Monday, February 6, 2012

From Fine Art to Licensing – Artist Sherri Buck Baldwin

I've been working on new color palettes to try out with my new collections – I was reading up about color psychology and the hidden meaning of colors in art in a couple of blogs to see if my memory was holding up as I studied this fascinating topic many years ago as part of an attachment to a course by the New York Institute of Photography. I had found it useful when applied to interior design as well as illustration.

I'm not sure yet how this will work in licensing but it's worth experimenting with the various concepts... But a sure thing is the beautiful art by artist Sherri Buck Baldwin that she kindly shares in this new interview.

Artist Sherri Buck Baldwin 
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself – I have been creating art for as long as I can remember. I earned a BFA degree with an emphasis in Fine Art Printmaking, letterpress and etching, from Illinois Wesleyan University. Reality struck with blinding force after graduation when I didn't know what to do to support myself. To pay the bills while I continued to draw and enter fine art shows I worked in an art supplies store, manufacturing, and as an illustrator for an ad agency, drawing nothing but furniture for their clients.

Ten years went by and I had increasingly frequent daydreams where the artwork I created in my home studio ended up on paper products and giftware items that earned royalties. I began to research the greeting card industry and discovered a small card company called Lang Graphics in my home state of Wisconsin. I submitted slides of my work (sound primitive?) and 4 of my images were accepted for Christmas cards in a new division called Main Street Press. Persistence began to pay off.

© Sherri Buck Baldwin - Oriole and Nasturtiums
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? After a year went by I was able to quit my day job at the ad agency and concentrate on artwork for Lang Graphics, creating Christmas cards and my first calendar. For the next 20 years I licensed my artwork exclusively with the Lang Companies for a variety of products and was consistently one of their top selling artists. By this time I had two children to raise and limited time to be creative so I was happy to work with one company. I left the Lang Companies when they went through bankruptcy proceedings in 2008. 

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My high school art teacher was very inspirational by also being an award-winning children's book illustrator in addition to teaching. He constantly challenged me to improve my drawing skills and exposed me to the work of renowned illustrators like Arthur Rackham, N.C. Wyeth, and the Caldecott award winners. His best advice was to "draw what you know" and he was right.

© Sherri Buck Baldwin -Kitchen Herbs
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I work primarily in colored pencil, acrylic ink, and watercolor, but also enjoy soft pastels, mixed media collage, and relief printing. Every morning I look forward to commuting downstairs to my studio to work on one of several projects I have in progress.

One of my favorite subjects is birds of all kinds and I spend a lot of time photographing them for my reference files, being especially pleased when I capture them in flight. I like to layer my drawings of birds with subtle collage elements to emphasize their beautiful, delicate feathers and create a feeling of depth. Botanical illustration is another favorite and as a master gardener I have many subjects to choose from in my own gardens. For 2013 my Kitchen Herb Garden calendar, published by Andrews McMeel, has become the Field to Market calendar and I enjoyed painting scenes of bountiful produce from local farmer's markets. I also enjoy creating a new Santa Claus image each year as well as a variety of other suitable subjects for Christmas cards. 

© Sherri Buck Baldwin - Santa’s Garden Greens
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or represent yourself? At this time I represent myself because I need to be knowledgeable about the licensing world, but that may change eventually. It is a challenge to find enough time to research companies, learn the necessary Photoshop skills, manage a website and Facebook page...and keep on creating artwork.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? In the same way that I believe far more in persistence than talent when it comes to being an artist, success in licensing comes from researching manufacturers and being persistent in showing your art. Read trade journals, join groups like the Art of Licensing on LinkedIn, and walk a trade show. I have found it to be very helpful to chat up the owner of retail shops that I admire because their opinions on trends and brands can be very helpful. Send jpegs to manufacturers where you think your art might fit in, but don't expect to get an answer right away - it could be weeks or months before you hear anything. And don't expect any feedback if your art isn't accepted. Cultivate a thick skin, patience, good time management skills, and belief in what you create. 

© Sherri Buck Baldwin - Goldfinches on Thistles
TMFMA: Anything else that you'd like to share? In the current stage of my art career I continue to pursue licensing arrangements and nurture the relationships I have to date with Legacy Publishing, Andrews McMeel, and Leanin' Tree. I am also getting ready to produce a small range of paper products on my own.

I'm working with a talented designer, Karen Ware Erickson, who was instrumental in Lang's phenomenal success with their lines of Christmas cards, calendars, boxes, and mugs. In addition to being a talented designer, she is also an excellent illustrator. Here is a link to an album of some of our collaborations (note by the editor: you can access this link only if you are logged into your own Facebook account).

I enjoy being the creative director for a change and having a say in how my art is used. With continued persistence and a shot of luck I hope to strike a balance between licensing my art and producing products on my own.

© Sherri Buck Baldwin - Sunflower

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


Patti said...

Her work is really lovely.

Wendy Edelson said...

Beautiful work, nice to "meet" you, Sherri, thanks, Alex!