Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Art Licensing True Story - Artist Rebecca Baer

What a great summer so far! I've had so many inspiring outdoor activities, new projects and fun get-togethers with old friends.

I have been busy working on new collections in between holiday-themed art submissions and on-going follow-ups with companies interested in licensing my work. As I learn more about Adobe Illustrator for my in-progress and up-coming fabric collections, I am exploring a new passion for hand painting on linen!

As a result, I have been less and less on social media but I figured that by the end of summer the web will again be my good friend.

And speaking of friends, some time ago I invited artist Rebecca Baer to share with us her story, which I thought was quite interesting and full of good tips.

Rebecca says: "I've been a professional designer for quite a few years so I'll try to hit only a few highlights. A lifelong passion for all things creative has afforded me many opportunities to share my skills with other artistic souls.

I've been able to facilitate the creative expression of others in a variety of ways, as the author of books, videos, countless magazine articles in U.S. and Japanese publications, a magazine feature column, hundreds of step-by-step painting tutorials and as a contributor to the "Japanese Painting Curriculum Course" book. As an instructor I've had the pleasure of sharing my skills both nationally and  overseas. And through collaboration and independent product development I have enjoyed enabling others to express themselves using the fruits of my labor. Each of these experiences have in turn nurtured my growth."

It gives Rebecca great joy to be able to share her work with others, she continues - "I have the honor of having my work accepted into the permanent collection of The National Museum of Decorative Painting in Atlanta, GA as well as being featured in the 'Artists of the World' exhibition in Tokyo, Japan."

In the course of her painting career she has seen the maturation of the DIY painting market and she felt compelled to seek new challenges. Rebecca turned to art licensing in 2008.

Her husband's full-time participation in their business has allowed her to focus on the creative direction of their company while he handles the day-to-day business of the corporation. She adds: "Although I have found a new passion in art licensing we maintain a successful e-commerce business for the DIY painting market as well as a retail store."

How would she describe her art and style? Rebecca tells us: "Having an eye for design and an innate sense of color harmony my art takes two divergent paths. Both are sophisticated while one, Rebecca Baer®, follows a more traditional vein and the other, Whimsies & Wishes™ is delightfully whimsical.

Collections created for my Rebecca Baer® brand typically originate with a hand painted element such as a series of flowers or herbs. To this I add borders, backgrounds and textures which are also hand painted or drawn. I then arrange these elements into the formats necessary for licensing."

"Art created for my Whimsies & Wishes™ brand is primarily icon driven. Each of these collections begins with a group of stylized yet recognizable silhouettes. Borders and patterns created for these collections are often more graphic in nature rather than hand painting, providing the ideal contrast to my traditional collections," she concludes.

Rebecca's designs combine a sense of sophistication, elegance, and harmony, yet have a practical, comfortable quality to them. They may begin with a traditional style but are always highlighted with her own unique interpretation which makes them stand out from the commonplace and are as easily at home in a traditional setting as in a contemporary one.

She explains more about her techniques: "Always mindful of the need for layered files my most often used tools are my scanner and Photoshop. I paint or draw each element, then scan, manipulate, and arrange them into pleasing compositions to create coordinating collections. This allows me to retain the essence of hand-painted artwork while generating the digital files preferred for licensing."

So what's exciting about her creative work, we finally ask? "Engaging others with art is a joy unto itself but the most gratifying moment comes after creating a collection and sending it out to carefully selected manufacturers. Receiving an immediate response requesting to license the artwork serves to confirm you've hit the mark - I love that moment!" Then she says: "Although it is uncommon for a creative-minded person, I also enjoy the business aspects of art as a profession. I find marketing and connecting with the consumer fascinating. When working with manufacturers I make it a point to understand their business as best I can. In doing so I feel I can better meet their needs."

As for inspiration, Rebecca believes we are surrounded by inspiration and need only to recognize it. "I look beyond the obvious like flowers to the oft overlooked elements. A pile of rocks can reveal beautiful shapes and hues that become fodder for a background treatment or a tone-on-tone color palette. As a designer I have always believed that it is imperative to possess my own style in order to secure both credibility and lasting success. With that in mind I study elements that make up larger objects. For example, in a crumpled piece of paper I look for shapes, shadows and lights or perhaps objects that seem to take form within the larger object. Not only does this practice provide me with unique and ever-changing inspiration I am also able to avoid being unduly influenced by all of the wonderful art created by my peers."

Any new exciting projects? "I find that I really enjoy creating the repeat patterns for my quilt fabrics. It is like solving a puzzle. Oddly enough, though, I've never been a fan of doing puzzles."

Tell us more about your licensing journey: "My journey in art licensing began when an agency contacted me asking if I would be interested in representation. I was with that agency for four years. At the end of 2012 I made the decision to strike out on my own, independent of the agency that had represented me up to that point. Of course, when considering such a major change you always wonder if you are making the right move. I am now in my third quarter of self representation and loving it! The one-to-one interaction and responsiveness is very rewarding. I recognize that going it alone is not for everyone but, as an independent business owner, I felt once-removed with an agent as the go-between."

Rebecca then continues saying: "I have seen my work evolve since entering the field of art licensing. I've discovered a new creative freedom in work that is not intended to be disseminated via tutorials or other educational channels. In turn, this freedom reflects back into the materials that I continue to create for the DIY painting market."

It may all begin with paint and a brush but technology demands that a successful licensing artist be proficient with a computer as well, she advises. "Friends and colleagues who began the journey before me shared their experiences of hand painting all of the art for a collection. When others who are looking at the prospect of a career in art licensing ask me for my thoughts I focus on the importance of developing or refining their computer skills in order to create layered files so often requested by manufacturers."

None of us can know what the future may hold, Rebecca says; being relatively new to art licensing, her main focus is to learn as much as possible as she grows her presence in this specialized and competitive arena. "As I gain experience I would like to share the lessons learned with others entering the field and perhaps facilitate their journey into art licensing."

Find out more about Rebecca here:

Sunday, July 21, 2013

CheckAdvantage - Colorful and Fun Checks, Covers and Address Labels

I still pay some of my bills with checks but the ones I have are really boring - not much to them, just a beige background. So I thought, hey, why not design my own and make some colorful and fun ones!

Now my checks are sold through Check, a really great company that also sells my checkbook covers and address labels that match my checks. Something tells me that I may start writing more checks again!

One thing for sure - after all the hard work of creating art, building your contact lists, marketing yourself and your art, when it all comes together on a product it is pretty cool!

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Idea that Stands the Test of Time - Artist Diane Beginnes-Phalen

How important is to do research for companies that are a match for your art? I have been asking myself this question over and over for some time. One answer to this riddle is within this interview, in fact I want to thank my very talented guest, artist Diane Beginnes-Phalen, for sharing her amazing story with us this week.

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - My name is Diane Beginnes-Phalen. I was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and in my early 20's I moved to California. I packed up my car and drove cross-country by myself. I wanted to attend college and was able to go to San Jose University in San Jose, California. I wanted to study art but was encouraged to study engineering instead. I was employed by two different companies while studying. I worked on ships and submarines at Mare Island Shipyard in Vallejo, California and military tanks at FMC in San Jose. I did drafting for the ships and welding drafting for the tanks. In my off hours, of which there were few, I painted! My schedule consisted of 60 hour work weeks and 16 credit courses. I survived on a few hours of sleep nightly.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Amish Roadside Market

I was fortunate to finally be able to do my art full time. I still free-lanced technical drawing for various California companies and did art shows every weekend. At one of my shows a lady admired one of my paintings which included quilts and invited me to exhibit at a Quilt Guild show. That began my wonderful experience in the Quilting World - the Quilters I met were as passionate about their quilting as I was with my art! To this day I am amazed at what they do with I can hardly sew a stitch. It's the reason I say that "I quilt with my paintbrush."

The Americana Quilt series was born some 20 years ago and is still going strong. In those 20 years I moved around, living in California and Oregon, was married, divorced and came back home again to Pennsylvania. I have been "home" 8 years already. My life was very full with having my Mom and Dad close by once again; it was difficult to be so far in miles from them. My Dad sadly passed away at the wonderful age of 87. My Mom is my constant joy and I visit with her several times a week.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Harvest Quilts

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? My art has always been a part of me. I always loved the colors in nature and am still amazed at a beautiful sunrise, sunset, or thunderstorms; I love watching the wildlife that surrounds my home in Allentown, Pennsylvania - baby foxes, bunnies, cardinals, and deer.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? My art is always exciting because it is always a challenge! I start out with an idea and watch it evolve before me. Sometimes it changes but it always surprises me.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Holiday Airing

TMFMA: What's your favorite medium or tool/s you create with? I work mainly in watercolor but sometimes I add acrylic, ink and colored pencil. Every painting starts with a penciled outline, then watercolor washes. I use lots of brushes from the tiny single hair to large 2" brush and even a slant bristle. I absolutely love watercolors from Daniel Smith in Seattle, Washington. I used to love to shop in their warehouse but must now shop by mail order!!
TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? I have always been drawing since I can remember. My greatest inspiration was going into the woods that surrounded my home. It was here that I discovered nature, wildflowers and all the beautiful birds and wildlife that go in to my art. Every day after school nature was my teacher. I filled up sketchbook after sketchbook. I think it is so important that an artist observe shadows and detail before working in color.

My parents gave me my first oil-painting kit when I was 13. I painted for years in oils and always hated the turpentine smell that filled my studio. I picked up a watercolor kit and started experimenting with it. It was so much fun. I found a book on watercolors by artist Zoltan Szabo. I could not believe it when I saw he had a week long watercolor workshop near by!! I signed up for it and met a man who loved watercolors and teaching. His demonstrations and happy, positive vibes filled me with inspiration. I have all his books and took several more workshops through the years. He is gone now, but his art lives on in all his students. This was to be my only formal training in art and painting!

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Hole In Barn Door

The quilt inspiration in my art came when I was in my early 30's. I was driving a back road and saw a country store that I just fell in love with. I took photographs and even met the owners who ran it as a quaint market. Stepping inside their doors was like stepping back in time with old floors and counters and their friendly welcome. I decided to put quilts on the porch when I painted "Country Store Quilts." Everyone loved this painting at my art shows. From this I decided to do another scene featuring quilts, "Amish Spring," then I could not stop! I had to do all the seasons:  "Harvest Quilts," "Holiday Airing," ... to this day I am inspired by quilts, their history, patterns, and colors!

Inspiration for the quilts came to me even more as I was asked to exhibit and sell my watercolor quilts at Quilt Guild shows. While at the show I was able to see all the beautiful quilts that were made by the quilters especially for the show. I took so many photographs. I have tubs of them in my basement (before digital and computers). Today, I still look at them and am inspired.

TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? I started art licensing over 20 years ago. I was at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas with a booth when a company approached me about publishing my art on note cards and tins. I was just starting out and was thrilled. I did not have a lot to offer with my art other then originals. The originals were a high price ticket purchase. It was great to be able to offer my art in a more affordable price range. The company paid a royalty and I was able to purchase my cards and tins from them. It increased my sales significantly.

Other companies then approached me to have prints, calendars, puzzles and fabric manufactured by them. I was able to have the products to sell at my shows. With the capital I was also able to sell my art as prints and limited edition prints. I also printed more note cards and was able to wholesale and retail my art. I was then asked to author several books. One was a "how to paint" book, the other two books were stories about my quilts and how to make them into quilting and fabric projects.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Amish Spring

I did licensing for years, attending shows and contacting companies. I am currently working with a licensing agent, Lance Klass at Porterfield's Fine Art Licensing. I was looking for more free time to paint and found that Lance has lots of contacts and excellent insights into the market.

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? Most important is to have a unique style and especially important a series that go together. My niche is the quilts. Some artists specialize in a wildlife or flower theme. It's very important to have your very own style and ideas.

TMFMA: Please give us your analysis of the market based on your own experience and contacts. I think the market is good and there are always companies looking for art for their products. The match just has to be made! I also think that brands seem to always be there. The tried and true seem to last forever. I am always seeing existing images still going strong. For example, Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney, Thomas Kinkade, Suzy's Zoo, or comic book heroes such as Superman. They are all celebrating 30 or more years in the industry.

So if you can develop an idea that stands the test of time it is priceless. I use to make my contacts through mailers and phone calls to companies. Fortunately, I now have a good licensing agent in Lance Klass making contacts for me. Now contacts are digital. Companies want to see your art on disk. Responses are quick and instant thanks to the computer age of e-mails.

© Diane Beginnes-Phalen - Country Store Quilts

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Most importantly always be aware of the trends and colors that are coming into vogue. There are companies that research what will be happening years in advance. Trends come again years later too. If it was popular before it will be popular again!

TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? Most importantly, do not copy what is already out there. For some artists this might work but I think your own unique vision is more important. Besides watching out for trends and colors, paint what you love - the Quilts are what I love. I love that they are functional for the family home but also an art form. The colors, stitches, ideas are a painting in fabric! I love that for me they are exciting to work into a painting. There are so many traditional patterns that can be worked into a concept. Ocean Waves, Log Cabin Quilts, Hole in the Barn Door, the list goes on forever!

Diane's website:
Diane's blog:

Monday, July 8, 2013

Products that People Use and Live with - Artists Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick

If you look under the tabs above this post you will notice that we have changed the layout a little bit to fit in a new page called The Moon from My Attic Artist Doodle Museum. This page will feature all artists who came by our booth at Surtex 2013 and left a cute doodle on our board along with a link to their respective websites. It will be a permanent tribute and each year after Surtex we will post the new doodle board for that show!

And not to worry, if you don't plan to go or exhibit at Surtex, we will have a special surprise in the future. In fact, there are a few surprises in store! So don't forget to occasionally check this page and see what else is going to be part of our Artist Doodle Museum!

To add more excitement to our week, I am pleased to present a new interview with two special guests and veteran artists we met at Surtex this year, the talented Andrea and Dennis Brooks. They too are a family business, both of whom are talented and licensed with many great companies.

The Moon from My Attic: Please introduce yourself - Hi, I am Andrea Brooks, watercolorist and licensing artist. Dennis Kendrick is a graphic designer, cartoonist and licensing artist and also my husband.

Artists Dennis Kendrick and Andrea Brooks
We met when we were both children's book illustrators starting out in the business. Soon we had joined forces and moved into my loft. A year later we were married. Over the years our careers moved in a winding path - we were freelance illustrators working in the fields of editorial and advertising, cosmetic and food packaging, watercolor painting, cartooning, digital art and web design. Ten years later, I made the move into art licensing. Dennis followed and before long we began to team up on projects. I a watercolor painter and Dennis a designer. Andrea Brooks Studio now was run by two artists.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place?

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
Andrea: I loved any form of art as a small child and was always drawing. It was going to the HS of Music and Art as an art student that really crystallized my love and talent for art. I guess some of the real early influences were the John Nagy drawing kit. That's when I learned how to shade. It was very exciting. And paint by numbers. And then of course going to Music and art High School, definitely. I spent every Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum with my friends from High School. We drew from sculptures. That's how I really learned to draw.

Dennis: Agreed that early on for me it was the John Nagy kit. But here I diverge. The other big influence were cartoonists and comics. I went to the Paier School or Art in Connecticut where I studied a broad range of art including commercial art and design. I also played in my high school band and the choice was between music and art. I think I made the right decision.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work?  Andrea: I love the entire process. Getting an idea and letting it develop. Collecting references. Watching a concept evolve as I get to the drawing stage. My drawings are usually very spare. Then the truly fun part for me comes which is the watercolor painting. And that's not the end. We scan the art and bring it into photoshop and Dennis and I sit together and work on the final design. He does most of it. I get to oooh and aaah and once in a while suggest a change. Before I worked with Dennis I did the complete painting myself. I'd like to get back to doing some of that again.

Dennis: I work digitally and just let the design take shape as I move along. I love it when a design all starts to come together. It's fun to get an assignment that gets me to move in a completely new direction. Recently I was approached to create the art for a set of e-books based on books that I had done years ago with Seymour Simon, a well known children's science writer. It was fun to do a more cartoony and wackier style for a change. And of course I love working with my wife!

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing?

Andrea: Well, I started licensing at least 20 years ago on a small scale. At the time I was doing editorial and advertising illustration. Little by little I made the shift to licensing. I was interested in it at first when I learned about the royalties. I like being part of a business where the end results are actual products that people use and live with. I like the marketplace and I enjoy the close contact with other artists in this field. Dennis as I said came aboard around 10 years ago when we did our first collaborative project for Plaid. We did three decoupage kits.

Dennis: I've been aboard for around 10-15 years. I like the freedom to come up with your own ideas. And ditto what Andrea has said.

TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in? We started doing Surtex together. At first Dennis didn't take to this new market. I stuck with it and began to make a name for myself and then eventually got a rep. That's around when Dennis joined me. We do Surtex every year since we have been working together. Now we also go to Atlanta in July and January to see manufacturers. After this year we'll go only in January. That's really the big show time.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? As I said we did work with an agent for around 9 years. Eventually we decided it was time to go off on our own. 

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? They should go to Surtex and walk the show and talk to artists. Make contacts and learn how other artist are representing themselves and how they put together a booth. It's necessary to have other artists in this business to talk with. Put together or get help doing a professional quality web site. And these days be active in social networking sites such as Facebook, Linked in and perhaps blogging.

TMFMA: In your view, what was of major interest to manufacturers this year? They are always looking for something fresh and new. This year we found manufacturers were still interested in nature themes, patterns and florals. I, Andrea, had put in time developing a freer, fresher watercolor look in florals and got very good feedback on this style.

TMFMA: What do you think the main trends are for 2013-2014? We usually look to fashion and tabletop to see what trends are.The tabletop shows in NYC are very helpful and we read a lot of trade magazines: Gift and Decorative Accessories, Retailer, and Giftware News to name a few. The fall shows should give a better idea of the new trends going forward.

We think that nature, birds, florals and patterns will go forward. Owls may continue. Bright colors. However, we've been seeing a return to neutrals in the home decor industry which is also a trend setter.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Really love what you are doing because you are going to do a lot of work on spec. That was something that was a no no when we were doing editorial and advertising illustration. Now we accept it as part of this market. Although 10 years ago I must say more companies were paying advances or comp fees. Go to a lot of trade shows. Make contacts at the shows and follow up afterwards. That's how I got my first really important licensing project.

© Andrea Brooks and Dennis Kendrick
TMFMA: Any other useful info that you'd like to share about art licensing? It allows for a lot of creativity. Don't pen yourself in trying to do what you think the manufacturers want. On the other hand when you get a submission list or a suggestion from a manufacturer of what they are looking for go for it. Timing is important because there is a lot of competition from wonderful artists.

Try not to spend time comparing yourself with other artists. We all do it some of the time, but limit the amount of that time. The alternative is to admire, learn from and connect with these artists. Have fun with it!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Big Dreams in Art Licensing - Artist Amélie Gagné

I have been very busy on design submissions for a couple of companies and also researching out new methods for some new licensing collections, including learning more about Adobe Illustrator - I mostly do Photoshop manipulations of my hand painted images but I have started exploring the world of vector art for specific collections I have in mind. It's very fun to learn new techniques!

So I want to dedicate this first post of July 2013 to an artist who does beautiful work with her own unique technique. Artist Amélie Gagné was born in Québec, Canada and from an early age showed an interest in art and all things creative. Throughout her life she has held various positions involving theatre prop design and construction, arts & crafts classes, and managing her own presentation design company.

She has been living in Killarney, Ireland, since 2001. Her vibrant and surreal style has attracted many fans and customers over the years and her paintings are now in various public and private collections both in Ireland and abroad.

She likes to call what she does "colourful and dreamy contemporary art, I like using simple shapes and forms and dressing them with fantastical patterns to create a dreamy atmosphere."

Amélie further explains: "Most of my work is landscape orientated using a lot of vibrant colours but more recently I started to do a lot of floral work, it started during the spring and then I became pregnant during the summer and I was more than happy to keep on this 'blooming' phase, pardon the pun..!"

I asked her for a description of a technique and tools she routinely uses for her art and she said: "I love starting with a darker background and progressively add my layers of light and colours, I like the effect of depth it creates. I used to work from black but I got tired of it and now I use a dark fuschia paint to cover my board or canvas."

She continues - "I love it when inspiration strikes and then I can't wait to get back to the studio and paint. After doing a bit of reading about instinctive painting I was excited to get a big canvas and try to let my fingers have fun with the paint, and now I prepare a lot of my background work that way."

Colors! Amélie loves colors, "and modern shapes of trees, flowers, seed pods and so on," she adds. "Sometimes a match of colours seen on an advertisement or on a piece of textile can get me going."

"I just had a baby boy so I haven't spent a lot of time in the studio lately. I also just moved house and I must say setting up a new studio AND a baby nursery has been quite exciting. The studio is still a work in process and I cannot wait to go back to my brushes - I have a few ideas for a new print collection that are really wanting to get on canvas!"

Amélie is very new to the whole licensing business, she tells me. She has read a lot about it to familiarise herself with the terms and the jargon, there are so many great blogs to learn from! "I have a few images under contract with an Irish based trade supplier of wall art. And fingers crossed, I may have landed a deal that would see my art on some products for a big UK based company, which would be unbelievable!" She is also on the lookout for an agent, "with baby William taking a lot of my time I think it is wiser to let an agent do some of the footwork. I think my work is quite graphic and would go well on a large variety of products, from tableware to cards and bedspreads," she comments.

To other newbies Amélie says: "Well this doesn't necessarily apply to being an artist but I like to have a 'Dream Big' attitude and constantly have new projects and motivations to keep me going. Also I think it's very important to find your own voice and your own style and not try to paint what other people are painting. I know in licensing you have to be very versatile but I think if you don't like what you are working on, it's bound to show at some stage!"

As for Amélie's future aspirations and goals she says: "Providing I will become a champion at combining motherhood and an artist's life, I would love to be able to make a living from a mixture of my original art and gallery sales and solo exhibitions that I have been doing for years and mix that with the licensing work so I can work smarter and create a sustainable income for me and my family. I love doing trade shows and fairs and it would be an absolute dream to do Surtex one day, like I said earlier, Dream Big!"

Amélie has recently entered a "Talent Search" organised by Lilla Rogers Studio.

See Amélie's website at: