Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A European Art Licensing Market - Artist Helz Cuppleditch

I hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season so far! I just came back from a short trip to Milan, Italy where I visited family and did some brief market research to see what's going on there. Bright colors, especially red, are everywhere in accessories, fashion and Home, and not just because of the holidays. It was refreshing to see!

And for those European followers interested in art licensing, there are two main 2012 trade shows to explore: the Brand Licensing Europe in London and the Bologna Licensing Trade Fair in Bologna, Italy which is the only trade event in Italy dedicated to the business of subsidiary rights, with the participation of the main Italian and International licensors and licensing agencies. The licensing show takes place at the same time as the so sought after Bologna Children's Book Fair. So if you're also an illustrator you might want to see both!

In the spirit of European art and shows, and as a warm wish to a happy new year to come, I'd like to introduce you today to a wonderful illustrator and licensing artist from the UK, Helz Cuppleditch. 

Artist Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself – I am Helz Cuppleditch, an illustrator based on the south coast of England. I've been licensing my work for about 8 years, for various products including paper craft, greetings cards, gift wrap, gift bags, packaging, calendars, fabrics and stationery. In the summer of 2011 I was invited to join the Board of The Association of Illustrators, the only UK non-profit organization to advance and protect illustrators and promote professional standards. As well as illustrating, I volunteer at local schools running illustration workshops, which stemmed from when my daughter was at primary school!

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? In lots of ways I am living the dream! I'm able to work from my studio at home, so being Mum as well as running my business is whole heartedly satisfying. I get really excited when a new brief comes in from a client and love being able to transfer their brief into sketches and final artwork; then wait to see how the client's team uses their skills to create the final products. Being able to use my experience to help and mentor other people through the AOI or on a personal level is also very fulfilling for me.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I work mainly with gouache, because I love the intensity of the colors. Every now and again I wish I had more skill with art programs on the computer so I could use the "undo" button when things aren't quite right!

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I love happy art, or art that has that feel-good factor. Three of my great influences are women, not just because I adore their art, but I believe they had great business skills and instinctively knew what to create for the markets of their time: Mabel Lucie Attwell, Beatrix Potter and Mary Blair. I can't leave out my daughter as an inspiration. Throughout her childhood, she has noticed the little things around us, colors in the leaves, insects, shells and twigs in the shape of love hearts. This awareness re-ignited the child within me that is transferred through my art.

TMFMA: Tell us about your experience in art licensing? Initially I didn't realize that art licensing was so big. That sounds very na├»ve, but I started out licensing my work for greetings cards. Then, it hit me that my work could be used for other products. So I investigated and educated myself about this wonderful world of licensing. A lot of my work is still used for greetings cards, but I also create collections for other manufacturers and products. A big leap forward for me was in 2009 when I was commissioned for a paper craft collection, and fortunately it was a really successful line here in Europe. This has led to other manufacturers licensing my illustrations for other surfaces. In October 2011 I took a booth at Brand Licensing Europe. This is the UK's only trade event where the "decision making" licensees go to do business with all the big brand names, in addition to visiting the "Art and Design Licensing" section for little people like myself! It was an amazing experience, nerve-wracking to promote to people directly, but well worth the time and financial investment.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: Tell us about your experience in illustration? I have worked on a few illustration projects over the years, including some advertising agency work for global brands. As much as I enjoyed the work, my whimsical and feminine style was pretty limited in the traditional illustration markets of advertising and editorial, which is why I explored the art licensing business. Here in the UK very few illustrators have investigated the possibilities of art licensing, but for me it was a really positive investment of my time and energy. 

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I self represent in the UK and Suzanne Cruise at Cruise Creative is my rep in the USA.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? In my opinion the most important thing is to educate yourself with the business side of art licensing; understand the terminology, copyright, what to expect in contractual agreements, how to keep accounts etc. Then if you are suddenly hit with interest from clients, you feel confident that you can deal with them professionally and speak the same language. When promoting your designs to clients, it can be a winner or loser depending on how well you display your work, so think about what that client will want to use your design on. Tailor the promotional material to that client, so the client can visualize your designs on their products. Having a collection of designs gives more impact for a client, rather than just one or two designs. Also, having designs that will be suitable for various surfaces or products will benefit you; designs that can be transferred onto circles, squares, rectangles and borders.

© Helz Cuppleditch
And, promoting yourself to clients is paramount in illustrating. These clients get hundreds of promotional materials every week, so make your promo stand out from the crowd and promote yourself several times each year. Your style might not be needed for months or years, but if you've kept on top of promotions, your work will be lodged in the commissioner's filing drawer or brain when they need it!

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. The current markets are definitely hard, not just for newcomers, but also for established artists, illustrators and designers. We are competing at a higher level now than ever before, and have to be aware of trends and technology in order to keep on top. I am no technical expert, but even in the last few months have had to learn skills that a few years ago were reserved for graphic designers. We all hear the news regarding retailers and publishing suffering at the moment, but there are new areas opening up for design. As commercial artists, we have to keep our minds open to new technology and the possibilities these offer for commerce, in particular new media. With regard to art licensing, certainly here in the UK publishers and manufacturers are looking for the next new character or collection that will connect with consumers through retail sales. Brand building and brand licensing is competitive but it is still a viable and growing market.

© Helz Cuppleditch
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing and illustration fields? Join some illustration and/or art licensing groups and on-line forums. People are really great at knowledge sharing! Educate yourself through publications, blogs and by speaking to other illustrators or designers. I think you have to have equal amounts of business acumen and design skill to be successful as a commercial artist, but you still have to be prepared for rejections. That can be hard at first; we're showing the world our creative soul and can take it personally if we get knocked. Every businessman/woman gets rejections, from plumbers to architects, and we are no different as commercial artists!

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing and illustration? I would definitely recommend joining a trade organization. These lobby the governments regarding copyright issues, and most importantly have a wealth of knowledge available for their members. Not only are these organizations there to support the individuals, they are there to help protect our rights (copyright and intellectual property rights) today and for the future of the industries. The more members these organizations have, the louder our voice is on important issues at government level. It also helps us keep up to date with news that could have an impact on our livelihoods. 

© Helz Cuppleditch

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Christmas Licensing Special - Artist Wendy Edelson

© 2011 - Alex Colombo
Christmas is around the corner and brings with it a message of peace and hope for a prosperous new year ahead. To help me fully illustrate the spirit of this holidays season I invited a special guest, artist Wendy Edelson, to share her story with us.

I asked Wendy what kind of projects she is working on and she said: "Somehow, all my projects are about Christmas, the Holidays and snow! Sometimes I feel like the Christmas Illustrator...I never really thought about going in that direction...it seems to have chosen me."

Artist Wendy Edelson
She also added: "Right now I'm working on the illustrations for two children's books and I have two licensing projects on my drawing board, as well. One book is about 'The Christmas Truce,' the incredible spontaneous cease-fire that occurred along the Western Front on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1914, during WW1.

This project required an amazing research into a subject I knew virtually nothing about and is really different from so much of what I have been doing recently. It's been really challenging and interesting drawing German and British soldiers, trenches...all the details of 1914 accurately! A lot harder than painting bunnies!"

© Wendy Edelson - Skater
"The other project is illustrating a picture book version of Over The River and Through the Woods." Wendy is just about finished with the drawings for the spreads and this project has been exactly in "my comfort zone," she says, "a dappled horse and sleigh, patterned clothing, animals, country scenes and SNOW!"

But she isn't done...Wendy has more in the works. She says: "As far as licensing, I'm currently working on a request for art from a possible new client, so this involves snowmen and I'm working on ideas for Holiday 2013 for my fabric line."

She continues telling me: "In the next day or two I will finally begin painting again! I have spent over a month drawing, drawing, drawing all these projects and, for me, the drawing is definitely the WORK!

© Wendy Edelson - GingerMan Puzzle
I wish elves could do the drawing while I sleep. All my work is traditionally created and the painting is the fun part...for me, painting is a blast...by the time I sit down to paint, all the decisions and details have been decided, the anatomy and pattern and design figured out and the painting, the playing with color is what all that work was for!"

Wendy's adventure in the art world all began innocently enough when she was two, drawing way across the unfolding landscape of America in the back of the family station wagon, moving from Manhattan to Los Angeles. "I arrived at our new home surrounded by orange and eucalyptus trees, forevermore in love with drawing, having made the decision to Be An Artist during my first road trip.

Fast forward a couple more years to me and my Mom at an ubiquitous shopping center. See me transfixed in front of the window of a small stationary and art supply store. I was mesmerized, gazing rapt, in awe of what had become a Shrine. There, front and center, was a complete set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils. Until this moment all I'd every drawn with was crayons and I'd painted with drippy poster paints...but these pencils were calling to my Soul.

© Wendy Edelson - Snowman Border
My Mom who had walked ahead of me, came back to where I stood and looked, in a hushed and reverent voice I whispered to her,'those are what REAL ARTISTS use!!!' How I knew about Prismacolors or knew that "Real Artists" used them, I have no idea. In a moment of Pure Parental Perfection my Mom grabbed my hand and bought them for me. My path was chosen and I set out upon it."

© Wendy Edelson - Greenery Pattern
"In the Velveteen Rabbit, a child's love forever transformed a stuffed toy into a Real Rabbit, likewise an early moment of pure faith and love opened wide a little girl's vision. Everyday my Dream and Desire is to create work that somehow allows me to go to bed at night feeling like a 'Real Artist'," Wendy added.

Wendy is a self taught artist; her plans for going to college were put aside when she decided to try working instead and left for New York with a big black portfolio at the age of 17. Wendy says: "My life has been almost all about the work, drawing and painting. Over the years I've moved several times, back and forth from New York and Vermont to the Pacific Northwest and back again; currently I'm living in the Pacific Northwest, planning another move back to the Northeast again, this time to stay. I've married, had a son, fallen in love with dogs and gardening, learned how to cook and speak Italian. In the rare times away from my drawing board I've traveled through Asia, Indonesia and Europe and lived in Mexico for 3 years."

What brought Wendy to create art in the first place? It had to be "that cross country trip in the station wagon," she says. "It just sort of poured out of me and I simply couldn't stop; it truly was more of a calling than a conscious decision."

© Wendy Edelson - CookieJar Print
What excites her is a challenge, an unfamiliar subject, an unfamiliar medium, a scary deadline, a new relationship with a new client, the unknown, flying without a net and color – "color always excites me" - she adds.

Watercolors are her favorite paint; she loves the transparency - "Lately I've begun to use acrylics, the Golden fluids, I love using them as a sort of base to layer watercolors over. If I paint an underpainting with them, say the patterned bark of trees, I can glaze layers of color over that and not worry about the pattern below dissolving at all. Glazing and layering coats of paint so that they seem to glow, that's what I love best but it can be very time consuming," she says.

© Wendy Edelson - Expect
Her inspiration? When she was a child her father gave her books illustrated by Howard Pyle, pen and ink, black and white, which she says "inspired me enormously and definitely implanted a love of pattern and detail. My father was a sculptor, he carved wood and would carve horses, tired work horses and people from the trunks of trees. His studio was filled with those books of photographs of people and animals in motion and anatomy books. I wanted to be with my father so I would draw while he sculpted, and he wouldn't let me stop until he'd decided my drawing was correct. He'd say, 'the foreshortening in that foot is wrong, draw it again!' Sometimes I'd have to draw something twenty times; hard but great training. That still happens but now I have to be my father's voice."

Wendy is also an accomplished licensed artist and so I asked her about it. She has been formally licensing her art for about 7 years. Before that, as a commercial illustrator, she had images of hers re-used so that when she heard about "licensing” it sounded perfect and made a lot of sense to her.

© Wendy Edelson - Tossed Animals
She says: "One of the things I like about licensing is that it's a kind of vacation from the character driven illustration of children's books. In my books I have to create the characters consistently in various poses and moods. With my licensed art I can paint plants, flowers, objects, or animals and take a rest from the people. The two paths, licensing and children's books happily satisfy two different sides of what I love to do. Whenever I do a lot of one, I long to get back to the other."

Wendy is represented by an illustration agent and also a licensing agent. She also has quite a few "house accounts," clients she works with on her own. "I write lots of letters to publishers and clients that I would like to work with, and then, if we connect, continue either on my own or have them contact the proper agent. I'm pretty informal in my approach so I'm happy to have the expertise of agents in the business world." Wendy spends 7 days a week painting, she says.

"I guess what has already been said so many times, by so many other people that one should have as many collections as possible ready to go, and definitely a look, a recognizable style, a theme, something that sets them apart from everyone else", she suggests to newbies.

© Wendy Edelson - Snowman Bunny Border
She also adds: "My work is very personal, it's how I see. I see the world close up and I see in detail, rather than in graphic flat color and bold shapes. The recent trends seem to have been diametrically opposed to my style but I believe that one has to be true to one's own self, that if one's style is really different than what is currently popular one has a choice to make, to try to interpret the trend in one's particular hand or simply keep doing what feels true to one's self and hope that the pendulum swings back a bit. I think that there is a bit more movement towards traditional work and detail, I feel that change. I find that I am known for a very detailed illustration style and clients seek me out for that. Things have been quite tight in the market but they seem to be easing up a bit."

© Wendy Edelson - So many Bunnies Fabric
A couple of other tips she gives to us newbies are these: "One needs to be always looking, whenever one is in a store, anywhere and one sees something that resonates with them, their style; look to see who makes it, write it down and look them up on the Internet.

Just the other day, I saw really cute bowls with a snowman design filled with candy placed on the counters of my bank. My teller dumped all the candy out for me so I could write down the name of the manufacturer that was on the bottom of the bowl. Ideas and possible connections are everywhere! And, above all, be patient and willing to create MOUNTAINS of work for no immediate financial reward. One can easily work a year in advance so, especially in the beginning or during lean times, it can be a bit insecure financially. This makes it even more important that you love what you are doing, and that you have a recognizable look/style of your own."

© Wendy Edelson - Gabriel's Rhino
Wendy's take on trends is also very helpful. She says: "I think art licensing is always evolving, always changing, trends are, just that, trends, as soon as you notice a trend everywhere, it's probably too late to jump on the bandwagon. I find the best thing for me has been to create art that I love creating for myself, and hopefully that people who enjoy my work would enjoy this year, two years from now...indefinitely.

I illustrate books and create art for licensing, and I really only have one style. It's recognizable and the images for books are similar to the art I create for my fabric lines, for cards, for puzzles. I am working on tabletop and various decorative pieces for home and garden now and it is a fascinating process learning how to interpret my style for all these different items. I find I'm working 7 days a week at this point, but it's all fine. I feel truly fortunate and blessed to be able to have a foot in both the children's book and the art licensing worlds."

© Wendy Edelson - Scarf Stripe

I wish you all happy holidays! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Freelancing to Art Licensing - Interview with Artist Elizabeth Caldwell

This week, amongst other licensing work I did, I re-listened to the Paul Brant free Teleseminar of March 2009; very useful info if you are new to licensing, as he covers really basic points you'll need to know. I found it to be even more interesting now that I've worked on several of the many points he made. 

Since I am creating tearsheets now, I needed a new logo for my design studio - how do I want to represent myself and my art to manufacturers and other potential buyers? Or even to other artists? I came up with a design that I find to be very representative of my art style, and what I want to say. You can see it below here.

© 2011 - alex colombo
For a more expert view of licensing, here is a fresh and positive interview for this week:

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself – My name is Elizabeth Caldwell and I am a freelance surface and graphic designer based in NJ. I have a background in gift wrap, stationery, and gift product design so it is a natural fit for me to license to these types of companies. I love designing patterns and prints to help sell a product. I am a firm believer in making pretty surfaces, because pretty surfaces sell. I am totally addicted to buying things I don't need just for the packaging or pattern design.

Artist Elizabeth Caldwell
TMFMA: Tell us about a recent art licensing success. I recently had Robert Kaufman pick up a few of my designs for their Menagerie and Confections fabric collections. One is a panda print and the other is a pie print.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Robert Kaufman Panda Bears
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I have been licensing my art for about 3 years now. I was freelancing before that, then I started my blog and I started to get noticed more by clients looking to license my style of art. I signed up with Pink Light Design so that I could have more time to just design versus dealing with contracts and the administrative side of licensing and so I could get more exposure at trade shows like Surtex. I decided to start licensing because I realized the potential my designs had to make money long term. That became my goal: create as much passive income as possible to offset the dry spells I experienced with freelancing. Licensing allows me to create more of what I love and what I am good at in my own style. It's what licensees want to see, someone that has a 'style' they can easily recognize.

TMFMA: How did you find your agent and get one that was suitable for you? I found Pink Light Design through one of my favorite blogs: Print and Pattern. They frequently post job listings for surface designers and freelance graphic designers that want to work in the stationery/gift industry. I liked Pink Light's style and thought it matched well with my own design sensibilities so I stuck with them. The owner, Mary Beth Freet, is a wonderfully sweet person too. So encouraging and positive!

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Target Christmas Bag
TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol", if any?
First of all it helps to have a portfolio of work that shows experience in designing for stationery, party/paper goods or, at the very least, print/pattern design. Knowledge of repeats is a PLUS but not necessary. Your work should be designed and presented in a way that licensees can visualize your design on their product. Think about what products you would like to see your work on. Can you see your art on party ware? Gift wrap? Bedding?

Do a LOT of research and shop all the stores that carry the brands you love in styles you think are similar to yours. Take note of the company that produces said products and Google them. If they have a website there is usually a link somewhere with instructions for artists who want to submit work for consideration. If this seems too daunting to you then pick up the latest copy of Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market. Licensees are divided by category with a blurb describing what the company does and what type of art they are looking for along with contact/submission information. Keep in mind that not every type of art is licensable in every category. Your art may be well suited for scrap booking but not calendars, for example. Be realistic. It's easy to get attached to your art and think it would look great and sell on EVERYTHING imaginable.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Woofy
TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. The market, in my opinion, seems strong despite the poor economy, especially for freelancers. Many companies are laying off full timers but hiring freelancers for projects. Licensing is a way of companies getting fresh art without taking ALL the risk, something that benefits both parties, I think. I have been very busy with new opportunities, thank goodness. I think the need for fresh art is definitely there...and will continue to be. Without artists creating great art how would all these products sell? Artists that keep on top of trends are definitely in demand.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Pies
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Don't give up! If you really want to license your art then WORK at it. A LOT. Fine tune your style. Research other artists you are similar to and see how you differ. You don't want to be a copycat, remember that. You want to offer something unique in order to stand out. Play on your strengths. Learn everything you can about the business. Research licensees and make sure you have a business card and promo card or website to get yourself out there.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations or goals? I would love to have a whole fabric line with my name on it. I would also love to see my designs on bedding and home goods, and even children's clothing.

© Elizabeth Caldwell - Safari Invite
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Art licensing is a tough biz and it takes someone with a thick skin to be successful in it. You will have a lot of disappointments, a lot of rejections, a lot of low sales..but you can't let it discourage you. You have to take the good with the bad and really see a future for your designs, and NEVER stop learning!

You can also find Elizabeth on Facebook and Etsy.

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