out there, I can't help but feel excited about the possibilities. I am confident that my experience and skill level will get me where I want to go and I look forward to sitting down each morning and getting to work creating something new.
© Regina Chiu for TJ Maxx
TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? I have been drawing for as long as I can remember; a theme, I am sure, that is repeated amongst creative people. However, I remember winning a drawing contest in the third grade and having my drawing featured in the local paper – a star is born. Ok, maybe that is taking things a bit too far, but it certainly lit the fire. Equally, I will never forget the chance that David Setlow gave me at Stark Carpet when he hired me. I don't know what I would be doing now if he hadn’t taken a chance on me.

As for inspiration, I find it everywhere. No detail is too small or insignificant when it comes to design. It can be a painting, an ad in a magazine, a pattern I see in nature. I just never know what and when an idea will hit me so I try to keep a sketchbook with me to write down my ideas or make a quick sketch.  I found that when I wasn't as diligent about doing this I wasn't as creative or I would forget what I saw or the idea that I had.
© Regina Chiu - Crane & Co.
TMFMA: What project are you currently working on?  Project 'ME.' In other words, defining and developing a body of work that will hopefully lead to some licensing deals. While I am best known for my botanical illustrations, I don't have a look' per se. I am trying to figure out if it is better for me to be as diverse as I am or if having a certain look that is recognizable is best. I imagine for branding purposes, being recognized is a good thing, but I haven't decided if being a brand is what I want (It's so nice to dream).

I guess it would be fair to say I am also working on getting designs together for the NY Tabletop show in October. This is my comfort zone, so it feels like home (no pun intended) when I am creating for this category.
© Regina Chiu - Crane & Co.
TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an aspiring art licensing artist. My experience in licensing comes from the licensee side of things. In dinnerware we licensed artists to do collections or licensed from Art Reps who had an artist we were interested in. Recently, I have been taking a lot of workshops and seminars on licensing from the artist perspective. Some copyright workshops on the side haven't hurt either!

I've only recently landed a very small license deal with Ann Scott Designs for a line of botanical stationery and have another pending license deal for the same. I'm not sure this field was so much a choice as a natural progression for me. As a designer who has been working in the industry for a long time, it was an untapped resource for me.  I know it's going to be a tough row to hoe, but I am up for the challenge.

© Regina Chiu - Ann Scott Designs
I haven't decided on trade shows yet. I am talking to a fellow designer about this so it is still an unknown. It is a huge investment so if I am going to do it, I want to be prepared with a sufficient amount of work.
TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I'm not much of a long term planner. I try to set reasonable short term goals; if something is too big or too far away, I become distracted or disinterested because it seems less attainable. At the moment the goal is putting together work for the NY Tabletop show in October while at the same time creating work for other surface design categories with the hope of landing a licensing deal.....or two....

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Below are more lovely images and links for Regina's designs and products. You can also find her on Linkedin and she has her own blog, too.

Regina's Target Damask has been in the top 10 best selling patterns 
for the last 3-4 years, holding the #1 spot several time. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Contemporary Whimiscal

This is a new series of editorials on styles, themes and techniques, as they pertain to art licensing - I realized that this is where my thoughts are right now while preparing my own collections. What's my message, and what about my style? What themes am I going to develop? And what are the best techniques to bring them to life?

I think a few basic, general definitions of the key terms will help enlighten the quest. According to the New Oxford American dictionary:

• Style - a manner of doing something; a way of painting, writing, composing, building, etc., characteristic of a particular period, place, person, or movement.

• Theme - the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person's thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.

• Technique - a way of carrying out a particular task, esp. the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure; a skill or ability in a particular field.

In the next several weeks I want to publish articles about other artists who are willing to share and help illustrate the styles, themes and techniques that could be employed for creating art for licensing; we can all learn from each other.

In this first article I will show an example of a beautiful whimsical style of textile work created by Australian artist Natalie Ryan - she loves painting using a loosely layered water-color technique when creating adult designs while her children's designs are bright, whimsical and inspired by picture book stories. For these, she uses thematic approach of 'telling a story' within her designs.

Natalie Ryan's design
To tell you a little bit about Natalie, she grew up on a farm in the state of Victoria, Australia, from a long line of farming families. Her grandmothers though had an interest in painting and textile handcrafts.

She graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Textile Design in 1995, pre computer era, and has managed to avoid designing on the computer ever since, apart from a few stripes, checks and basic jacquard designs.

Natalie was employed as a textile designer at the Australian bed linen company Sheridan before traveling overseas and settling in London for two years, where she freelanced for a home furnishing textile design studio.
Natalie Ryan's design
Once she returned to Melbourne she was employed as a textile designer at Linen House, another bed linen company. In 2005 she was given the opportunity to design the children's bed linen range ‘Hiccups’, which soon took up most of her design time. A few months ago she decided to become a freelance artist and started exploring the possibilities of licensing her artwork.

She has collaborated alongside some great mentors during her career, and one in particular is the successful licensing artist Chris Chun, who is now based in Thailand.

Natalie's favorite painting medium is Designers Gouache – she tends to stick to the Winsor and Newton range for reliability and pigment fastness. They're my favorite ones, too.  She enjoys using a variety of printmaking techniques in her design work including lino-cut, mono print and woodblock, and she loves her tin of Faber Castell Polychromos pencils (they travel with her everywhere).

© Natalie Ryan
She has a few projects in the works designing bed linens for children and adults. She is also pretty busy designing for a couple of customers who contacted her via her blog.  It goes to show how important having a blog is to get your name out there. You never know who might be reading!

Art licensing is definitely something she'd like to tackle over the next few months. Her to-do list includes designing cards and stationery, designing a fabric collection, designing for tabletop and she would love to try her hand at children’s book illustration. She has recently started taking lessons in Adobe Illustrator.

Here are some additional images of her lovely designs.

© Natalie Ryan

© Natalie Ryan

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Chemistry for Licensing Art - An Interview with Joan Beiriger

This past week I have been busy creating backgrounds for my artwork. I discovered that this is an important factor in creating interesting art for products. I like to sketch the main elements and hand paint them, then scan them, and finally alter them in Photoshop, so I have many layers to play with. A bit time consuming but very effective and fun!

I think that our featured guest this week, artist Joan Beiriger, will agree with me on using Photoshop for backgrounds. As usual, her advice is very thoughtful and useful for a newbie to read. Here is what she has to say:

Artist Joan Beiriger
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - I am Joan Beiriger and I design art for products although I did not start my career as an artist. I have a BS degree in geology and worked as a chemist at a national laboratory until 2002. During that time, I tried all sorts of crafts from wood and stone carving to various needlearts such as needlepoint, quilting, and blackwork. I am a great believer that anyone can learn to do anything if they try. I discovered counted cross-stitch in the mid 1980s and decided to design my own charts when I could not find designs that I wanted to stitch. That led into a business of selling my designs to magazines, to kit manufacturers (licensing was not an option then), and my own mail order business. By the late 1990s, I was searching for another way to express my creativity when I heard a presentation about art licensing by Suzy Spafford (Suzy's Zoo) at a Society of Craft Designers seminar.  So I taught myself to paint via instruction books and started my quest in researching the art licensing industry by going to the 1999 Licensing Show in New York.

© Joan Beiriger
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I love to brainstorm about new concepts and create new art collections that I hope manufacturers will license for their products and consumers will buy.  An extension to creating art is learning about the business side of licensing art. The whole process is challenging and learning information about the industry is fascinating. Sharing information via my blog and networking with others interested in art licensing is very rewarding.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I started painting with acrylics but I now use Adobe Photoshop and sometimes water color washes for backgrounds.  I like the freedom that I have when using water colors to create backgrounds but I like the control I have when painting images digitally. I use many layers in Photoshop which makes it easy to edit my art to manufacturer specifications. Besides using Photoshop, I use Adobe Illustrator and Corel Painter to create various effects that I include in my work.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I am inspired by so many things that it is hard to just mention one thing.  I love nature and especially flowers, butterflies and birds and am constantly photographing them for my huge reference library. I am inspired by artist Alphonse Mucha and other graphic artists that created Art Nouveau style designs in the 1880 and 1890s. I especially love the Art Nouveau gracefulness of stylized flowers and vines as they twist and swerve around one another.
© Joan Beiriger
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I started researching the art licensing industry in the late 1990s. But I did not start licensing my art until 2007. The reason is that I had to first learn how to paint and create art for products while I held a full time job and dealt with family commitments. 

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? I have walked the Licensing Show and Surtex and exhibited at the 2009 and 2010 Atlanta Gift Show to market my art. I signed on with an art licensing agency in 2009 and no longer exhibit because my agent manages the marketing of my art including exhibiting at shows.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I have an agent, Joan Sargent of JMS Art Licensing. 

TMFMA: How does a new artist "find" a match for their art with the right manufacturers? How does one go about researching this? It is crucial to know the limitations of your art for products. Not all art styles or themes are suitable for all products. For instance, collage style art works for home décor but not for decorative flags (those need central images that "pop"). A whimsical style art works for children's products or playful products such as for garden accessories but is not licensable for adult home décor. And illustrative designs with lots of "white" space works for some greeting cards but not for jig-saw puzzles (those need art that fills the space to make it difficult to solve). Finding the right manufacturer for your art takes time and hard work. Researching the different industries via the internet, reading blog articles, "window" shopping, and walking trade shows are just a few ways to find the right manufacturers for your art.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts.
The licensing industry has gotten much more competitive than it was even five years ago. There are more artists trying to license their art while there are less manufacturers licensing art and less retail stores selling products with licensed art. Artists that are successful have created many art themes that consumer want and have partnered with manufacturers that license their art year-after-year.

© Joan Beiriger
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? What do you think the main trends are for 2011-2012? The major interest this year (2011) to manufacturers is finding art that sells their products. Because of the poor economy, most manufacturers are NOT willing to take many chances so they are asking for the same art themes as last year. Those themes are dependant on the products they manufacture and that are wanted by their retail clients. But overall, flowers, coastal images, and roosters are popular for everyday and Santa and snowmen for Christmas. 

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field and that want to exhibit in a show like Surtex? I advise artists new to art licensing not to "jump the gun" and exhibit at a show before they are prepared. It is very expensive to exhibit ($8,000 to $15,000 for booth fee, travel, lodging, banners, and marketing materials). Artists need to do their homework and walk the different shows (Surtex, Licensing Expo, Atlanta Gift Show, and Craft & Hobby Association) to see which one best fits their art. They should have a robust body of art (preferably hundreds of paintings) with a variety of themed collections to enhance their chance in getting deals. 

Artists should be prepared to exhibit at least three years in a row before they "start" to see a return in the cost of exhibiting. It takes time to build relationships with manufacturers. Also, NEW exhibitors are placed in the less desirable booths with poorer visibility at the rear of the show floor. By exhibiting year-after-year, artists have the opportunity to move to a more desirable location and better visibility when booth space becomes available.

© Joan Beiriger
It is also important to already have some manufacturer contacts before exhibiting at a show so appointments can be set-up. Existing contacts and appointments may make or break the success of a show. Normally artists that contact manufacturers, try to get deals, and build relationships and awareness of their art BEFORE they exhibit the first time are the ones that have a successful show.

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? If an artist wants to be successful in art licensing, she/he needs to create popular art themes in collections with product mock-ups to present to manufacturers.  Following-up after submitting art to manufacturers is imperative. The more art the artist has the better. Also, new art collections need to be continuously created and older collections refreshed.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Brief Tips & Tricks in Art Licensing

Here are more key tips & tricks I get from networking and in reading up about licensing from blogs or books. I'm sharing them as I go - again, these are not laws set in stone, just comments I thought could be helpful in some situations.

• The twice a year (January and July) Atlanta Gift Show at the Atlanta Gift Mart is apparently a great way to meet art licensing directors. They are willing to look at art if they have time. This is a friendly trade show where artists are welcomed. 

In art licensing one important thing to understand is which market your art is suited for - CHA's buyers are all about craft & scrap-booking with some exceptions. Atlanta is for the gift industry, garden, pets, Christmas decorations, ceramic, home decor, rugs, and hardly any paper/stationery buyers. Paper and stationary are at Surtex, along with puzzles, fabric, gift bags, characters, etc. 

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If you have any additional or contrary tips that you'd like to share, please leave a comment! I'll share more tips and tricks that I uncover in the weeks to come. By the way, have you started on your portfolio or collections yet?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Inspired by Nature - Licensed Artist Bambi Papais

I have now blogged for almost two months about my adventures in the art licensing field. I've been reading up on blogs, following forums, going to local licensing meetings, and also networking with several helpful and friendly artists who have shared with me some of their experiences. I'll continue to publish their advice, tips & tricks as part of my new series of editorials called Art Licensing Tips & Tricks - the first article came out a couple of days ago in case you missed it. 

It appears that two major underlying threads to be successful in this profession are creating art for products and research. Whether one decides to have an agent or venture alone into the industry, it seems that those two factors are key. And this is also what our talented guest artist Bambi Papais tells us today.

Artist Bambi Papais
The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I've had an interest in art as long as I can remember.  As a child, I remember coloring and doodling as a big part of growing up. Through the years, art has always been  a part of my life. I started painting with watercolors in the early eighties and have continued with it ever since. I'm basically self taught with a handful of workshops over the years. Though I do dabble with colored pencil, acrylic and a few other mediums, I really prefer watercolor as I know it so well and I love the look you can get from it.
TMFMA:  What is exciting about your creative work? Vivid color and fun patterns!! My work ranges from serious, realistic botanicals to whimsical fun crazy colored flowers with frogs. I tend to paint loads of tulips with vibrant multicolored patterns on their petals and usually a frog (maybe even a fairy) or bug hanging around. These types of paintings often make people do a double take to see what it is that is catching their eye. It might be a frog with a party hat hiding in the flowers. And the flowers aren't always your traditional colors.  
© Bambi Papais

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? I have several favorite artists both past and present whose work I love and have been influenced by. Even though I certainly don't paint like them, their artwork is just so delicious I hope little bits of it are imprinted in my brain for reference. There are so many good artists around, it's hard just to name a few but ... Past: Cicely Mary Barker, Kate Greenaway, Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish. And present: Daniel Merriman, Patience Brewster, Marjolein Bastin (there are tons more, but these a few off the top of my head). I'm inspired with the whimsy and the imaginary aspect that many of these artists present while still offering a realistic approach. I'm inspired by nature. I LOVE flowers and gardens and things growing. Birds and butterflies are amazing!!!  A hummingbird flitting by or a shy bluebird, what a treat!
TMFMA: Tell us your experience as an art licensing artist - In the early 90's there were some trade shows called "Art Buyers Caravan." I exhibited in Southern California and San Francisco with the ABC shows. That was some good exposure at the time. Artists were just starting to get in the licensing business. About the same time a small card company licensed my work for his card line. That card company was represented at several gift shows (which was my first exposure to the Gift Show business). Though that card company is no longer in business, he had such good exposure at the time, that a larger company, Bentley Publishing Group contacted me and I worked with them for several years both in the print department and licensing. The Bentley Group acted as my agent in licensing for many years.

© Bambi Papais
They were able to get my work on many products such as throws, rugs, stationery, fabric, figurines, puzzles, gift bags, stitchery and other  items. In working with them, they "matched" my artwork to the right manufacturers and there was always a discussion to make sure we were all in agreement. I was a guest with the Bentley Group at a licensing show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York a few years ago. It was very exciting to walk the show and see what was going on in the world of licensing. It was an eye opener to see how big the licensing business is now. It was also very gracious of them to let me be their guest! I would say if anyone was thinking about exhibiting in a trade show, go visit one first, even if you have to pay a fee it would be worth it. Exhibiting in any trade show is very costly, so do some research first. Now, since there are helpful licensing groups such as found on Linkedin, an artist can get tons of help from fellow artists for all kinds of information.  

© Bambi Papais
TMFMA: What would be your most fundamental advice to new aspiring licensing artists? Keep researching and reading (oh, and creating, too). There is so much good information out there. Persevere!! Trends come and go, don't get hurt when they go, be ready for the next something good around the corner. 

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? It was a wonderful experience to work with the Bentley Publishing Group but I have decided to give it a try on my own.  Sooo ... if the right agent came along ... I don’t know ... maybe. Even though I am not actually new at this, I feel new due to the fact that I'm trying it on my own. We’ll see and I'm very excited. I have some great opportunities happening!!!  

Visit Bambi's website and shop or find her on Facebook.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brief Tips & Tricks in Art Licensing

I have started noting down some key tips & tricks I get from networking and in reading up about licensing from blogs or books. I'll start sharing them as I go. These are not laws set in stone, just comments I thought could be helpful in some situations.

• At a licensing group meeting a licensed artist/agent recommended to start building up your collections with three basic themes: Halloween, Christmas and birthdays, since these drive a large percentage of licensing deals.

• For those interested in finding an agent, there is a large spectrum of opinions. I've heard it suggested that you have a complete portfolio with some 200-300 pieces of artwork, or 8 collections of 4-24 pieces each, or 3 basic collections with 50-75 illustrations total, depending on the agent, your technical and design skills plus your understanding of the market. There are some exceptions to the above in that some artists get an agent even before they develop full collections, but these are apparently rare instances - their art is very fresh, unique or some sought-after style.

• The ability to develop innovative concepts that can be used for multiple product applications, which can also be applied across multiple categories, is much more important than having a large stack of illustrations.

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If you have any additional or contrary tips that you'd like to share, please leave a comment! I'll share more tips and tricks that I uncover in the weeks to come. By the way, Surtex 2012 is only about 260 days away!