Monday, November 28, 2011

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Joseph Holodook

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! – I've been working on my holiday themes – it's fun to figure out some appropriate patterns for Christmas, which in itself has never been my favorite subject to illustrate...but I needed some cards to send out so I started to design around this topic with an eye to art licensing. I came up with some hand painted, whimsical folk style images - can't show them yet, they first need to be copyrighted. So please be patient for a little longer, I will soon be able to share some of my portfolio and licensing collections ... I am almost there!

In the meantime, I want to share this special story by artist Joseph Holodook. His licensing tale is very fun and unique!

Artist Joseph Holodook at work
Joseph is an Illustrator and painter of Americana landscapes and is represented in the commercial art market by Porterfield's Fine Art. His original artwork, prints and cards are sold through

When Joseph paints an Americana landscape he paints with acrylic and some gouache. Joe says, "I paint at a drawing table; for my Folk art paintings a good ruler and architects square are a must. The paint I use is acrylic premixed in small squeeze bottles. They're inexpensive and come in a great array of colors. I do mix them though to come up with a particular hue I need for a piece." He also uses a good stretched canvas, usually 18x24 or 22x28 and small detail brushes sable number 1, 0/10, and 0/20. He affirms, "I always like sable brushes whether I'm using acrylic, gouache or oil."

Artist Joseph Holodook
His style of work is Americana Folk Art – "plain and simple," Joe says. It has elements of surroundings in them. He lives in the small town of Hudson in the Historic Hudson River Valley of New York State. Lots of old farms and houses nestled along creeks with the Catskill mountains looming in the distance like a great sleeping giant. "I think I'm inspired to paint by everyday life, such as a happen chance observation between a mother helping her child. The interaction between people makes for great inspiration," Joseph says. 

I asked Joseph what was exciting about his creative work and he said, "getting the chance to express your thoughts and feelings in your work, and learning a little something along the way. It could be an occupation you're depicting in a scene or the way people lived in a certain time or the architecture of a building. I find them all exciting."

© Joseph Holodook - Layering background lawn, sandy road
His favorite themes are family and friends. "I put them or their names in most of my paintings and try to evoke their personalities in them. Everyone in the image must be doing something. It adds life and interest to a piece". When Joseph comes up with an idea for a painting he sees the picture totally completed as if it were on a postcard in front of him. He says, "I sketch out the idea as fast as I can, not wanting to lose a single detail."
One of his most liked techniques is layering in color for backgrounds. It adds depth to a relatively flat plane. Joe says, "the treatment I give the mountains is of a cut away tree demarcation line. I think it comes from looking at the old Catskill mountains I've hiked many times. I think it's important to add anchoring the buildings down at the corners. Since you're dealing with a flat on flat plane in a Folk Art painting the buildings need a bush or flowers, pot or barrel on corner to help the eye give solid placement to the building."

Anchoring detail
But what about licensing? How long has Joseph done licensing? He says, "how long has Porterfield's Fine Art Licensing been around? A long time. When I sent Porterfield's a letter with four photograph samples of my work I didn't know anything about art licensing. Then Lance Klass, the founder and owner of Porterfield's, wrote me back saying he looked forward to representing my work in the market place. I didn't know what to do. After about a week of trying to find out about art licensing at the library and book store, Lance called me and the conversation went as follows: Lance - 'Hello my name is Lance Klass of Porterfield's fine Art Licensing. May I please speak to Joseph Holodook?' Me - 'Speaking'... silence ...Lance: 'Oh my God, you're just a kid! I had thought you had been in the business for years as an illustrator.'

"My portfolio at the time consisted of the four images I sent him. He was under the impression I had a large stash of work. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Lance took me under his wing and he, along with his wife Mimi, guided me along. So, many grey hairs later I am still painting whimsical Americana Folk art to holiday favorites."

© Joseph Holodook - Mountain Detail
Lance Klass confirmed Joseph's story and they get along like great old friends to this day!

Joseph's advice to other artists that are considering the art licensing field as a professional career is this: "The next time you go to a department store take a good look around. You'll find licensed art everywhere, from stationary to seasonal goods. They all have licensed art on them. Always produce new art because if your successful with a piece, they will always come back for more. I have a good dear friend who went to school for commercial art. Now that her children have grown she would like to get back into the field. Don't be afraid of showing your art. Be willing to take constructive criticism. A licensing agent wants you to succeed. That's how they, and you, make money." 

© Joseph Holodook - Romanchuk Restoration
Joseph additionally says: "Listen to what your client wants and try your best to provide them with it. Your art my be good, but your commercial art is only good if it is used commercially."

Your comments are welcomed. 
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Geometric Abstraction

It has been a while since I researched a style different from Whimsical and Folk Art or variations of them. As I work on pattern coordinates for my collections, I find that there are several good companions to floral and holiday themes. In fact, another popular and broad genre used by many in various styles is the Geometrics. I personally like them in many different ways but I adore the decorative ones like the ones you find in Art Deco for example. Imagine a Folky Geometric Deco...hmm, that's what I am going to try out next and see how it plays out!

According to the New Oxford American dictionary Geometric means: "(of a design) characterized by or decorated with regular lines and shapes." Geometric abstraction is also an interesting form of art and is present among many cultures throughout history both as decorative motifs and as art pieces themselves. 

© Stefan Page
Artist Stefan Page will illustrate today an art licensing modern take on geometrics, with a twist of folk and whimsy. 

Stefan has worked as a Surface and Pattern Designer for the past 13 years now, mainly focusing on abstracting geometric objects and turning them into something he calls "The Beautiful Mundane".  

He says it's a constant creative endeavor to turn every day objects such as simple shapes into something beautiful. This theme has played out his entire artistic career. 

Stefan says:" I got started as far back as my time in College where I was studying Experimental Painting. It wasn't until I left College that I found myself entirely unaware as to how to become a professional artist, so I quickly found illustration and surface design as a perfect outlet."

© Stefan page
He is not not really certain as to what style his art falls into. He tends to steer away from drawing perfect lines. "I like the idea of feeling like a child again when I'm drawing. Not caring so much about perfection but focusing more on the intent. So I'm dealing with a lot of themes based around gestural geometric abstraction," Stefan says.

In some ways Stefan is also trying to push "folk art" forward by still maintaining its abstract concepts and gestural roots. He continue to say, "I find that too many modern day 'folk art' designs are all about girls in bonnets and whimsical floral patterns that look like they were cut out of paper. That's the past. I want to approach the more utilitarian side of this genre and really bring it into a modern day context."

© Stefan Page
You can see more of Stefan's art on his website and on Facebook.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Collaborative Work in Licensing - An Interview with Artist Khristian Howell

My first set of product mockups is a wrap - I originally sketched them out in pencil and then turned into Illustrator files. And I also completed my first collection, which I am working into my first tearsheet. Very exciting! Soon I will be done with three more collections that can be submitted to manufacturers ... so I am doing more research now on potential matching manufacturers while getting the portfolio and website completed. Lots of fun work ahead! To keep up with inspiration, I asked a dynamic and successful artist what she thought about art and licensing, and here is what she said:

Artist Khristian Howell
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself – I am Khristian Howell. I license my work to a wide range of categories including fabrics, stationery, wall coverings, and more. I live to travel, and I eat lots of olives (mmmmm...olives).  Recently, I have started contributing to national magazines. I was profiled in the October issue of Better Homes and Gardens (exciting!). I am exploring the different corners of my creativity and constantly thinking about what is next.

TMFMA: Where do you enjoy doing your creative work? I really love my humble little studio, but sometimes I like to get out and be among moving people. I really like sitting on the college campus in our city and watch the college kids. I like to see what they are wearing (if it is not sweats and co-ed gear), and hearing what they are chatting about. It is fascinating! I get to explore so many different aspects of myself through my work.  Sometimes it is playful, sometimes demure, still other times bold and energetic. It is exciting to get to change it up all the time.

© Khristian Howell - Desert Daydreams
TMFMA: How did you get started? I started as a colorist in the kidswear product development division of Nordstrom Product Group at the Nordstrom HQ in Seattle. I sat in a room with the textile artists and they always had too much on their plate. I got the courage to say hey, can I help, and they jumped at it! I quickly became a colorist and textile artist soon there after.

TMFMA: What's you favorite medium or tool you create with? Of course I can't live without AI (Adobe Illustrator), and I love shooting as well. I am exploring working with oils at the moment as well.

© Khristian Howell - Baby Beach Bum
TMFMA: Do you work by yourself or do you also do collaborative work?  I am always open to exploring collaborations. I think they offer a great potential for personal growth. I work alone the vast majority of the time. I get sucked into the work, so it is easy to do. I do however, have an off-the-charts fantastic assistant Niki

TMFMA: Do you license your work? Yes.  Licensing is the bread and butter of what I do. I currently license my work in a wide range of categories including fabric, wall coverings, bath, bedding, and stationery to name a few. I started by just following the submission guidelines for companies I wanted to work with (I still do this today). I was lucky and one bit right away! That was how I got my first license which was with Robert Kaufman Fabrics – I really enjoy running my business and creating art, so I choose not to work with an agent.

© Khristian Howell - Provencal
I do show at Surtex each year. I would like to add another show, but keep on fighting with myself over which one!

The most important thing about licensing is to not be deterred by the word no. It happens - ALOT. You will get more no's than yeses that is for sure. You cannot take it personally.  Sometimes it has nothing to do with your work at all. Manufacturers are always looking to fill certain needs, so try try again! Don't be afraid to go back to the same manufacturer again and again if you believe you are a good fit.

TMFMA: Where do you like to look for inspiration?  Travel and culture are my greatest sources of inspiration. In fact, I am a bit overdue for an adventure!

© Khristain Howell - Nolita
TMFMA: What are the reasons for you to do what you do? I am OBSESSED with living a life to my own beat. I am just not cut out for going to a job to do the same thing everyday. My mind is constantly thinking of what is next and I must be able to explore all of these ideas (no matter how crazy) in order to feel like me. I love color, pattern, culture, design and travel so much, I can't image a me without being entrenched in all of these things.

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Are You Organized for Art Licensing? An Interview with Artist Carolyn Gavin

This past week I listened in to a great free webinar by Teliha Draheim of Image West Design on how to sell commercial art. And I also got to participate in a local art licensing meeting which shared artwork reviews and other useful ideas. My next couple of months will be very busy completing my portfolio and basic collections that I will then present to the group for the January meeting critique - very exciting!

This week I'd like to introduce an artist from Canada who has been very busy creating art for licensing and her own wholesale stationary business. 

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself. Hello, I'm Carolyn Gavin. I'm the principal designer for ecojot. We're based out of Toronto, Canada and create gorgeous stationery using 100% recycled materials only. We also have a donation program where we donate books and pencils to kids in need around the world. We have just been to Haiti for a week where we gave away 22,000 workbooks, as part of the schoolbag - the schoolbag on Facebook. An amazing, rewarding and emotionally grueling trip for my partners who went. 

Artist Carolyn Gavin with her bulldog Ziggy

I also have an agent Lilla Rogers and she handles all my freelance and licensing projects.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I get to create exactly what I want (generally) and see it printed on our stationery. It's great when I see someone using one of our books.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I grew up in a hot country with lots of color, texture and pattern around me. I think that is what's in my soul and is reflected in my work. Nowdays I try and travel as much as I can and experience other cultures which influence my work. I love central America - the exotic colors and patterns from Belize, Guatamala and Mexico. I love African fabrics and Indian patterns and colors.

© Carolyn Gavin
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I've recently gone back to painting again which I love and started off doing – I use gouache and acrylics mainly. I also like pen and ink. Digital is also what I know and have been using for a long time. Programs like Illustrator and Photoshop are quite amazing!

TMFMA: Can you share a favorite technique you routinely use in your art work? I paint, then scan in and then combine paint with digital. I like the look.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I was lucky enough to get signed by Lilla Rogers Studio more than 3 years ago. She takes only a few submissions a year, so I feel special that way. This has enabled me to create incredible fabric and scrapbooking collections as well as editorials and one of my favourites...packaging design. I also like the fact that the designs are used on other materials besides paper.

© Carolyn Gavin
It was totally by chance that I hooked up with my agent. As they say timing is everything. I happened to meet her at Surtex while I was doing the National Stationery Show. I had no portfolio but just an ecojot catalogue (I guess that's a portfolio of sorts). Anyhow, the timing was obviously right and she signed me up right away after that show. She also must have felt that my look was right for her at the time. I felt REALLY lucky to be signed by Lilla – I guess it could have happened the traditional way where I would have sent her my work. I must say I hadn't even considered an agent at that point. I had been working in the gift and design industry for over 20 years, so I guess I had reached a point where my work was ready for market even though I didn't know it or consciously seek out ways of expanding it. 

© Carolyn Gavin
Lilla Rogers Studio gets over 1000 submissions a year, so in doing that you really have to stand out and have something special and something that strikes a cord for them. Something they NEED at the time. They have nearly 40 artists signed with them and each one seems to offer something unique to the fold.

© Carolyn Gavin
Before signing with me, I had an interview with Lilla where she asked me all kinds of questions. One that comes to mind is, "are you organized?" I think this is extremely important in that there is a lot to do besides designing great art. Labeling, saving correctly, billing, communicating with clients, getting files ready for shows and so on.

And I don't think it's a question of how many pieces you need to submit to an agent. I think it's based on the quality, the style, the uniqueness, the saleability and then a sense of who you are and if they can build a relationship with you. It's kind of like a family in a way and Lilla is the mother ship!

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think it's extremely tough right now, so we have diversified our North American base and now sell to Mexico, Scandinavia and Australia.

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