Monday, October 31, 2011

Style, Theme and Technique - Whimsy Retro-Chic

I have been more and more intrigued by art created with a theme in mind - a theme seems to be a vital part of the overall communication in an illustration or a design. Many great masters painted by theme, successful architects and designers have created thematic pieces, and most popular music follows a similar formula. 

Since we already defined the word Theme and explored a bit about the Whimsical and Folk styles in past articles, today I want to introduce a new concept with two additional terms. According to the New Oxford American dictionary:

Retro - imitative of a style, fashion, or design from the recent past. 

Chic - elegantly and stylishly fashionable.

Artist Monica Lee and her dog
Hmmm ... what would be a whimsy retro-chic style? And how would a thematic design apply to such style? What are the techniques that make it so popular and so well loved? Well, all these questions are answered by a very fun and fashionista artist, who will help illustrate the point: Monica Lee! - She is an illustrator, licensed artist and textile designer. Her sources of inspiration - books, interior design and fashion - are sources which are also close to my heart. She has done a fabulous job creating around these concepts. She says, "my main source of inspiration are books - I have so many! Interior design and fashion get ideas going. I am also inspired by the joy of everyday life, the small things that make it beautiful. The aroma of fresh coffee, a curious child, the sound of laughter. I am an eternal optimist, I think the world is bright and everyday is worth enjoying!"

Monica defines her artistic style as clean, fresh and feminine. She likes to use expressive line work and she tends to use a clear color palette. She thinks that it comes from her background as a watercolorist - "No muddy colors allowed!".

© Monica Lee
Monica paints, blogs, and gabs over at her little spot of sunshine on the web, she says. She also enjoys watching trends in all sorts of areas from publishing, to fashion, to craft, to the gift market and interpreting them into her art. Incorporating writing and encouragement in her art has become a passion of hers.

"I suppose my underlying artistic theme has to do with femininity. Whether I am designing something sophisticated or childlike the line work has a delicate hand to it. I do really enjoy chic girly art. I have illustrated book covers for several tween book series. I surround myself with interesting women and was a flight attendant for years so I think I appreciate what makes women tick" - Monica says.

© Monica Lee
Everything she does is hand drawn. She creates art by hand and then goes into Photoshop and paints it. Digital color is bright and offers a lot of options but she also watercolors some of her collections and then scans it all. She says she has become a master at scanning watercolor. She even paints the work in pieces, scans it, then merges it in Photoshop, which keeps everything clean and crisp.

I asked Monica what is exciting about her creative work and she said, " the end result is always the most exciting part. I love when the art resonates with someone, makes them smile or laugh. As much as I get a kick out of the process of creating, I am really creating for others. I am not the 'art for arts sake' kind of person like so many others. I am more of an 'art for people' sake. I am coming to realize that that statement doesn't just mean I am a commercial artist, it means that I am offering my skills, ideas and vision to share with others. In the end I want to bring beauty and hope as well as some fun into the world."

© Monica Lee
Fabric collections are always exciting for Monica because she feels like she is setting a mood, telling a story though line and color. She likes that other people can take the fabric and create their own masterpieces with them. She also is trying to carve out time to load up art prints onto her etsy site - "I have my fabrics and a few pieces of art there now but I want to add more fine art prints as well as 3-D art. I am just trying to figure out how to make the time and space for it in my brain (and in my studio!)" - Monica says. "Years ago (and I mean years) I owned my own greeting card company, Monica Lee Studios so I was involved with the gift industry and even though I went on to be a mom and to work on other art, a few licensing contracts found me. I felt pretty comfortable in the gift arena because A) I am a shopper (believe it or not some artist are NOT shoppers and don’t frequent gift stores! and B) I was a greeting card sales rep for a short while (one of my past lives)." 

© Monica Lee
A couple of years ago, maybe 2 or 3 she says, Monica got serious and really geared her portfolio towards licensing. She still enjoys doing work for publishing but licensing requires a monstrous amount of work in her portfolio so it has taken over her life. "I enjoy this type of work since I tend to gear my art towards the consumer anyway." As far as trade shows go, Monica got around; she has attended CHA and she attends the NYC gift shows. She has attended the International Quilt Market and she also exhibits at Surtex in NYC and Atlanta. It has been several years since she has been but she will be attending in January 2012, she says. "Trade shows revive me! Although it may be seeing and mingling with people that revive me. I am very much a people person which may be a bit odd for an artist who spends a large amount of time working alone."

© Monica Lee
One piece of advice from Monica to other artists is this: "I think one of the best tips I can give is not to compare yourself or your work to others. You really need to run your own race." She started a series on her blog called the Care and Feeding of a Dream; this is a series based on an essay she wrote some time ago but as she revisits it, she is reapplying all the lessons to herself, she says, even though she is at a different stage in her career.

Her goals? She always has so many, she says. In fact Monica is in the process of trying to prioritize them right now. She has two books that she would like to get published and has plans to design and sell embroidery patterns and maybe even a couple of sewing patterns.
© Monica Lee

She also has some new licensors on board that she is super excited about. Since she has become passionate about blogging, she is pretty dedicated to keeping her blog fresh and interesting. "Those are all my business goals, and my art goals are to create more space (physically as well as emotionally) to create larger textile art that marry line, stitching and fibers," Monica says.

Your comments are welcomed. Please enter them in the below comment section.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Put a Little Zip in Your Life" - Artist Sue Zipkin's Licensing Story

In the past few weeks, amongst everything else I managed to complete the rough designs for my new website – I really need it in order to present my work. So this immediately brings up a new question: how do I want to show my art on products? Mock-ups are a good way to present your art I think - I used to create what's called an "architectural design board" with sketches or illustrations, plans and samples of the suggested materials to be used, to show clients design concepts. It's a very effective way to convey a design look. I learned then that presentation is key to selling your work.

There are different ways to present a product or art piece. Some are better than others. To help with this topic and with art licensing in general, I am very pleased to host a special interview with a wonderful pro artist, Sue Zipkin, who has a fantastic art style and a big heart. Here is what she shares with us today:

Artist Sue Zipkin
"I am a mom, wife, friend, artist, designer, illustrator, cook, and sometimes...cleaner. I have been designing artwork for products for 'thousands of years' (more like 2 1/2 decades)."

The Moon from My Attic: Welcome Sue! What brought you to create art in the first place? Since I was small I have always created artwork. It was one thing that I was always very good at, and it was like second nature for me. I recall how excited I was when I had the opportunity to "make things." I grew up in a very stressful environment and my artwork was a way for me to escape. I also did not fit in, for I was unable to do things that the other kids could do, like ride a bicycle. I was also picked on by bullies. But I was able to find my own little space with my artwork. I am dyslexic and have trouble with things that involve reading and writing, but my brain was very comfortable with doing artwork.

© Sue Zipkin, outdoor garden flag collection 
and also a greeting card design
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? Being able to create something that makes me happy while I'm doing it, something that I can share with the world by hopefully getting it onto products that people can buy and enjoy. I have been fortunate to be able to earn a living from my creative work so for me it is a combination of who I am, and loving what I do. I have a passion for what I do. It can be challenging but I work hard to overcome them and keep on going.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? My favorite medium is watercolor; I have developed a signature look using watercolors over the years although I never actually learned the proper way to use the medium. I recall I did not have any watercolor classes in art school, but we did work with gauche which is very similar. To this day I wonder what my style would have become like if I had had proper training in the medium. I scan my artwork and then sometimes play in Photoshop. Recently I have been experimenting with mixed-media, incorporating textures and words, and even cut outs of my own artwork, mixing them with acrylic paint. It has been many years since I have used my acrylic paints and I'm having a great time experimenting.

© Sue Zipkin, Hydrangea presentation 
using a very successful fabric collection 
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? When I was really small I remember my mom showed me how to draw a side profile of a woman's face. That was amazing to me, how she could make it look so realistic as opposed to a straight-on view. She was not an artist, but was great at doing that. I was always excited when my mother brought me crafts kits. As far as what and who inspires me today, it is endless. I would have to say there are so many talented artists doing what I do and I find them all very inspiring. I am very inspired by so much historical art. I am not always the best at remembering the names and the periods, but I can look at something and know I love it. Currently one of my biggest inspirations is working from nature. There is so much beauty everywhere.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I have been doing art licensing for about 16 years; my situation was very unique when I started. When I graduated art school in 1983 I set out to become a fantasy illustrator. I received a few illustration jobs but it was very difficult to get work with the kind of portfolio I graduated with, it was very strange and unique, not very commercial. In those days I was very immature about the business side of things and all I wanted to do was make cool pictures. At the time my teachers said there was work available with the kind of style I did and looking back I think they didn't really try very hard to teach us about the business. It was more about creating and learning techniques. 

© Sue Zipkin, Froggin' collection 
coming to market soon;
At that time, Boris Vallejo’s style was what was selling in fantasy art, not creepy, weird, made up creatures like I created. I realized trying to get freelance work was not going to pay the bills, and I was fortunate to get an in-house graphic design position where I learned a lot on-the-job. Many synchronistic events took place, and eventually I ended up working as a designer at a dinnerware company. I was not very happy working in-house and knew my destiny was calling to find my way as a freelance artist - at the time I didn't even know about art licensing. After that I connected with another company where I was an artist on contract/retainer; basically I was a steady freelance who worked at home. I developed many successful designs with them. I walked Surtex and met an agent who had represented the famous Mary Engelbreit. Blinded by stars in my eyes of fame and fortune, I signed a licensing deal with the agent so they could help build on my dinnerware success and expand into other markets.
Not long after that I was able to negotiate a licensing deal with a dinnerware company called Sango. This company and I built a very successful line called Sweet Shoppe that is still collected today. The rest is history. I have had many ups and downs over the years and am extremely grateful to have found a way to ride the waves of the business and stay in the game. Being flexible is a huge part of my success in the industry.  

© Sue Zipkin, hand painted dinnerware collection - Tea Garden
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you been in?  For the first few years my agent exhibited at the show. When I decided to go it alone, it was before the internet. The most viable option to get exposure to clients in the art licensing industry was to exhibit at Surtex. I also exhibited a few times at the licensing show when it was located in New York, but have continued with Surtex all these years.
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I have worked with two licensing agents in my career, and I am grateful for my time with both agents. I learned so much, however those relationships did not blossom into anything long term. Most of my career I have been representing myself. Currently that is what I am doing. I am actually very open to getting some sort of business help, perhaps another agent. Since I already have a group of established clients and have been doing this for so many years it is not easy to find the right fit with an agent. Many agents are really looking to represent newer artists who might not have much going on yet. I think that an artist who is established and has had success over the years should be able to negotiate a different percentage than an artist who is just starting out. I also do not want to give up my existing clients that I work with directly, yet many agents want to be able to run your entire business. Still, at this time I am very open. There are certain markets that I'm not established in, although I have plenty of artwork that could work for them. My main focus now is to try to keep my current clients happy, so it is hard to look outside and develop new relationships. There is only so much time in the day.

TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol" if any? As far as how one goes about getting licensing deals there is no one-size-fits-all answer. First, an artist must be realistic and research the market. When I first started out I had a foundation with my success in one product area. These days things have changed a great deal. Artists need to have a focus, but also be very versatile at the same time. There are many ways to do this. Some artists develop a certain look and style that is very distinct, focusing on certain unique limited subject matters. Then there are other artists like myself, who have a certain style, yet focus on products that are across the board.

© Sue Zipkin, Sweet Shoppe collection
One of the great things about art licensing is the ability to take one image and spread it out into many product categories. I have done this over the years, however, I have found that some of the areas that I concentrate on really do need totally different artwork. So for example, what I would propose to my dinnerware client is not the same kind of design I would propose to my fabric client. There are times when there is crossover, however it is not always the case.
I think a person trying to get into art licensing needs to really think about what and who they are trying to target. Perhaps they might try and concentrate on one or two markets at a time and not try to be everything to everyone (I need to take this advice for myself also). Sometimes I get so excited about the possibilities of doing it all, but like a great buffet, you can overdo it and end up very sick at the end of the day. I take pride in being able to provide my loyal steady clients with my full attention.

© Sue Zipkin, new design 
in new mixed media style 

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? The first thing I would like to suggest to a new artist presenting themselves to the licensing world is to make sure that what they're putting out is original. Many artists I see online trying to break into the business study others' artwork and try to emulate them. It is perfectly ok to look around and study what others are doing, but keep that in check. We all study the trends and the markets. Themes and ideas are not copyrightable, however the way you express those ideas is. There are so many myths about copyright; artists often think they just have to change something a certain percent and it's ok to call it their own. An artist should educate themselves on copyright law and also make sure they know what they are signing when entering into licensing deals. It would be very wise to hire a lawyer to help you create a basic standard boilerplate contract. If you are going to sign with an agent please make sure you know what you're signing. There are many terms you might not understand that can affect you for years and years to come when you sign these deals. 

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think it is all over the place. Clearly companies are struggling with the economy, and then there are other companies who are experimenting and finding niches in the market and doing really well. Each product and product category is very different, like in life, everybody is experiencing something unique. Each company has different expectations of what they need for success and how to keep their business going. Challenging times can also create opportunities for companies to find ways to be innovative and think outside of the box. Some companies are playing it very safe and often you cannot tell one company from another. My guess is the companies that are doing the best are those that are always reinventing themselves but also staying true to what they are about.

© Sue Zipkin, new design
in new mixed media style
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? Manufacturers this year are looking for what they have always looked for: good fresh designs that they feel are going to help sell their products. 

TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2011-2012? I am not seeing too many specific trends these days. It feels that the market is going for safer themes, like classics. For Christmas I hear a lot about Santa making a stronger comeback then he has in a while. I'm still seeing plenty of nature designs, inspirational feel-good artwork. 

I am definitely noticing more textured layered artwork using  mixed-media and painterly crafty styles. Many products are influenced by hand-crafting and illustrative art. In the last few years we have seen quite a bit of very flat retro style artwork, that is still out there, however I am seeing less of that. I personally think that birds will still be going strong for a while but that the owl is down-trending - or else it is wishful thinking - on a personal note I'm just tired of seeing owls everywhere! They're cute and all, but how many do we need? So many look the same and I cannot tell one artist from another at times.

TMFMA: How does a new artist find manufacturers that "match" their styles? The first thing they need to do is study the market, they can go shopping in different stores and look at products that they feel their artwork would work on. They can subscribe to trade magazines, search the web, and find companies by going to trade shows. However, when visiting shows, there is a certain trade show etiquette it's very important to understand. I would strongly suggest finding more information online about trade show etiquette. 

© Sue Zipkin, tin design filed with nuts & candy 
being used by The Girls Scouts 
for fund-raising this year 

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? I think that the biggest piece of advice I would give artists who are starting out is to approach this very realistically. They need to create a body of work that is specifically targeted for certain products, and have a clear vision of what they are trying to do. One of the biggest mistakes I see new artists make is that they create beautiful and unique images that might not have anything to do with the market or the product they are going after, then go and buy product templates online and just slap the art onto the product. Just because you can make something fit on a shape does not mean it will sell well on that product. For example I took these fun pictures at the Bronx zoo. I mocked them up for everyday dinnerware. Many people love Monkeys but this style might not work for the average consumer. 

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Doing your homework is extremely important. These days there is so much useful information online. An artist needs to be flexible and willing to make changes on their artwork. The manufacturer is investing money to make a product with your artwork on it. If you want to be in control all the time, I suggest you figure out how to manufacture your own product.  

Keep in mind that this really is not just about you and your art, but about developing relationships that are win-win for both you and the manufacturer. Always keep learning. Keep your mind and heart open and follow your instincts. Sometimes you might get a very bad feeling about a company or a situation and you should not ignore those feelings, they could be telling you something you need to know. If you do end up in less-than-perfect business situations that is ok also, you can grow from them and learn all kinds of lessons. Being successful in this is a very long, slow process, so if you’re going to try it, get ready for a crazy ride. Don’t forget to wear your seatbelt, it will be a bumpy road ahead!! Good luck!

Sue's website and blog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Denise Tedeschi

It's usually helpful to examine and learn from different sources or to look at a problem from different angles. What's the overall best solution for a given situation? In short, situations vary from person to person, so what's the right thing to do? 

I like to provide stories of other new or established licensing artists who are working hard and are daring. They are taking their challenging situations in their own hands and working them out!

Artist Denise Tedeschi says: "I'm a beginner in the licensing field. 

I can't remember how I got started in licensing, but it began last Fall". She must have come across the business online somewhere, she says. She learned much about licensing from Tara Reed's and Joan Beiriger's sites. "These sites are immensely helpful if you read everything there. All the topics and the links are important." She also found Maria Brophy had lots of insights from her blog site. Again, Denise says to follow all the entries to learn the most: "I just took the time to search and read. I web-surfed from link to link and Googled for links from names or subjects. I looked through tons of artist, agent & manufacturer websites for product ideas and art styles. For product mock-ups, I tried to find large, plain images that were free to use from clip art sites, and if not available, I'd look for products from companies and alter them, draw them and make what I needed."

She also walked the Surtex show which was not far from her New Jersey location. She thinks a trade show is important to experience for everyone at some point, even if it's just to be able to know about it if it should come up in discussions with agents or manufacturers in the future.

Originally Denise made an online website portfolio for manufacturers/agents to see. Even though she had quite a few collections one manufacturer commented that there wasn't much to see. She can't imagine a manufacturer hiring an artist that only had a few images as samples. As for agents, she would imagine they vary depending on how much work they want to put into each artist. As to the amount of images in one's portfolio, Denise thinks you should include as many as you can.  Newbies are up against experienced artists with many years worth of accumulated images and a few samples are just not going to compete. After that manufacturer's comment she went hard at it again and made some rather large collections of sports images and vintage coastal/beach images. 

Denise creates artwork and makes mock-ups & tearsheets for manufacturers to download from her website. She has a decent amount of images but, she says, she doesn't have near a full range of categories. 

She also thinks she doesn't yet have a distinct style, and may never have as the fun of experimenting with art for her is why she does it. Experimenting is what makes her tic and she will probably always test techniques. Some people say she has a style that comes through no matter what technique she uses, which shows in selection of topic and images and composition. She doesn't see it, maybe because she's too close to it, she says. She seems to see that most successful license artists keep with one technique that they don't deviate from. Denise says,"maybe I'll find a technique that I'll specifically stick to, you never know." She named her business Lush studio because she hoped people would accept multiple styles coming from a studio. 

Denise learned about collections from a few of the blogs & websites she's mentioned earlier, and by seeing how many pieces were used as a collection from various artist's sites. She sometimes starts a collection with a product in mind first - plates & dinnerware, paper products, or flags. She thinks about a theme next, like Christmas, everyday decorative, or pets. Then she goes off looking for what is selling by artists in the market (snowmen, Santas, etc.) and she figures out what subject matter would be appropriate for her own art style (winter florals, wild birds, wreaths, etc.). Then she searches for reference images, and starts creating for that product, but also thinks about designing the image to be flexible in other shape formats. This usually means altering the image and background to balance well in all format shapes (rounds, square, verticals or horizontals, rectangles and so on) and thinking about creating a background pattern and borders for wrapping paper or needs in other applications (paper products, journals, scrap booking). 

She doesn't make all formats for all of her art though, as some art may not apply to these products.

 From the very beginning, Denise kept a notebook of everything she's learned along the way, and also bookmarked helpful websites: "It could be more organized, but it's not too bad. Occasionally I would go in and reorganize my bookmarks as I needed categories. Reading over my notebook reminds me of important things and notes reminding myself of ideas I want to try in future."


Denise wants to help other newbies if she can: "Nothing will come to you if you're not out there connecting with other folks in the profession in various ways."  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jumping Into Art Licensing - Artist Holli Conger

The more I learn about art licensing the more I think there are many different avenues one can take to enter this business - it is a way to commercially sell your art and how you get started in it varies, depending on each individual's situation. I think it's really a matter of setting one's own goal and defining what "success" means. What is it that I want to accomplish, how am I going to do it and is that what I consider a successful result? The variety of opinions and views about this particular topic fascinate me. So many stories... and here is a daring one, of a very busy, creative and successful illustrator and licensing artist, who's been juggling many projects at once!

Artist Holli Conger
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - I'm Holli Conger and I've been a professional illustrator since 2004. I live and work in Nashville, TN and I specialize in the children's market for both publishing and licensing. I also license some of my photography work from my Typography Photography™ collection of letterpress blocks. You can read all about my journey here.
TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? I've always loved art and knew I wanted to be graphic designer at 8th grade career day. I got a Bachelor's degree in design, worked as a designer at a large publisher for 5 years and then went out on my own.
© Holli Conger
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I get to do it on my own time and I get to use my imagination everyday. Plus I can do it in my pj's if I want to.
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? Right now, it's probably Photoshop. With licensing, layers are your best friend. I also love Illustrator.
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My kids. When my daughter was born I decided I wanted to be with her during the day, but I didn't want to give up my career, so I decided to push and go out on my own. When my son was born earlier this year, he's been my total inspiration for all things boy. Before I think I leaned more towards "girly" things in my art just because I was inundated with it from my daughter.
© Holli Conger
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I've only been licensing my work for a few years. I started really promoting it in 2009. I exhibited at Surtex and that was really when I launched that division.
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in - if any? I just needed to jump right in if I was going to do it. I've only done the Surtex 2009 show and I still hear and work with contacts I made there. It also gave me a good look at how the licensing world works and how many different brands fall under certain manufacturers.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I have an agent for children's publishing but I represent myself for the licensing side of my business.
© Holli Conger
TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol" if any? Just make contacts and keep them updated with your work. I have found that several Licensing Directors prefer to communicate though email for looking at samples, etc. so that's a real time saver. Just be sure you don't spam them with your work!
TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? Have a nice portfolio of work together. Have several pieces that go together with accompanying patterns.
TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think the market has picked up from previous years. Licensing Directors are always excited to find the next new thing and are interested in looking at work.
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? It's hard for me to say. My focus is more on the children's market and my type photography. I have seen more children's themed art tends to be vector based work. Not real sure why but that's what I get asked for the most.

© Holli Conger
TMFMA: How does a new artist find manufacturers that "match" their styles? My best advice is "go shopping." See which manufacturers are making what, then go back and research them, find their Licensing Director and send them your work.
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Research is going to take a lot of your time away from creating so prepare for that. Things seem to go slow sometimes with contacts, but just stay with it and be patient.
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Stick with it.There are thousands of manufactures out there looking for art. Just send your queries and follow-up. 

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Ellie Record

In networking with various art licensing artists I often find myself fascinated by their individual experiences and art processes. So much creativity! 

We all have a unique story to tell and sometimes we like to share it, too, with hopes to perhaps help another artist or maybe just inspire someone else. So I started asking this question: what's your story?

Ellie Record and Daughter Sonora
Artist Ellie Record grew up on a small farm in southwest Colorado, surrounded by animals and the outdoors. She started her art journey by moving to Denver to attend the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. After college she started a family and also started promoting herself as a children's book illustrator.

"I strive to create excitement through my art with whimsical characters and bright colors. Creating animal characters doing fun activities, like dancing on lily pads or flying to the moon with butterflies. I also try to create excitement through whimsical twists or add a little humor, like animals all stacking up to help a little duck blow out his candles," Ellie says.  

But how did she get to be an art licensing artist?

© Ellie Record
Ellie remembers as a young child spending hours mixing her colors with her grandma. Through the years of her childhood her hobby was drawing, doodling and painting. She took many art classes in high school because they were easy for her. She was undecided about her future path for college when a friend advised her to apply to art colleges. Ellie laughed, never expecting to receive a full ride interior design scholarship. After attending RMCAD for a year under an interior design major, a teacher approached her and suggested she look into illustration because of her drawing skills. Ellie laughed again: "I jumped into illustration not knowing what the hell I was doing. Through very patient teachers and hair pulling, I found my style and talent as an artist." 

While she was at a children's book conference in NY she attended a workshop where agents suggested other avenues of using her art talent, one of which was licensing. She was inspired and thrilled to learn more. She visited the Surtex show, realizing that this was the way to fulfill one of her dreams to create greeting cards. Back in Colorado she started her research and she eventually joined some licensing groups and read many blogs.  

© Ellie Record
The main reason for getting into licensing was ... "well money is helpful," Ellie says ... but she also understood that licensing can take time, patience and faith. Her real drive is passion, dreams, and a love of what she does.

In reading a blog Ellie ran across a post about how to find an art licensing agent. She started organizing and creating so as to approach an agent, as she had promised herself after NY to not hold back on any career opportunities. Against the article's advice, she approached an agent that posted a comment on LinkedIn. The agent was looking for new artists to represent that had a whimsical-painterly style. Ellie took the chance and e-mailed the agent, not expecting any response. With much surprise, the agent responded back quickly wanting to see more of her art style. They touched base by phone and she gave her a goal assignment – "I was thrilled and anxious, but got to work. After the completion of my assignment, we decided we would be a good fit and signed a contract! I am blessed in finding a patient agent that is willing to direct me into completing a fulfilling collection portfolio."

© Ellie Record
Ellie's art is a long tedious process, she says. She starts with pastels, fine details with colored pencils, acrylics for shading and highlights and oil glazes to make colors really pop.  Her main goal and aspiration is to have her art create beautiful products, hoping that they will bring joy and inspiration to others. She also has a goal of licensing in the kid's fashion industry someday.

To other artists new to the licensing industry Ellie says: "Just keep creating. I always think of the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race!"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Brief Tips & Tricks in Art Licensing

I found out a few more interesting tips & tricks and want to broadly share as they might be useful to some artists new to licensing - note that these are not my own opinions or beliefs. If you have a different view or opinion of this topic please feel free to comment on this post. I welcome multiple views.

Please also note that the last two paragraphs are a brief summary of an email comment by a licensed artist who gave me permission to share it but asked for no attribution.

• Artists just starting in licensing often are told to shop at retailers for ideal products and then research the manufacturers online. If the manufacturer's name isn't readily available on the product, as is common practice with many private label programs, they should look for an RN# (five-digit number) on the products. Artists should enter the RN# at the Federal Trade Commission's website, to disclose the manufacturer's information.

• They might also be interested in visiting trade shows in their targeted categories, such as the National Stationery Show or the International Home & Housewares Show, to find companies, view their collections, and see how their work can fit with the manufacturer's products. Same goes for Internet searches, to locate companies and review product lines that might be a fit. 

• Another possible way to get started is to go to a small company of your liking to offer your design service for a product, for free, if they'll give you liberal samples. If they are interested, they might make a deal with you and you can learn from them; they may even pay you at some point. You could even end up working together with the company eventually!  *** See comments below for additional information and other views about this topic.

• An alternative method of entering the world of art licensing is to get a mentor, someone who has been in the business awhile and can give the newbie "an arm around the shoulder and info when you need it." Apparently most artists are very generous this way. Starting slow may be a little frustrating but especially in this tight economy it can be smart. Working your marketing plan to get some deals before you pay the big bucks for a show might be a solution for some of you who are not sure or don't want to invest so much money up front. In a long run, this strategy might be a successful one.

In short, you don't need to go to a show and exhibit to get started!

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Again, if you have any additional or contrary tips on this topic that you'd like to share, please leave a comment here for everyone to read. Thanks!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Contemporary Whimscal Folk Art

In this issue I want to explore a bit more the contemporary whimsical style, but this time with a twist of folk – and since folk is such a broad genre, in upcoming weeks I will be hosting more artists to fully illustrate it in its different representations.

The words Style, Theme and Technique were three basic terms defined in my first article in this series.  It's now time to define what Contemporary, Whimsical and Folk mean since we'll talk about them extensively. 

 According to the New Oxford American dictionary:

Contemporary - following modern ideas or fashion in style or design.

Whimsical - playfully quaint or fanciful, esp. in an appealing and amusing way.

Folk - of or relating to the traditional art or culture of a community or nation, or originating from the beliefs and opinions of ordinary people. 

As a way of example, my own style has evolved much over the years and I ended up with a bit of a fusion of creative concepts (also the name of my design studio) with an "organic" and crafty twist so I call it contemporary whimsical-folk. I was curious about what that meant to other successful art licensing artists. 

© Cherish Flieder / Something to Cherish
I welcome this week licensed artist Cherish Flieder. Her illustrations have been considered whimsical, elegant and fresh while also being called "folksy." In her "Something to Cherish" style she focuses on simple and graceful shapes that build up her little stories or the particular emotion she's trying to convey. Beauty, kindness and whimsy are three things that she feels strongly about, and they are at the core of her art style. She believes many people want to surround themselves with things that highlight the good and fun parts of life and give our minds a much-needed balance. 

And as for the theme, her art is not tied to any theme but rather inspired by them. When Cherish first developed her style, she wanted an approach that could work with a plethora of topics. However, she has a few categories that encompass many of her recent creations such as nature, femininity, faith and family. She's always on the look out for themes that could develop into her next art licensing collection. Travel, museums, hiking, reading and shopping are all wonderful sources for that next spark of an idea.

© Cherish Flieder / Something to Cherish
When Cherish studied at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, she was infamous for experimenting with different mediums and mixing them together on the same illustration. Pastels, oils, alkyds, egg-temperas, acrylics, charcoals, watercolors, gouache, colored pencils, digital painting and more… they all went into the mixing bowl of opportunity.

However, since she never could stop experimenting, she didn't think she would ever settle for one technique to call her own. That was until the day, several years later, when she was deeply contemplating about where she wanted to begin her career in art licensing.

As a young artist, Cherish's favorite medium had always been watercolor. She found out that deep down inside, it still is: "I love the way I can glaze with liquid color and watch it build up, light to dark. I love the purity and fragility that it brings as it transforms and settles before it dries."

© Cherish Flieder / Something to Cherish
This is the story on how she came up with a very unique technique to represent her style and themes. "One summer night, as I was painting in my studio, I had a bookmark project near me for which I was using embroidery floss as the tassels. As I looked at that thread, I wondered how awesome it would be if I actually stitched on my watercolor paintings! I had never seen anything like it before, although I knew instantly they would work together. After all, I paint on 100% cotton paper and I had lots of embroidery design experience in my background as a textile artist.

It turns out that the love of embroidery that mother spent teaching me as a child, which she got from her grandmother, actually came to settle with me too, just in a slightly different way." So, Cherish went for it and she was instantly like a little kid carrying around her latest artistic creation, sharing it with everyone she knew. She also started sharing it with clients and immediately found herself embroidering on commissioned illustration assignments.

© Cherish Flieder / Something to Cherish
"There is something about the contrasting textures of the paper and the 3-D stitched threads that are so light-hearted and fun as you see them dance in the light. The best part is that it is handmade." Cherish wants the human touch and whimsical qualities to come through the stitches and breathe life into her illustrations.

Now, has she stopped experimenting you ask? Absolutely not! That is how great discoveries are made. But, she is content that she have found a watercolor-embroidery style that for her is "Something to Cherish."