Monday, March 18, 2013

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Artist Laura Coyle

With the Surtex show coming up in May the topic of press releases is of much interest for exhibiting artists. I recommend you read the very informative ebook by Tara Reed called "How to be a Press Friendly Artist" if you don't know how to do one - it's time now to send your press releases out to the world. Here's mine, that went out today!

As for this new week, I invited artist Laura Coyle to share with the world her style, theme and techniques. Laura has worked as a freelance illustrator now for almost 20 years. I happened to see one of her YouTube intro videos where she talks about Illustrator techniques and I found that she was very clear and easy to follow.

Artist Laura Coyle
A bit of her background: she got a degree from Auburn University in illustration and afterward moved to New York City to find work and then came back to her hometown, Atlanta, where she is now. "I started out working mainly as a freelance editorial illustrator, eventually working for publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Better Homes and Gardens.

I have also worked a lot in advertising and had the good fortune to land an assignment to re-vamp the Parcheesi board for Hasbro. So I've managed to find a variety of outlets over the years for my style of illustration. In more recent years I've been adding art licensing to the mix and also teaching Adobe Illustrator," Laura says.

Her style of illustration is graphic and lively: "My style has certainly changed over the years. When I started out, I was working in scratchboard, ink and watercolor. Later, I began working in Adobe Illustrator with scanned pen and ink. Now, I find that I love drawing everything in Illustrator. I use my scanned pencil sketches as an under-layer, giving me something to trace, and it helps to bring those smooth Illustrator curves to life."

© Laura Coyle
As for inspiration, Laura says she has a wall of books in her studio on painters, cartoonists and all kinds of design. She then adds that her eternal challenge these days is to limit the amount of time she spends looking at things online - "It can be overwhelming. I think the internet makes everyone else in the world look ten times more prolific than I am! It creates an illusion: one person has just come out with a line of cards, another has re-decorated their studio, another is hanging their exhibit, and I'm chewing my pencil trying to come up with an idea. You don't always see the sweat and the time behind all that finished work people are posting online. So I give myself a lot of breaks away from the internet connection. I love my wall of books, my music collection, old movies and even total silence."

© Laura Coyle
She then goes on explaining, "I illustrated a paper sample for Neenah Paper years ago which had my credit line on it and I was called by a designer at Papyrus and another from Hallmark. The experience of working with designers at those companies has been an education in making art that appeals to consumers; a different animal than working in advertising or editorial art. I wanted to dive in and so after visiting the Surtex show a couple of times, I decided to get a booth in 2007. From Surtex I was able to get work with a number of manufacturers and one that put my birthday paper plate collection in Target."

So my next question was to find out what was new and exciting in her current work - "I have just finished up a few new cards for Papyrus and I can't wait to see them on the shelves. They incorporate some nifty effects like lights and sound. I love working with good art directors, we both bring our strengths to the collaboration and it makes my work better. I'm illustrating an editorial piece now, too, and I'm launching my new Adobe Illustrator class on making patterns in CS6."

© Laura Coyle
And what about tips or tricks you have for your fellow artists? "Be open to opportunities, even if it seems a little off your chosen path. I started out with editorial and advertising illustration but art licensing is something I found later. It's not easy being a freelance artist. Markets come and go, trends change and it helps to be versatile, flexible and entrepreneurial. I started teaching Adobe Illustrator classes a few years ago because a designer friend invited me to teach at her school. I discovered that I love teaching and interacting with students. I've had to raise my technical game with Illustrator which has had the side benefit of making me more valuable to my illustration clients. Developing a mastery of digital skills has really helped me to stay busy with clients over the years. It's so amazing to think of all the different threads an artist can weave a career out of and how those threads often compliment each other."

© Laura Coyle
I asked her to tell us more about the classes she teaches. "I have a catalog of self-paced online Illustrator classes at I teach Beginning Illustrator and Illustrator 2, an intermediate class. We call them the "Essentials" and they give students a good working foundation in Illustrator. Then I have a series of shorter project-based workshops that teach focused skills like working with the Pen Tool or working with a tablet and brushes. My latest class teaches the new CS6 repeat pattern making mode, it's called Pattern Power! It's incredibly fun to work with the new CS6 pattern mode but it takes a little extra work to actually get patterns to repeat successfully outside of Illustrator, for fabric or websites, so this new class teaches how to export repeats for the real world."

© Laura Coyle
"One of the best things about being an artist is that you can't help but get better," Laura continues, "whether that means you accumulate more life experience to draw upon or you just become more skilled through sheer repetition. I'm hoping to continue learning and growing and discovering ways that my artwork can connect with others."

Find out more about Laura Coyle here:


Sandy Laipply said...

Great post! Thanks, Alex and Laura! I've taken all of Laura's classes at and they are terrific.

Cathy at Paper Garden Projects said...

Love the interview. Laura's classes are wonderful!