Monday, April 30, 2012

Special Surtex 2012 Series – Exhibiting Artists

SURTEX® is the global B2B (business-to-business) marketplace for original art & design—where artists, agents and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category you can think of, such as wall coverings, decorative accessories, bed linens, stationery, giftware, tabletop and so many more. I am new to licensing and am very happy to have Montage Licensing represent me at this great show, although I will be there myself for the three days - if you want to meet up email or tweet me:!/MoonFromMyAttic.

Starting this week I'll be posting free promotional pieces for either new or established artists who are exhibiting at Surtex 2012. If you'd like to participate in this series, please e-mail me with your artwork, one (1) low res image, name, booth number and link.

Here is the first exhibitor's promo piece:

Paul Brent is a long-term established fine art and licensing artist, 
a very successful and inspiring one! Find him at Booth #506!

Paul Brent Designer, Inc. 
Contact: Denise Tannery - 

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Family Design Story: Cathy Heck Studio

Surtex is now is less than a month away. I fell in love with it last year when I walked the floor for the first time so I decided to exhibit in 2012. I recently signed up with Montage Licensing for representation and couldn’t be more happy - I'm very excited about my debut, but most of all I am thrilled to be working and sharing ideas with such a creative and ever-growing community of inspiring artists and professional manufacturers from around the world!

And speaking of professional artists, I am happy to introduce the first of many upcoming inspiring posts with Surtex exhibitors. I briefly met Cathy and Ellen Heck last year at Surtext - a fantastic mother-daughter design duo based in Austin, Texas. Although, they enjoy creating artwork for all product categories, they are most known for their successful juvenile collections. In fact, over two million babies own a Cathy Heck baby book. Now, Cathy works alongside her own child, Ellen, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a talented artist, who has literally grown up in the business of Cathy Heck Studio.

TMFMA:  Please introduce yourself with a short bio. We are Cathy and Ellen Heck. We work from our two studios: Cathy in Austin, Texas and Ellen near Berkeley, California. We create our work with pencil, pen, brush and mouse. We are connected seamlessly by the big computer in the sky.

CATHY: Although Ellen officially started working with me several years ago, she has actually always been by my side, working from her own little drawing table in the studio.

ELLEN: It was great to grow up in a house in which the art supply drawer was right next to the silverware drawer.  We were making art all the time.

TMFMA: How did you find your way to design licensing? CATHY: I was lucky to begin my career as an art director at Young & Rubicam, a large advertising agency in New York City. As an art director, I hired illustrators through their agents to create illustrations from my layouts. One of those agents, Jane Lander, asked if I would like to try my hand as a free-lance illustrator. So I began ... learning each new medium on the job ... a little scary, but it worked. I created illustrations for a wide variety of clients from Woman's Day to Jell-O. At that time, design licensing was a very new way of commissioning work, but Lynda Sylvester, who worked with Jane, took my portfolio to a gift company and my first licensed collection was born: Share-A-Hug, a group of characters that centered around a big polar bear named Bahama Bear and a reindeer, named J.Randolph Reindeer, V.P. of Marketing of S. Claus, Inc. (our characters have shorter names these days - for example, meet Baby Bot and Gif.)

ELLEN: I first squeezed my way into licensing when I was 13. Cathy had been creating hundreds of stickers which she licensed to Frances Meyer Inc. during the early scrapbooking "sticker boom." I asked if I could present some ideas for stickers too, and as the very encouraging mom that she has always been, Cathy said that I could present a group of ideas for the next presentation. I sent 6 ideas and, happily, they chose two: puppies and kitties. I still remember seeing my very own puppies in Michael's for the first time. It was a thrill!

TMFMA:  What's exciting about your creative work? CATHY:  Starting a new project, trying a new medium, receiving an email from a new mom who loves one of our collections. With art licensing, I get to know people all over the world.

ELLEN: I love holding the real thing in my hands. After first working on the computer files and then being separated from the project while in production, it is always a fun surprise to receive a box of samples.

© Cathy Heck Studio from the Little Pond collection
TMFMA:  Who/what has inspired you in your art? CATHY: I adore children's books, almost to the point of needing some intervention. Two of my favorite contemporary illustrators are Lisbeth Zwerger and Helen Oxenbury. I have also been inspired by the strong conceptual work of Milton Glaser and the wise instruction from my college professor, Dr. Leonard Ruben. I am energized by daily life with my funny family. I am even moved to draw by our rescue dog, Neville, whose lineage is definitely unclear, but whose personality is kind and good. (Plus, he's a blog hog). Whether the characters in my illustrations are from a tropical rainforest or a quiet little pond, they carry traits and expressions that are found in the children I have known and loved.

ELLEN: Cathy's children's book fanaticism - as you might imagine - has resulted in the creation of the best children's book library I know. We were so lucky to grow up surrounded by such a well-curated collection of inspirational pieces. Also, always the art-director, Cathy encouraged my sisters and me from a very early age to try to approach school and art projects (and Christmas cards, and everything really...) from different angles. Thinking outside the box and striving for clever concept implementation became goals very early in our lives. Cathy's encouragement, expertise, and generous teaching have been, without a doubt, my greatest inspiration.

CATHY:  Oh gosh.

© Cathy Heck Studio from the Zoophabet® collection
TMFMA:  What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? CATHY: A pencil, Sennelier watercolors, jars of Prismacolor pencils, a fresh new Rapidograph, a fat Staedtler eraser, Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes, Photoshop, and my Epson printer (love that guy).

ELLEN: Photoshop is magic, I love the smell of watercolors, and there is nothing more beautiful than a full-size etching press.

TMFMA:  Can you share a favorite technique you routinely use in your artwork? CATHY and ELLEN: Our new favorite technique is called mother-daughter-collaboration surprise. This technique was discovered under a string of tight deadlines, during which we discovered that we could literally work on the same art and the collaborative result was even more interesting than the original idea. One of us will draw a sketch with pencil. One will tidy the sketch with ink. One will color the art with paint. One will put the art into a repeat pattern with Illustrator. One will blend the pattern with other patterns in Photoshop. One will mock up a product. One will call the other one and say, "That's not what I had planned ... it's so much better!"  The other one will say, "I agree. We are amazing." You can read Ellen's post about the birth of a pattern here.

© Cathy Heck Studio from the Emma collection
TMFMA:  Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. CATHY: Because I have been in the licensing business for over 25 years, I'm going to answer this one. We have seen up and down cycles throughout our experience. Following the last downturn, however, we have seen a different kind of recovery in the way this business works. I believe it is not solely because of the recent drop in economy, but rather the combination of that economic decline with the rise in computer-based design and social media all at the same time. Although the economy is becoming stronger (cautiously), I believe that a designer has to examine new methods of creating and selling work, as well as marketing via social networking in order to decide which methods work best for his or her styles and product categories. The way people buy is changing every day, and since our art adorns those things that people buy, we must adjust to those new buying styles.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists who are considering the art licensing field and that maybe want to exhibit in a show like Surtex? CATHY: Visit Surtex. Walk the aisles. See the booths (have a nice dinner; you are in New York, after all!). Go back to your studio, and make lots of art. Take an inspiration break to see new trends. Go back to your studio and make more art. If you have children, watch their soccer games. It's good for you, and good for them. After you have made a lot of art, exhibit at Surtex.  You will then know if this is the business for you. Surtex will help you discover the best way for you to make art and make enough money to keep making art.

ELLEN: Hug your boss (if she's your mom). Or, hug your mom, even if she's not your boss.

CATHY:  :-)  

And if you haven't read it yet, don't forget to check out Cathy and Ellen's fun and informative Surtex After Hours Guest blog post!  

Cathy Heck Studio

Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspired by Nature - Artist Valerie Greeley

In preparation for Surtex I've been working to get more collections completed but also to create art pieces for some promo/marketing that I will be publishing in trade mags and so on. Starting next week I will be publishing free ads on this blog of newbies and established art licensing artists exhibiting at Surtex. 

And this will be my first interview to be tweetted - I'm very happy to host this interview with a wonderful artist who has been in licensing for quite sometime. Her name is Valerie Greeley.

Artist Valerie Greeley
She lives in Cheshire, England with her husband. She has two sons and one grandson. Her background is in design – she studied Textile design at Manchester Metropolitan University and her career in art spans three decades.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? I can't remember a time that it was not part of my life. When I graduated from university I became a freelance textile designer, working directly with manufacturers and also through agents. Later I moved into stationery and children's books. I have lived for most of my working life in and around the pottery producing areas of Stoke-on-Trent and found freelance work with many of the factories there.

© Valerie Greeley
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I prefer watercolor for the very detailed pieces but have tried to keep up with new technology, so sometimes I combine traditional drawing and painting with digital effect. I very rarely do a piece of work entirely digitally, most pieces start with a drawing by hand in the time honored way. When I worked on the illustrations for "The Bird with the Rainbow Tail" I used a black pen drawing and worked patterns and textures digitally. For textile designs and work that requires color separation I sometimes work in gouache, mixing up eighteen different pots of paint!

© Valerie Greeley
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? As a student I was very influenced by the exponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement, in particular Walter Crane. I am drawn to decorative work and love Japanese textiles and wood engravings. Above all I am inspired by nature and find inspiration in the woodlands and gardens around my home.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? My career has many ups and downs, for many years I was fortunate enough to have a publisher who allowed me to create children's picture books. In the mid nineties, just as things were beginning to get difficult for picture book publishers, I received a letter from an art editor at Amcal who had seen my books in the USA. She invited me to submit my work for their publishing program. We did calendars, note cards, etc.

© Valerie Greeley
This was my first introduction into the world of royalty based licensing although prior to this I had done some flat fee licensing, we just did not call it licensing then. For many years after leaving university I sold work outright, mainly for textiles and stationery and ceramic decals. Things have changed so much since then.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I work with Advocate Art and have been with them for over three years. I also do some work independently as my contract allows.

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? I learned a lot from other artists, I did Surtex several times which was enormously helpful and I would recommend taking part in the show if possible. In the UK we have The Spring Fair, all good places to learn the ins and outs of the business.

© Valerie Greeley
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art-licensing field? This may seem rather obvious but you need to keep good records. Invest in a good scanner, learn Photoshop, digitize your work and make back up copies. Give every design a number and a name and keep everything on file. I now have over 600 images and cannot possibly keep them all in my head! Print out physical copies in case your computer crashes and email high-resolution files to yourself. Make copies in a lower resolution for email submissions and keep any layered files separate. Play to your strengths and try to be true to yourself and above all keep an optimistic frame of mind.

More lovely artwork by Valerie 

© Valerie Greeley

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Character Licensing - Part II: Artist Marty Qatani

© alex colombo
Happy Easter! And, in honor of the day and this two-part series on character licensing, here's one of my own experimental characters, Linnette the Silly Bunny! I published part I of this collaborative editorial on character licensing at the beginning of the week that featured artist Bill Abbott.

My next guest is artist Marty Qatani: "What can I say, I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy cartoons" – Marty says. "I'm a big fan of the 60's Saturday morning cartoons from Hanna Barbera (yes, I'm old enough to have watched them when they originally aired :) ). As I got older, I would sit in front of the TV with a pad of paper or sketchbook and try to draw the various characters as shows played. Even later in life, I discovered the vintage Popeye cartoons from the Fleischer Studios... absolutely one of my favorite cartoon series."

As for a description of Marty's art and style, as he mentioned above, Hanna Barbera was a big influence on him, as well as "legendary Mad magazine cartoonist Don Martin, Berke Brethed, Rick Griffin... the influences are many, and just as varied in style," Marty adds.

© Marty Qatani - Spider Mickey
Marty's main overall theme can be described as fun, colorful, whimsical, and at times, satirical. Marty says: "Expressing some positive-ity is important to me. Too much art, especially cartoon art, has a negative feel to it." His technique: "100% of the time, I start with a hand drawn sketch, which is then scanned and brought into Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop where it is colored. Currently I am working on a design that started as a sketch, then traced in Illustrator with the brush tool (I like the various line widths and styles I get this way) and then brought into Photoshop to add color. I recently started experimenting with textures in Photoshop, which is why I'm not leaving the design in Illustrator for coloring."

© Marty Qatani - GhoulCrewTorn
What's exciting about your creative work, I asked Marty. "Exciting is an objective term. What's exciting for me may not be exciting for others, and it's hard to explain...but when something comes together, I just get a rush and it's hard to stop, even if I'm blurry eyed and know I should be going to bed. I can't stop until that rush goes away." He then adds: "My inspiration is everywhere, old posters, other cartoonist's work, old cartoon shows, music, concert posters from the 60's, color patterns I see when I'm literally is everywhere."

Marty is currently working on 3-4 individual designs with no relation to each other, but each hopefully presents numerous licensing opportunities, he says. "Licensing is a hard field to get established in. I first discovered the concept of licensing years ago. I immediately wanted to get involved and it's been a learning process ever since, including exhibiting twice at the International Licensing Show when it was held in NYC. That was an expensive learning experience. In hindsight, I would have done quite a few things differently, but I'm focusing on moving forward, not looking back. Just recently I've been fortunate to sign a contract with an agent in the UK for representation for several of my designs, and for several designs they've come up with but want me to illustrate."

© Marty Qatani - Polar Bear Beach
Marty concludes saying, "Be original and don't copy what's already out there, nobody likes an imitation. Research, read the trade journals, (licensing mags, etc), join the various Character/Art Licensing groups on LinkedIn, get involved and get noticed. But most importantly, do what you love, don't fake it.

His main goal, he says, is to establish several original character based properties he's created as licensed character brands.

Find more of Marty's work here: 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Character Licensing - Part I: Artist Bill Abbott

Last week was a happy week for me as I completed a few more collections to add to my Surtex debut binder and also discovered that I had been featured on the Print & Pattern blog - marketing through networking and social media is also a new adventure for me but it's been fun so far!

And speaking of fun, this week I'd like to start a special editorial in two parts about character licensing - I have been pondering about this branch of licensing for some time but have not looked into it too deeply yet. It's actually rather exciting to learn more about it from two fun and humorous artists like Bill Abbott and Marty Qatani.

Bill in Iraq - Bill in Virginia
I'll start this week with Bill Abbott - he was born and raised in upstate New York and had a pretty eclectic career path, Bill says. "I've been a stockbroker, followed by nearly 20 years in the military in Naval Special Warfare with the Special Boat Teams (I'm a Navy SWCC), and now I draw funny little pictures featuring people with absurdly large glasses."

Bill also adds that "my style is your pretty common single panel gag cartoon format, with a bit more emphasis on quality coloring." Amazing cartoonists like Charles Schulz, Mischa Richter, Jim Unger, and so many others have had an influence on his work and provided the inspiration to always try to improve, says Bill.

"As far as a theme or overall effect I try to create, it's pretty simple – I hope to get a chuckle out of the people who view my work. The process I use is really straight forward: I first pencil my work on Strathmore Bristol board, then use an antique Pelikan fountain pen for the inking. After that, I scan it with an Epson something-or-other scanner, then import it into Photoshop for the color. I'm not a believer in hiding techniques or methods – either an artists work stands on its own creative merits or it doesn’t. We are better as a community if we encourage and assist others who are trying to achieve success for themselves."

© Bill Abbott
Bill says that he's not sure there's anything particularly exciting about his work, other than he looks forward to working on it – "thinking of goofy scenarios for my characters is pretty enjoyable process." I think Bill's work is really fun!

Along with the cartoonists he mentioned above, there are so many people, artists of all stripes, that inspire him, like illustrator Brian Despain. Bill says his work is brilliant. Since humor is the cornerstone of effective cartoons, he also love reading H.L Mencken – "his dry wit transcends time," Bill adds.

"There's a few things I'm working on now that I'm pretty excited about. I've had the extreme good fortune to have my work licensed by Hallmark, which has just happened, so I anticipate creating the collateral artwork for that. Mead Westvaco will be releasing 2 wall calendars and a Year In A Box calendar in 2013 featuring my "Spectickles" characters. I've recently been syndicated by Ink Bottle Syndicate who will carry Spectickles in their Funnies Extra. Additionally, I'm collaborating with the Funnies Extra publisher, Richard Cross, on a new comic we call "Karma Café" – also syndicated in the Funnies Extra. There's a few more irons in the fire, and we'll see what happens!"

© Bill Abbott
Bill returned from the Middle East in 2008, and says he was fortunate to have his work picked up by licensing agent Suzanne Cruise. "We secured several deals, including greeting cards, figurines, cocktail napkins, and calendars. I then began working with agent Grahame Allan in Australia, followed most recently by MGL Licensing in the UK; they were the talented group who brought about the Hallmark UK deal."

Character licensing is very competitive, Bill comments - "It can also be massively lucrative, such as the case of Jim Benton's Happy Bunny and the Hello Kitty brand. For those seeking to enter this arena, I would strongly recommend knowing precisely which audience you’re targeting. For instance, while children's markets are by far the most sought-after, I know my work is entirely inappropriate – it connects best with older adults. As we seek licensing opportunities for Spectickles, it would be a waste of a potential licensee's time to present this brand to a company who produces products for teenagers or children – it won't make the connection required for it to be successful. Of critical importance is understanding the contracts you sign. Know what rights you're giving away, what territories are covered, contract durations, and everything that could potentially impact the future use of your art."

© Bill Abbott
To conclude Bill says: "It's becoming increasingly apparent that my wife won't let me rule the world, so my future aspirations are to increase the visibility of Spectickles, to enjoy new licensing opportunities and, when appropriate, introduce the Karma Café brand, and very importantly, to help others achieve their goals as well."

Bill started drawing when he was very young, as his curtains and bedspread were Peanuts, he began with Snoopy and Charlie Brown. He continued on and off till he started with the military at which time he gave it up. Bill began drawing again in 2001 and between deployments started sending them out to magazines to get published. He didn't really ramp things up till he returned from his last deployment in mid 2008 when he'd read about licensing and contacted Suzanne Cruise, who then became his art licensing agent.

Bill Abbott's Links:
Spectickles on Zazzle: