Monday, August 27, 2012

The Inspirational World of Fine Art: Artist Elizabeth Tipton

This week has been very inspirational for me for a number of reasons. I have completed a series of collections for licensing but also experimented on a couple of fine art projects that are so exciting and refreshing! I am thinking to re-open an on-line shop soon and join a growing community of illustrators and fine art artists who also license their beautiful work. Etsy seems to be a favorite place.

Artist Elizabeth Tipton
Elizabeth Tipton is an American artist known for her lush florals and decorative patterns. She recently also opened a shop on Her original artwork has been licensed by leading manufacturers in the home decor, gift and stationery industry. She studied with John Collier at the University of Kansas and then continued on to a successful career as a commercial illustrator in St. Louis. She primarily works in oil, often transforming her imagery further using Photoshop. Now currently living in Nashville, she continues her painting and design and maintains her own website and blog.

The Moon from My Attic: What brought you to art in the first place? From a very young age I was good at drawing and painting and knew I wanted to be an artist. We moved around a lot and I was quite shy as a child. Making art was an escape from being in the real world. It was a way for me to create my own visual reality that comforted me.

© Elizabeth Tipton-"Be Strong and Colorful" (mixed media) 
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I love getting an idea, seeing something in my head and then trying to make it a visual reality. Lately the excitement has come from more process oriented work, not having a plan and seeing what imagery develops, what feels right and intuitive. This new process is more intellectually engaging for me. It feels more alive and immediate and keeps me in the moment.

TMFMA: Who has inspired you in your art journey? I love art history and took many courses in college. So I've always looked to artists from history to inspire me, but contemporary artists move me as well. Pierre Bonnard is probably the main artist I've gleaned the most inspiration from over the years, along with others like Schiele, Klimt, and Odilon Redon. 

© Elizabeth Tipton-"Frida Sun" and "Moroccan Begonias" both oil + PS
But I love Susan Rothenburg and other modern painters as well. It always comes down to emotional content, and their work resonates deeply with me.

TMFMA: Tell us about a recent project you'd like to share. I started a blog on my web site a little over a year and half ago.  Along with publishing sketchbook pages, photos from my life, and studio work, I made the decision to make a postcard each week and post it whether it was good or bad. I wanted to be vulnerable, to show that not everything comes out well. I also wanted to see what would develop over time, what imagery would surface. 

© Elizabeth Tipton - "Passion Flower", oil 
It's been a good exercise. I just posted my 71st postcard and I still look forward to making them each week.

TMFMA: Any other important info that you'd like to share about your art? In addition to making paintings again I recently signed a wall decor agreement and started an Etsy shop. I've also been designing websites for creative people. I love making them from an artist's perspective, rather than that of a designer's. They end up being visual worlds that are less cluttered, more artful. The response has been really wonderful and I find I like the balance of that work against the other imagery I'm making. 

© Elizabeth Tipton-"Dream"-oil pastel,
acrylic  + mixed media and PS 
I design facebook and blog banners too. It's very rewarding to help people visualize their dreams.

© Elizabeth Tipton-"Joy in Orange", oil and gold leaf on wood

Monday, August 20, 2012

Art that Feeds the Soul - Artist Stephanie Ryan

More and more, people are looking for uplifting and inspirational art that speaks to their soul and that is a reflection of their own values and dreams. When an artist comes along with that perfect point of view, that unique style and beauty that appeals to multiple generations, it is a dream come true.

Stephanie Ryan's art has that effect on people. Her art is beautiful and speaks to the soul because it comes from her own heart.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? Hi Alex, thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story with your readers. I like to refer to myself as an artist, designer and creative soul. I love to paint, craft, write and play on the computer. My career started as a doll maker many moons ago and I have been in product development ever since. Currently, I am living my dream as a self-employed artist; I still can't believe it! My work is primarily watercolor art with thoughtful sentiment weaved throughout.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? I think the exciting part for me is the creation of something new. I never know what I am going to paint when I sit down to work. I let my intuition guide me and pretty flowers start to appear. I also love manipulating the art on the computer. I go into it with the same sense of wonder every time and am always surprised by the finished product.

TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? There are too many to list, I am constantly inspired by nature and my beautiful friends in the art community. I also have this inner voice that is constantly guiding and nurturing my creative spirit. I can't shut it off. My life is all about finding and creating the art that lives inside my heart.

TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. I have been on the product development side of things for a long time and always wanted to create my own art for products. In an effort to live the life of my dreams, I finally faced my fears and took the leap in 2011 with the introduction of Floral Fusion, a dinnerware collection for Lenox. After the success of Floral Fusion I started to create collections and develop my brand. In 2012, I partnered with MHS Licensing to oversee all of my licensing opportunities so that I could concentrate on what is important to me - creating art and inspiring others to listen to their hearts and see that anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself.

This past May, after attending Surtex for many, many years I finally had my own booth as an exhibitor! It was a dream come true. Surtex was a huge success and I couldn't be happier with my decision to exhibit. So, I guess you can call me a newbie to the licensing game but I feel like I have been doing it forever because of my background in manufacturing for the past...oh, too many years!

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on and what's exciting about it? Right know I am working on expanding my collections. I am trying to envision what my dream products are and create vision boards and mock ups for manufacturers. I am also creating new art and preparing for the launch of my first fabric collection for Moda Fabrics this fall. Everything is exciting these days!

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals as an artist? That is a question that I have been giving a lot of thought these past couple of weeks. First, I would like to be a successful licensed artist, but I want more than that too.

I want a creative life that has a purpose and meaning and I want to share my experiences and story. I'm not quite sure what that is yet. I would love to write a book, teach workshops, and figure out how to nurture other people's creative spirit. 

TMFMA: Any important tip and trick you can share about licensing? Let's true to yourself, create a strong brand that you love because you have to live with it for a while. Create a lot; manufacturers always want to see what's new! Create product sheets of how your art looks on products.

You have to have a lot of patience to make it in licensing. It takes at least 3 years to start getting a steady stream of income coming in. Put a lot of thought into whether or not you want an agent. I think that was the hardest decision I had to make about my licensing career. Oh! and most importantly, have fun and create from your heart.

Stephanie's Website:

You might also want to listen to her recent interview with Monica Lee at Smart Creative Women.

More of Stephanie's art:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Flexibility in Art Licensing - Artist Victoria Hutto

Licensing might not be the only source of income for an artist. The common tendency is to diversify. In fact many artists sell their art directly, through art galleries, online shops, and other art venues; some of them manufacture their own products as well. There are as many possibilities and opportunities as there are art styles. And to keep fresh and relevant in the industry it's key to understand what the markets need and want.

Our guest artist this week is a great example of how to be flexible and get your art on different products.

© Victoria Hutto - Just Be Free

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us about yourself and your art? My name is Victoria Hutto and I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like many artists, I can't remember a time where I didn't like to draw. My earliest memory is doodling Snoopy in the borders of my math book in middle school. I would love to have seen the expression of the next student who received my old math book.

When I was attending the University of California, Davis, I took a couple of art and design classes which confirmed my love for art. From there I transferred to the California College of Arts & Crafts in Oakland. It is currently known as the California College of the Arts. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. When I finished my degree, I went to work for Curtis Swann, a greeting card company in San Francisco and then from there I went to work for Sanrio, the creator of licensing great, Hello Kitty.

© Victoria Hutto - Jsut Be Kind 
I took a break from the gift market for several years and experimented with different mediums, such as designing a line of jewelry and developing a line of gourd art. When living in Dallas, my husband came across an ad for a designer for Jeanmarie Creations, a gift bag company in Oklahoma. I was not really looking for a job but sent some of my old greeting card samples. I was pleasantly surprised when they wanted to hire me. My thought was to stay long enough to learn how to use a computer. I had no idea I would end up staying there for 14 years.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? I love all forms of art. Since I make my living as a licensed artist, I found it advantageous to work digitally. But I also like working with three dimensional objects. The thought of creating something from "nothing" is very exciting to me. To be able to take a blank canvas, a document, a sheet of paper, even a gourd, and create something that sparks a smile or a conversation inspires me.

© Victoria Hutto - Fabrics
TMFMA: Is there a person or thing that has influenced you in your artistic efforts? What inspires you? When I was going to art school, I cherished my book on Maxfield Parrish. I love his use of color; the way he used color in his shadows and light. Color has continued to be an important aspect of my work. I am intrigued with the idea that art can bring a smile to someone's face. I found this in Mary Engelbreit's work. I enjoyed the playfulness in her art and I loved all the different type of products it appeared on. Looking a back now, I feel she was my first introduction to licensing. I remember wondering "how do I do that?"

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? I just finished my first children's book, "12 Days of Christmas in Oklahoma," that will be coming out in October. And now I am currently working on a new series of designs. I like working on fun, bright whimsical designs, but I am always evolving. My new art style is a little different and recently debuted with Gango Edition - I think I might continue to develop this style.

© Victoria Hutto - Let It Snowmen
TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. I celebrated my first year as a full time licensing artist in June. I signed on with one of the top licensing agents, Suzanne Cruise. I told her that my dream is to have my artwork on everything that it could possibly apply on. She has done just that for me. I mostly started with two dimensional products, such as greeting cards, floor mats, flags, paper partyware etc., but I have grown to enjoy the aspects of developing products. My art has appeared on centerpieces, glass plates, ornaments, stocking holders, etc. You can see my work and products on my website.

© Victoria Hutto
TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share? I work primarily digitally. I feel that this enables me to make the color changes and/or revisions quickly. Licensing is a tough business and I think the most important thing I have learned this year is to stay flexible. I had worked in the gift industry for over 20 years before I decided to license my work. Manufacturers have a need to fill. If you are willing to work with them to fill that need, it will help to build relationships. A good relationship with the client is very important in any business.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I would like to continue to evolve as an artist. I want to experiment with different mediums and combine them with my digital skills. I think this will keep my work fresh.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Brief Tips & Tricks in Art Licensing

Sometime ago I read an interesting thread about "Everyday" art that I thought would be interesting to new licensing artists; so what's "Everyday" art? 

If you wish to share your views about this topic, please feel free to leave us a comment.

Jane McCoy Maday • Generally, "Everyday" refers to art that is not for a specific holiday (or sometimes season). For example, a birthday card would be an "Everyday" design, whereas a Mother's Day card would not. Some winter designs do not fall into the Everyday category, because there is a "Winter Holiday" category that covers the whole general season (more than just Christmas). So if a client asks you to submit only Everyday art, you would send art that could apply any day of the year, for products that could be used any day.

Suzanne Cruise • For card companies, and many product companies, the year is divided into 4 categories: spring, summer, fall and winter, then they categorize from there. 
Generally, cards fall into Everyday and Seasonal categories. Birth days, deaths, weddings, baby arrivals, etc. all happen 365 days a year so are all considered Everyday. The sentiment on an Everyday piece can also be thinking of you, missing you, glad you are my friend/sis/mom/dad, thank you for....., congrats, etc. Seasonal consists of Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Fall/Harvest, Halloween, but some companies include 4th of July, St. Patrick's, Valentine, Easter, etc. as Seasonal. It is a good idea to divide your work within these categories. And I would put all snowmen together, Santas together, Halloween together, we even group our Florals by specific flowers.

Bob Giordano • Can the design sell "Everyday" 365 a year? That's the question to ask as you view your files. And as stated above an Everyday design can cross-over. Particularly Mother's Day, Father's Day, Val and to a lesser extent Easter/Spring. In today's digital world it's only a few clicks to take an Everyday to an Occasional if verse alone can't swing the theme. Add hearts, Easter eggs, you get the idea I'm sure. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Evolving Styles and Inspirational Imagery - Licensed Artist Susan Winget

You've probably heard the saying that people buy not so much based on logic but based on emotion. There is usually a subtle, emotional aspect involved, no matter how coldly logical and practical a purchase may seem. This video titled "The Carousel" (from the TV series Mad Man) illustrates this point really well, and it's also a good marketing lesson for those interested in getting their own art out there.

As artists, we try to inspire people with our works and vice versa we also get influenced by other artists through their techniques, compositions, and by their distinctive imagination.

Susan Winget's art is very inspiring indeed, through her high quality execution, themes and vision. So I am very thrilled to feature her this week!

Artist Susan Winget
The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to interview on your blog! My name is Susan Winget and I am an artist in Charlotte, North Carolina. I have always loved art and began painting small watercolor paintings from my home when my husband, Al, and I started our family. One thing led to another and I have now been in the art licensing business for over twenty years! I never imagined my artwork and studio would become what it is today... definitely beyond my wildest dreams! To read my full "story" please visit my website.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? Art has always been a big part of my life. As a child I loved drawing and painting and dreamt of being an artist when I grew up - well that or a veterinarian (I love animals, too!) Being creative has always been a part of my day to day life and I am so fortunate to be able to make a living sharing this gift with others.

© Susan Winget - Butterfly Music
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? The thing I get most excited about in my creative work is that it is changing all of the time. Over the years my work has evolved in ways I never imagined. I love experimenting with different styles and imagery and I'm always trying to "lean" into new trends and opportunities that will expand my portfolio.

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? Watercolor is my medium of choice. I love the way the water and paint blend as my brush dances across the page - the paintings truly take on a life of their own. I also love my watercolor crayons - the look achieved from the layering and mixing of the paint and crayons is fabulous, and also fun to do.

© Susan Winget - Dragonfly & Bird
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? My work is primarily inspired by my family, nature, and the wonderful artists I work with everyday. Al and I live on a farm where I am surrounded by the plants, birds, and other creatures that often make an appearance in my artwork. It is also my hope that my paintings would convey the love of family and warmth of home that I experience everyday on our farm. My latest little inspiration is my granddaughter, Mary, who recently turned one! Of course, I am also inspired by many great artists throughout history like Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I have been in the licensing world for twenty years. My path to this industry was unique. Lang began publishing some of my watercolor paintings on greeting cards and after that I was fortunate to be approached by an agent. She taught me the ins and outs of the industry and I loved the new challenges that art licensing presented. From there, my studio learned how to make our art more dimensional for all kinds of products and textiles... I have been hooked ever since!

© Susan Winget - Rooster
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? To me, working with an art agency is so important. When I started working with the agents at Courtney Davis Inc. my brand expanded immensely. I am so thankful to be able to focus on creating art while they handle marketing my brand and finding new ways to license my artwork.

TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2012-2013? For my studio, the themes of nature continue to dominate. Flowers, birds, and butterflies continue to bring success. The bohemian style is definitely a major trend right now. The rich colors and funky patterns are so much fun to play with! It also continues to be important to add meaning to the artwork and designs through sentiment. I believe inspirational work continues to be on the rise.

© Susan Winget - Lighthouse & Fence
TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? First, you need to create everyday. This is vital to finding your true "voice" and unique style to offer the licensing world. Also, you must be willing try new ideas and accept the opportunities and challenges that present themselves along the way. Listen to what the industry wants, keep up with trends, and enjoy the challenge. You never know what blessings await!

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? My studio has recently accepted the saying, “be the hummingbird.” As hummingbirds are constantly seeking out the sweet nectar, we to have to try our best to search out the sweet stuff. Rejection is a part of this industry - not everything you create will become a success. But it is important, and vital, to focus on the positives. Remember to celebrate each success as it comes!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Elegance of Textile Design: Laura Foster Nicholson

Perhaps this coming week I will sign my first contract for licensing... I'm thrilled at the prospect of this next great progression into this amazing market labyrinth and feel very excited that this possibility will actually happen and that some of my efforts will finally pay off! Crossing my fingers...

But dreams aside, let's talk textile licensing with our wonderful guest and artist Laura Foster Nicholson. After receiving a BFA and an MFA, she set off to develop her career as a fine artist making hand woven tapestries. She built a strong career, exhibited internationally, won prizes and grants, and got published. When she finally felt she could branch out ("it takes real focus to do that!" Laura says), she decided she really wanted to design woven textiles and explore the jacquard loom.

That interest has led Laura through interior design textiles to designing her own line of jacquard ribbons, and then to branch out into woven, embroidered and printed textiles for home furnishings companies. "It is all fun" - she says. "The fine art keeps me grounded and is the deep wellspring of rich ideas and the design work grows out of that and lightens it up to share with a wider audience."

LFN Textiles for Renaissance Ribbons, summer 2011
(courtesy RR)
TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? I’ve been involved in fine art & sewing since I was a child, I always knew I would be a fine artist. I majored in "fiber" in art school – the arty version of textiles – and never looked back. I am first and foremost a weaver of one-off, narrative tapestries. I enjoy designing textiles for industry as it is another way to make textiles and a different set of ideas to work with.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? I balance my career between fine gallery art and textile design, which includes designing a line of ribbons for Renaissance Ribbons, and I design household textiles under license with Crate & Barrel and Land of Nod. I love working with those companies and like figuring out how my distinct style can work with theirs.

I really enjoy working with museums to produce either textile designs or small runs of handmade items for them and am designing right now for the shop at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. This particular relationship came about because I had done an extensive series of tapestries about the vegetable garden there years ago, and I went to them and suggested we work together on products. Work like this gives me the opportunity to look into stories I am interested in and make or design something in response. The clients I work with tend to be curious, collaborative, and respectful of my position as a fine artist as well as a designer and craftsperson.

LFN Textiles for Monticello: table linens and china plates, 2011-2012
(courtesy Monticello)
TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I love to weave and to sew. The knowledge of these skills helps in designing textile items, and I adore materials, so I can bring a tactile appreciation to designed product.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? William Morris has always been an influence as a designer who saw the total designed environment. I also took my MFA at Cranbrook, another “total environment” designed by Eliel Saarinen and furnished with textiles designed and made by his wife, Loja Saarinen.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I began pursuing licensing in the mid-90's with high end interior textiles companies and landed a contract with Jack Lenor Larsen. I had published some work wherein I had upholstered chairs with hand woven tapestry fabric, and Jack called me and invited me to collaborate with him. It was thrilling working with a master like him and seeing the direction he took my designs, which were all based on my handwoven tapestries. The downside was that I was frustrated when many of our developments were killed (Larsen was purchased by Cowtan & Tout while I was working with them) and all of this beautiful sampling came to naught – we did get one beautiful drapery fabric out. After that I tried for some time to design fabrics and get them produced myself – had I known the investment required I doubt I would have even tried! – and that segued into the ribbon business.

LFN Textiles for Crate & Barrel: Zak wool rug, 2012
(courtesy C&B)
I started LFN Textiles Artist's Ribbons around 2002 and designed, arranged manufactured, marketed, packaged and shipped etc etc. I was relieved when Renaissance Ribbons offered to buy my inventory and take over the business, leaving me free to design under license and work with them – they are wonderful collaborators. About that time I was approached by a buyer at Crate & Barrel who had found my ribbons and thought my style was a good fit, and that really gave me a boost in terms of two solid licensing partners. I love having designs out there with my mark on them, it makes my work and vision available to people who love my artwork but can't afford it. And it also allows for whimsy and lightheartedness and uses styles that would simply not work in my weavings. But it is important for me to balance both worlds – the intimate and personal world of my art with the polished and outward looking realm of design.

LFN Textile - Garden Floral Rugs
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in - if any? I haven't exhibited at any licensing shows. I still do it all myself, though I am considering finding an agent who would take my work to shows.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? I represent myself. I think if I want to expand much further I might need to get an agent. I tried to work with one but I found it really restrictive as he told me exactly what he wanted, what colors, what was marketable. I am too old to follow orders like that!

TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol" if any? I try to target potential clients with whom I have something in common. I have a great interest in gardens and in historic textiles, so botanical gardens and museums are natural niches for me. The market is quite a bit smaller, but you can build loyal relationships with clients in this way and it is immensely satisfying.

LFN Textiles for Renaissance Ribbons,
Spring 2012 satin jacquard ribbons
(photo Courtesy Renaissance Ribbons)
TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? Be sure of your style, understand the application (it DOES matter whether it is going on a mug or on a textile), and be willing to be flexible enough to work with people easily but not so much that you lose your identity – unless you have no personal investment in yourself as an artist and only want the money.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. Well, since I began in earnest in 2006 with two companies, one market – household textiles – has contracted and gotten more restricted in the chances they are willing to take, while my designed line of ribbons has expanded rapidly and sales are up.

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? In my area, hand-drawing seems to be the request I hear over & over.

Hand woven brocaded tapestry by Laura Foster Nicholson,
Purple Loosestrife, 2007
TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2012-2013? My clients are asking for more hand-drawn work, maybe pen & ink or watercolor washes. It is certainly a reaction to all of the vector-drawn, computerized design out there. In terms of color, I always look ahead to seek out colors I have not seen around for a long time and anticipate color trending in that way. Purple, for example, which came back full strength last year, now yellows, particularly those leaning towards chartreuse.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Take it with a lot of salt.  You must know your strengths and not try to be everything for every client, yet your work needs to respond to some trending.

LFN Textiles for Land of Nod:  Bedding set, 2011-2012
Find the trends you have sympathy with, which suit your personal strengths, and go for them. I don't go after fashion, for example, as I have always vastly preferred home decor fabrics.  You can develop a range of styles and techniques within your found niche. Dare to be different enough to attract attention, but don't ever simply imitate styles which seem the most popular.