Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Art of Photography in Licensing - Artist Dianne Woods

While working away at tweaking my new website and creating new collections, I've been learning more Photoshop shortcuts... vital to know in order to swiftly produce a series of designs and tearsheets for a deadline! 

And speaking of mastering tools like Photoshop, I invite you to read this great interview with artist Dianne Woods. She is a professional photographer and also creates beautiful images for licensing. Here's her story:

Artist Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself – I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in photography from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Over the next 30 years I worked on location and in the studio shooting assignments for clients in the wine industry, design and advertising, manufacturing, and for publishers of books and magazines.

Today I live happily in Berkeley with my husband Brad and our tuxedo cat Sunny. Moving from one passion to another, I am retired from commercial photography and now devote my time to creating art for commercial applications. My client list includes companies in the stationery and giftware industries, wall art manufacturers and the music business.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I am particularly intrigued by the process by which an image moves from mere idea to something tangible and ready for licensing to a manufacturer. For example, last year my agent suggested I develop a collection combining two themes that sell well in the licensing industry and are of artistic interest to me – cats and flowers. I immersed myself in the idea and when I came up for air we had 20 new images that had not existed just weeks before. We called the collection "Felines & Floral" and Kimberly (my agent) placed them with a calendar company almost immediately.

In another example, I have a client on the east coast who manufactures wall-art for the home d├ęcor industry. She contacts me frequently with requests for art with specific themes. She might send me an email saying, "I need two pieces with poppies" to which I respond, "OK -- give me two days and I'll send jpgs for your approval." There is something endlessly fascinating and exciting to me about the path from envisioning an idea to a tangible result.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My late mother was my original source of inspiration for my attraction to art and photography; she graduated from the Parsons School of Design in New York in the early 1940s. While she exchanged a career in commercial art to become a wife and mother, her personal history as an artist and her interest in art as an avocation in later years served as a model and paved the way for me.

I am inspired in my art by beautiful things to look at; great design; color usage and relationships; imagery that stirs emotions; and - at the top of my list - the quality of light. I notice its source and direction; how it draws shape and renders texture; and what feelings it evokes. In real life, as in art, I'm habitually alive to and inspired by the quality of the light.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I signed my first contract three years ago with a greeting card company - which is a great place for an artist interested in licensing to get started. If you would like to explore the potential in the greeting card industry, I recommend Kate Harper's blog. There you will find a comprehensive list of greeting card publishers and their submission guidelines.

Over the course of my career, I have taken classes and workshops to stay on top of my game. It was in one of these classes that I became acquainted with a painting program. From the minute I booted the software I felt I was in the zone. 

I was delighted to find my years of experience as a photographer translated directly into the new medium. The learning curve was steep, but once I had a grasp of the software concepts, I was off and painting. While creating imagery is its own reward, the additional challenge and reward of selling my art adds to the satisfaction of working in this industry. 

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I signed with Kimberly Montgomery of Montage Licensing last year. In the three years I've been in the industry Kimberly is my second agent.

This partnership has been beneficial to me in many ways. Working as a team, brainstorming on everything from business development to fine tuning imagery, I feel less isolated and have acquired a broader understanding of the industry and my place in it.

It's the agent's responsibility to negotiate the licensing contract. If an agent stays current with the players, politics and changes in the industry, they have a better sense of what to ask for in a contract, when to ask for more, and when to be satisfied with what is being offered. That's not to say that an artist can't negotiate a contract on their own behalf; they certainly can, and many do. I simply notice that I'm more comfortable leaving the negotiation of a contract to someone with more experience than I have.

© Dianne Woods
The keys to a successful working relationship with an agent are first and foremost: find a good fit. After that, be your creative self; work hard; never, ever miss a deadline; and give your agent the support they need to promote you.

And here's the best part: with each potential client Kimberly pursues and each new contract we sign, my work gets stronger; I feel more focused, and I'm having more fun!

TMFMA: In your view, what's a key/most important quality to develop as a licensing artist in order to succeed in this design field? Have the emotional wherewithal to hear requests for changes to your art and the technical skill to execute them promptly. If your art is rejected, and it will be, don't take it personally. Rejection is not necessarily a statement about the quality of your work – it's more likely a statement about market trends. Art licensing is a business. Be persistent.

© Dianne Woods
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? A topic frequently explored on artist and licensing blogs is the tendency for artists to become isolated. While solitude can be a great contributor to the creative process, it can also make you a little loopy.

My solution has been to join a group here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We meet once a month to discuss the industry, review portfolios, give and listen to feedback, get inspired, vent frustrations, hear guest speakers, swap technical tips, and just generally be connected and enjoy each other's company.

© Dianne Woods
Being a member of "Bay Area Licensing Artists" has been the antidote to isolation for me. I'm sure I wouldn't be enjoying art licensing as much if it were not for this group of creative people, all of whom I count as friends. I cannot recommend enough being connected with a group of licensing artists on a regular basis.

Your comments to this post 
are welcome!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bold, Whimsical and Colorful Designs - Interview with Creative Director Mary Beth Freet

© 2012 Alex Colombo
The last couple of weeks have been so fun and busy but also full of nice but unexpected turns of events ... I am now represented by Montage Licensing, a wonderful licensing agency owned by long-term successul licensing artist Kimberly Montgomery – I always planned to represent myself but this great deal came about and I am happy to have signed up with her!

Additionally, I finished my new website, which is now up and running; if you wish to take a peek you can find it here, at AlexColombo.com. It is just about the perfect time to have one to display my first set of everyday/florals and holidays collections! More coming soon...!

And in tune with the world of art licensing, agents, artists and inspirational designs, here is a fun and full-of-good news interview with Mary Beth Freet.

Artist & Creative Director
Mary Beth Freet
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - Hello, my name is Mary Beth Freet and I am the Creative Director of Pink Light Design, DBA Pink Chandelier. You can see our current products that are licensed on our blog.

TMFMA: Can you please tell us your story in art licensing? I began my journey in art licensing when I first exhibited at Surtex in 2009. It was an amazing experience! My goal was to become the next Lilla Rogers Studio! I had walked Surtex the year before and was so blown away by their artist's designs and I wanted to do something similar. In December of 2008 I started Pink Light and work diligently for the next five months to be ready to showcase my designs at Surtex in May. 

I went with the intention of learning as I went and I took every opportunity to learn from experience, my clients, and my peers. In the past few years PInk Light has grown quickly and I now represent over 12 artists from around the world. Pink Light's style is bold, graphic, whimsical, and colorful. In 2010 I launched "Pink Chandelier" which is a more sophisticated take on our fun designs. 

© Pink Light Design
TMFMA: As a designer, what are the challenges in this current market? How do you meet them? The challenges from my perspective is finding great artists who have time to really create great pieces throughout the year.

Also, patience is very important in the licensing world. It can sometimes be a year or so before a design will be chosen. But if you have patience, it can definitely be worth it. 

TMFMA: As an art licensing agent, how do you find a new artist? Do you go by referrals or do you go through websites, portfolios, blogs or on-line shops? Or do prefer to meet them in person at licensing shows? What do you look for?
© Pink Light Desi
I find most of my artists through the print and pattern blog. I typically will do a call for designs and then I go through all of them to find artists who will fit our style. Furthermore, I look for artists who have a large portfolio of great designs. This can be a difficult process because an artist may have one or two really great pieces and it's hard to really get a feeling for their depth and talent.

I also look for artists who have experience in the mass market because in the licensing business it is important that the artwork be sellable across a wide range of products and age ranges. I find that artists who do have this "mass market" experience, those who have worked in-house for retailers, understand the process and design needs and are much more successful in designing collections and understanding client requests for custom work. 

© Pink Light Design
TMFMA: Do you employ POD (Print on Demand) or other online sites to license your art or do you only work with traditional manufacturers? I aim to work mostly with traditional manufacturers at this point. 

TMFMA: What's you view of the current market and trends? I feel like the current market is great. I started my business in what others viewed as a "down economy" but I don't share this point of view. I believe that you can do anything that you set your mind to, regardless of what others prefer to believe. Therefore, the market is always full of possibilities. There are always people who will need great designs and as long as you can offer a service that will bring your clients success, it's a win-win situation. 

© Pink Light Design
Regarding trends, the biggest thing that I am seeing now is that people want an experience and an overall "feeling" with their designs. In the same way that customers love a unique store experience or a great vacation, or the feel of a beautiful fabric or textured paper, they want that same feeling with their designs. Create artwork that will take them away, if just for a moment. 

TMFMA: How do you see the future of licensing? With just a few years in, I see it as a personal learning experience. The great thing about licensing is that there really are no rules. At the same time, artists need to educate themselves and understand their value in order to be really successful in the licensing business. Artists need to offer something fresh and new that manufacturers cannot get from an in-house artists or purchase outright at a trade show. Therefore, it can be a challenging task but well worth the effort and journey if you bring your passion for art and business with you! 

© Pink Light Design
TMFMA: Can you share your current design projects? We have so many designs that are out there right now. Take a look at our blog to see some of our artist's work. Our fabrics can be found through Robert Kaufman. We have stationery products launching at Target in March and April and will be available year round. These are under the Pink Chandelier brand and they are AMAZING!! Stay tuned for more info.

We have designs licensed with Design Design that are in Papyrus stores. We have scrapbook artwork with Studio G for Valentines Day that will be available at Walmart Stores. We have cell phone cases through Uncommon that are in Apple Stores worldwide. We had many gift bags and gift boxes in Target for the holidays just to name a few. 

© Pink Light Design
TMFMA: What are some of your upcoming licensing projects? We work with numerous manufacturers and are continually meeting new clients at trade shows. We will show at The Licensing Expo in Las Vegas in June for the first time and plan to move into more character licensing in the next year.

Off the top of my head...in 2012...Angela Nickeas has folders and notebooks coming out for Back to School product with Class Act. Diana Skylacos has a paper tableware collection launching with Design Design. Lucy Sturgess, Jen Da Silva and Angela Brumby have fabric collections launching with Studio e fabrics. Mary Beth Freet has notebooks, folders, binders launching with Class Act to be in Target and Walmart stores. Nina Seven has a scrapbook collection with Momenta, paper tableware with Unique Industries, and fabric with Robert Kaufman. Elizabeth Caldwell has a fabric collection with Robert Kaufman. Jane Dixon and Mary Beth Freet have planners to be launched with Andrews McMeel. 

© Pink Light Design
Various artists have greeting cards licensed with Design Design. Jennifer Cepeda has a scrapbooking collection to launch with Momenta. Elizabeth Caldwell and Jen Da Silva have wall decals that will launch with Roommates Peel and Stick. Jen Da Silva, Angela Nickeas and Mary Beth Freet have wall art that will launch with Oopsy Daisy. Mary Beth Freet has a fabric collection that will launch with Robert Kaufman. It will be a FUN YEAR!!!! 

TMFMA: What advice can you give to new artists to help them learn and do art licensing? Don't be afraid to ask questions. People are always willing to help. Have a big portfolio. You cannot expect to keep sending out the same designs and get them picked up. Clients want fresh, fresh, fresh, new, new, new. Take classes and learn as you go. Get experience working with buyers in some capacity. This will help you understand the process. Oftentimes, decisions are made that have little to do with your artwork. Buyers have to take so many things into consideration. Understanding WHAT they are looking for and what other factors they have to consider will 100% make a difference in what you bring to the market. Make mistakes and learn from them. Most of all, follow your heart and have fun! 

Your comments are welcome. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Inspirational Botanical Art – Artist Karen Kluglein

I have been working on developing more ideas for art to be licensed and fine tuning my initial collections as a result of last week's review from my local art licensing group. If you don't have one in your area you might want to start one up, it's so fun and rewarding!

And for a new week of beautiful and inspirational art I invited artist Karen Kluglein for an interview. Her mother was a watercolorist and her father a woodworker, so she comes from an artistic background.

Artist Karen Kluglein
"People always ask if I learned how to paint from my mother but I did not", Karen says – "she painted at the kitchen table when my sister and I were in school and so I never saw her paint until she had her own studio later in life. Our work looks very similar both in subject and style and though I have worked hard to perfect it I have also been lucky."

Karen went to the School of Visual Arts for illustration and was freelance primarily in advertising and food packaging for about 20 years. When computers took over and illustration was no longer done by hand she eventually discovered botanical painting.

Karen's food packaging
She says: "I went to an American Society of Botanical Art Exhibition and knew that my work was a perfect fit. The ASBA has members from all over the world. It is a specialized art. Shows are judged for composition, scientific and color accuracy, detail, etc. Most people looking at the work would not see what judges would appreciate."

She has also received awards and recognition in the botanical painting field relatively quickly – "I am always trying to push myself a little further whether it is being keenly aware of composition or adding whimsy or depth to my paintings, as there is always something to strive for."

Botanical paintings by Karen
Karen adds: "I love working with watercolor. Soon after I began my botanical work I started painting on vellum which is animal skin. Having been a vegetarian for many years I try to make each painting the very best I can so the vellum is not going to waste and the painting will be treasured."

She also says she was lucky to have had the luxury of time to spend many hours drawing while in high school. They had an experimental program where they had a certain amount of free time each day. She was known to always be in the art room drawing and she knows this helped her drafting skills tremendously. Karin also had a professor while she attended Visual Arts, Marvin Mattelson, whose wife was her representative during her illustration years. He was her mentor.

© Karen Kluglain - Lilacs
"Right now I am working on some commissions for a woman who is creating a one of a kind book. She has chosen botanical artists working on vellum to contribute to her project. It is going to be very beautiful. I also teach at the New York Botanical Garden in Manhattan and on the eastern end of Long Island. I exhibit in the ASBA shows so my time is divided in a few different areas" – Karen says.

Karen does not yet have her art licensed. It is something she is interested in but would like to make sure she finds the right fit for her work. "Because it is so detailed and delicate I often think it would be suitable for fine china where it would not loose detail in the printing. I often feel my life has unfolded in phases and licensing may be the next phase for me!"

For more of Karen's beautiful artwork see her website.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Technology, Humor and Cards: Artist Kate Harper

I had the great opportunity to show some of my new licensing collections to my local licensing group. It was my "debut" to this design industry and it was a thrill! The group is a fantastic one that was originally founded by artist Kate Harper – the group is called Bay Area Licensing Artists and its new blog was recently launched to help promote its artists. 

Kate has been very inspirational to many other artists. She has been sharing so many precious licensing tips, including a very comprehensive list of manufacturers she herself created. I am very happy today to host this great and informative interview with her.

Artist Kate Harper
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself
I like to create designs that make people laugh. I believe that if we surround ourselves with humor, it brings us closer to others and our experience of daily life becomes more inspired. For over a decade I published my own line of humorous greeting cards and serviced national accounts such as Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods Markets and Papyrus. Now I currently license my designs with Recycled Paper Greetings, Leanin' Tree, American Greetings, Trader Joe's, Amber Lotus and several other companies.

I live in Berkeley, California and have a Master's Degree in Art Therapy. Before entering the design world, I taught "outsider art" at the local City College and Adult School.

© Kate Harper
TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? A writer friend of mine told me once, If I only had $50 in my bank account, that I should spend it on art supplies. I took her advice.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? What excites me at the moment is not what the gift market is ready for yet: Tech humor and the changes in culture, street art stenciling and using odd words in my art. It's the kind of thing I would buy, but bigger companies are hesitant to take a chance on edgy concepts. Perhaps later they will come around.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I do things like put a blob of acrylic paint on a piece of plastic and then stick things in it, like yarn, rocks or onion sacks. From there I stamp those textures onto white paper and scan them into my computer. I like textures more than anything -- especially where edges are undefined.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? What inspires me is to be around a creative person who is living the life they were meant to live. Being a witness in those moments makes me feel that I am exactly at the right place at the right time. When I see people drawn to their own vision, it effects me greatly.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? Approximately 4 years. Before that I ran a greeting card publishing business for about 15 years. I didn't realize I could do art licensing for royalties. Once I learned that, I approached one large corporation about licensing my line and they accepted it right away. After that, I decided to close my business since it was growing too large and I didn't want to relocate or manage staff.

TMFMA: Tell us about your creative process in creating art for licensing combined with words. I tend to start with words. I write my own words and also buy professional writer's and kids' words. Once I get the words, I draw around them.

TMFMA: What do you think makes words and images together so powerful? Well I don't know that they are powerful (LOL) but I can only hope they are! People tell me it is humor mixed with bright colors. I like to use colors that don't normally do together also, like lime green and burnt orange.

© Kate Harper
TMFMA: Tell us about a recent project where you used words and images to create your art. I'm currently working with an iPod app publisher who is expanding their current app to include a greeting card feature. I created 72 cards for their app in about two weeks. This was challenging not only because of the short time to make all new cards, but also because they had never worked in the greeting card business before and I had to help them learn all about the industry quickly, down to the basics such as envelope size standards.

It was one of the few times in my licensing career where it turned out to be easier for me to make the decisions on what kind of art a company should license from me, rather than having them be the ones to decide on design, sentiment and occasion.

TMFMA: If you were to mentor a new artist into licensing, what would you have her do as first thing? I think it's critically important to develop the kind of art you really enjoy doing, something you really get a buzz from and makes you feel like you are at home in your own body. After that, the art can be adapted to a product.

© Kate Harper
TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I still feel so new to this career, that once I think I know what is happening, then the opposite happens. My personal opinion is to look in the direction of tech. That is where the world is right now. Recently I bought a Kindle Touch for $99, yet the only flimsy skins (rubber cover) I could find started at $20! Interestingly, all of these skins had art on them. Common sense tells me these skins can be made very inexpensively, and yet people are buying them for this steep price. In my mind, that's the future.

Available as an e-book at Amazon
TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? Each one is so different. All I can say is they all want something safe, and that will sell. I think humor and pets are always a good theme.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Read my "Getting Started in Art Licensing article" on my blog.

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? It's important to read, utilize and participate to the professional Art Licensing online groupsand it's also important to be action oriented, such as what you did when you made our first Licensing group blog/website! It's 4 years overdue!

Kate Harper Art Licensing | Gift Design with a Sense of Humor

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Surface and Textile Design in Licensing – Artist Carol Van Zandt

Back to work! And happy + prosperous 2012 to everyone!

This year is going to be a fun one for me. I am looking forward to posting my new website within a few weeks and with it, some of my new collections for licensing I've been working on for the past couple of months. With the website, I will be polishing up my Facebook page, and I'll expand my licensing blog to cover more ground with fabulous art licensing artists and their inspirational stories. And while doing all that, I will probably resume my illustration work for my second children's book ... I am even thinking of taking my little characters for a brand licensing adventure. I can't wait!
Artist Carol Van Zandt

Meantime, I am very pleased to start 2012 by sharing this first editorial of a series of articles about surface and textile design, which is a topic many artists are interested in. To help illustrate it, I invited my friend, artist Carol Van Zandt. She designs fabrics, paper, and any product or surface that needs art on it. "I come from a fine art background and was a contemporary painter for many years. I also spent many years in the business world, so art licensing is a great way to use all my skills" - Carol says.

She loves to draw and also do brush painting and watercolor. Carol says: "I have come to love working with Adobe Illustrator, because of the editability and ease in changing colors and scale. I render most of my designs in Illustrator, even if I have hand drawn them first. Though I learned how to use the pen tool very well initially, I almost never use it now as I am typically not looking for that ultra smooth graphic look, but more of a hand painted or drawn organic look. I use Photoshop if I am going to use my brush or watercolor paintings for a design."
© Carol Van Zandt

© Carol Van Zandt
Carol has just started in art licensing; in the summer of 2010, after finishing school, (The California School of Professional Fabric Design) she decided she wanted be an independent designer and create her own design collections for sale and license. Carol spent the next year developing her first collections and preparing for her debut at Surtex in May 2011. After Surtex she decided to spend the next year researching and focusing on the licensing market exclusively.
I asked Carol what a repeat is, as many artists have emailed me with that question: "Designs are put into repeat for many end markets, where you need a design to 'continue' and become a pattern. This is especially true for all types of fabrics and also for paper, but repeating patterns are used across most products, sometimes just as as a coordinating pattern to a central composition, but just as often as the main design. The pattern can still be a one way design or it can be a design meant to be viewed from any direction."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol also adds: "Rather than having a central focal point like a piece of fine art, motifs, scenes and compositions are laid out in a matter so they can repeat themselves seamlessly. It can be a very simple pattern or a complex composition with many scenes or motifs that all flow into a repeating pattern. Any icon or motif can be put into a repeat by tossing it with more of the same icon or more variety of similar motifs, or it can be incorporated into a more complex pattern. Anything can be put into repeat."
So how many standard type of repeats are there? The main ones Carol uses are a square repeat or a half drop repeat – "but this gets into a long discussion and different people use different terminology and also different techniques", she says. It takes practice to do repeats well. There are many good resources on repeats.  One of the best is a new e-book called Repeat After Me by Claudia Brown & Jessie Whipple Vickery of Pattern People. 

ebook by Claudia Brown & Jessie Whipple Vickery of Pattern People
But techniques aside, how does one go about getting licensing deals in the textile licensing industry? Is there a "protocol?" What type of fabric design can be licensed? Carol says: "Many of the traditional textile end markets don't license artwork, they buy outright, mostly from design studios which focus on producing work for those markets, on trend. This includes apparel, bedding and other home furnishing fabrics. However, quilting cotton companies set up licensing arrangements with designers, and there are some other companies that license for textiles like kitchen textiles, rugs, or indoor and outdoor home products. Every company is different. If they license, I follow their instructions on how they want work to be submitted."
For new artists to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time Carol suggests to pick one end market and research that first, find out what kind of art the companies use and in what format, and develop and format designs for presentation to that market. Then move on to another market. She says:" Be patient, as it can take a lot of time to land a licensing deal, and even longer before the product is actually produced and you start getting paid royalties."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol also mentions that in selling and licensing one's art and design to any commercial market, manufacturers are best found by looking at products in stores or researching wholesale trade shows or trade magazines that cover those kinds of products.

"Pick a product category and try and figure out who the top five, ten or more companies are, where they are located, what kind of art they use, then find out one by one, if they license their art, buy their art outright, or design in house. The internet is your best friend," she says.  
Her advice to new artists going into art licensing: "Art licensing is not just a way to make money off your art. It's a business and you are licensing your art to the commercial market. Each end product is in a market all its own and works differently. In the end, it seems to work better to develop art in your own style for a particular market and end product rather than find end products where your art will fit. It may seem a subtle difference, but an art director at a company that makes a product is looking for the best designs for that product and likely the best designs have been created keeping that kind of product in mind. That doesn't mean that the same art can't be used for different products. As artists and designers it is easy for us to imagine our designs on a multitude of products, but you really need to try and look at it from the point of view of the manufacturer - what kind of art they have used in the past, what kind their competitors use, and then present a fresh way to represent their look keeping in mind current trends."
© Carol Van Zandt
Carol's excitement with her work is that it is creative work! She loves her studio time and loves the business aspect also, working with the manufacturers and art directors. It's a nice balance of studio work and business she says. She also spends time keeping up with what is going on in the design world which is invigorating for her – "I love that inspiration for surface design is so wide open and there are so many choices and directions to go. Compared to fine art, designing for the commercial market feels so much more expansive."
She concludes saying: "Art licensing is a business, and you are going into business with yourself if you go in this direction. As in any small business, it takes time to build it up, and you need to be able to fund your business until it really starts to work for you. If you are out of work and think you maybe should license some of your art that is just laying around to make some money, you are probably on the wrong track. Better to get some work that provides you some security and then be able to build up your art licensing portfolio and business on the side until you are ready to commit full time. And the fun part, make lots of art!"

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