Sunday, September 29, 2013

How Marketing is like City Planning, by Guest Artist Tara Reed

The word "marketing" can bring up a wide variety of emotions from artists - some cringe and think of marketing as a necessary evil. Others look at it as a fun challenge and others may wonder if they really understand it. Regardless of how you feel about the concept, it is an absolute necessity if you want to license your art - or do anything at all with your art other than create it and give it as gifts to friends and family.

Marketing simply means letting others know what you have to offer. If you sit in your studio and create and never tell a soul, you have no need for marketing. If you want to earn an income with your art, you need to figure out how to make marketing work for you.

When Alex asked me to write on this very broad topic of marketing, I thought about it for a few days. What part of marketing did I want to talk about? Selling? Promotion? Choosing target markets?

For whatever reason, I thought about marketing as the flow of information and how it grows and evolves with your business - especially if you are a solo-entrepreneur which many of us are in the art licensing industry. My analogy of marketing being similar to city planning was born!

Consider yourself as a house in the country - you aren't a big business, it's you and maybe your dog and your family, living in a house, in a lightly populated area. To get what you need you probably only have some 2 lane roads that get you to the store, the gas station, some restaurants, shopping. You can go to the things you need and if they need you, they can come to you too. (Gotta love food delivery when you are in the groove!)

Marketing starts out that way. You decide you want to start licensing your art. You might go on the internet and look up some companies you would like to work with. You find their submission guidelines and send some art for review. You just sent your art out on the two lane road and you hope something comes back…

As you build your portfolio and your knowledge and interest in the business, you might decide sending submissions now and then over the internet isn't enough. You want more. So just as cities need to plan for growth in their communities - more roads are needed as subdivisions of houses are built and more industry comes to the area - you need to plan more marketing avenues to grow your business.

Two lane roads lead to highways that lead to inter-connected roads and highways and city grids. Without proper planning, congestion, confusion and frustration can ensue. The same can happen with your marketing.

The time to develop your marketing message - who you are and what you offer to manufacturers - is now. It's not when you become a booming business. It's hard to become a booming business without knowing who you are and what you do!

The time to make a plan for how to tell others that you have art to license is now. What roads will you travel to connect with the people in need of art?

Three basic marketing tools every artists should have include:
  1. A clear message about who you are and what you offer. Are you a coastal artist who specializes in lighthouses? Do you do surface design in Illustrator? Are you building a character brand?
  2. An online presence. It's 2013. You HAVE to have a website or a blog or both. You need to set up a shop online so people can see some samples of your art, get to know who you are and contact you. You need to OWN that space - don't rely on Facebook or other social media sites as your only online location. Things happen and you could be shut down or they could change the rules and the look and you might not like how things are presented.
  3. Email and a phone number. People need to be able to contact you to discuss what they need, so you can explain what you have and you can work together to find a way to make a deal happen!
Those are the basics. After that, you are building your marketing infrastructure. What other ways can you get the word out to manufacturers who need art that you have?

Here are a few other ways artists can get their message to manufacturers and retailers they want to work with - think about them and decide which might make sense for you and where your business is now.

Exhibit at trade shows. While art licensing trade shows are not inexpensive ventures, they are a way to get your art in front of a lot of manufacturers who are actively looking for art in a very short time. You get booth space and for three days, manufacturers walk the aisles and stop and talk with artists whose work they think might be a fit for their business. The two art licensing industry shows are SURTEX and the Licensing Expo.

Email Marketing. Start a list and email your clients and potential clients as you create new art. I recommend using an "opt-in" system - you won't get as many names on the list as if you just add everyone you meet or hear about, but you are less likely to get on lists of spammers. I use opt-in eNewsletter systems and STILL get on spam lists from time to time. It's a hassle to get removed and embarrassing when you can't email your own friends and clients! Do whatever you can to stay off blacklists!

Direct Mail marketing. Direct mail marketing is anything you send by regular mail. It might be a postcard, a presentation you create for a specific company or a calendar you send to clients at the end of each year. It's a physical "something" that will hopefully get into the hands of the person you want to connect with.

Advertising. If you know where the eyes of your target audience are, you could consider placing an ad. It might be on a website they visit regularly or in a trade magazine. Trying to decide how and where to spend your money to get noticed can be a bit of a guessing game so be sure to find a way to measure how it is working. If you are contacted by someone you haven't connected with before, ask how they heard about you - that's the most basic way of finding out what is working.

Use social media. Like advertising, you have to figure out where your target audience spends their time on social media AND EQUALLY IMPORTANT - where they are open to being contacted. Many industry contacts are on Facebook but put boundaries around it - they don't want to have friend requests from artists looking to tell them about their art. LinkedIn, as a business-to-business site, is a more logical place to make those connections. Also look for group discussions and boards on different social media sites and see who is chiming in.

These are some broad-stroke ideas about how to get the word out about your art. Don't try to implement them all at once. Be like a good city planner and plan for growth, while still allowing life - and art - to go on during construction. :)

Here's to your creative success!
– Tara Reed
artist and founder of

Monday, September 23, 2013

Diversity of Materials to Create Art - Artist Gal Ben Aharon

A couple of potential good contracts surfaced this week out of the blue and I am happy to further explore them, although it might take a while to close the deals.

A talented artist who has been rather successful at licensing has been closing good deals through her agent in Israel. Her name is Gal Ben Aharon and I am pleased to feature her through our globally read blog.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I am a mother of three children and live in Israel in a charming little village. My studio is an old house full of atmosphere with a lot of treasures and surprises. I studied graphic design and illustration and now I have my own studio and my own brand called Gal Designs. I am a multidisciplinary designer who combines graphics, illustration, fashion & textile design, and accessories designs. My style is feminine, nostalgic, happy and optimistic.

TMFMA:  What is exciting about your creative work? What is exciting is the diversity of materials in my work. I use paper, fabrics, old tablecloths, lace and other threads and material that I combine to generate the unique diversity in my creations.

Over the years I have collected and gathered a variety of materials and old objects that are dear to me and I use them in my work. I love to combine textures and colors.

TMFMA: What inspires you? I get a lot of inspiration from old lace, embroideries, old tablecloths, folklore and old collections, of second hand shops (vintage) and markets where I wander around and absorb all the sights.

TMFMA: What project are you currently working on? I am currently working on a new collection for 2014.

TMFMA: Tell us of your experience as an art licensing artist. I am well established in Israel in licensing. My designs in this area are divided into two series:

1. One called the name of my brand: Gal Designs, which is more typical of my attraction and connection to the world of textile and fashion; in it I combine old table cloths, lace, embroidery and different textures.

2. The second series," Lovely," is more naïve and it incorporates my illustrations, colorful graphic elements of happiness and simple and clean designs, especially for paper and home products.

The first series is more characteristic of my connection to the textile and fashion environment and incorporates materials and illustrations from the sewing world.
The second series is characterized by bright colors and happy, simple graphic elements like flowers, hearts and butterflies. Both series are licensed successfully in variety of products such as notebooks, diaries, calendars, festive table decorations, placemats and more ...

In addition to my brands that I license and clothes that I design from them, I use a digital print design that is printed on fabrics and creates a special look with unique colors and richness to the clothing.

TMFMA: Any important tips and tricks you can share or anything else you'd like to share? Yes, do not be afraid of color! When I was in India a few years ago I saw how the Indians used bold colors, creating exciting combinations in clothing, jewelry and even architecture. I realized how much we in Western society subdue and oppress the use of color. Color combinations can be gentle or bold. For me also combinations of flowers/stripes/tiles can be combined. There's never too much!

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? I strive to increase the variety of products with my designs and am eager to expand my licenses in bedding, sleepwear and houseware categories.

I would like to be known in the world and expand my licensing business worldwide and not only in Israel. For this reason I work with Ginja Licensing that represents me in the licensing world. We are looking for agents internationally and retailers to cooperate with them and expand our business.

For more information about Gal contact: 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Creating Art and Designing Products - Artists Eric and Julie Comstock

I have been working on new collections that I want to show next year at Surtex, although I am sure I will propose them to some specific manufacturers before then. My mind has been drifting off in the Surtex world for the past couple of days for some reasons, and so I thought it would be a perfect time to share with you this great interview with the Comstocks. I met Eric at Surtex this past May and Julie via Linkedin - very lovely people and talented artists.

Artists Eric & Julie Comstock
TMFMA: Please introduce yourself. We are Eric and Julie Comstock. In college, we met and fell in love almost instantly, so after 5 months we got married. We've been happily working, drawing, painting and raising our four kids and dog ever since. Our careers began as art directors at advertising agencies. When our first child was born, Julie quit her job to be a stay at home mom. Ten years later we began our own company, manufacturing products for the craft and hobby industry. Two years ago we sold that brand and now license our work full time.

© The Comstocks
TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? Eric has been an artist his whole life. There was nothing else for him. Julie grew up around art, but didn't decide to pursue it until college as a creative hiatus from advanced academic classes in high school.

TMFMA: What's exciting about your creative work? Hopefully the work itself! And, of course, seeing it become real.

TMFMA: Who or what has inspired you in your art? Eric has been inspired by Richard Diebenkorn and his good friend, Nate Williams who has been like a mentor to him. Julie has been inspired by Eric who has really great taste in design and women.

© The Comstocks
TMFMA: How long have you been doing art licensing? We started licensing artwork seriously in 2007. We had done a little before that but felt that we had been taken advantage of. There's always risk for the artist. However, we had some opportunities with new companies asking for our work in industries we would never want to pursue manufacturing on our own. It was a win-win situation because we could leverage our designs to generate more income and our new licensees had great success for themselves as well. Our favorite thing about licensing, though, is that we get to focus on the part we love and do best - creating art and designing products.

© The Comstocks
TMFMA: What brought you to exhibit for the first time and how many shows have you exhibited in - if any? It was Julie's idea to attend Surtex in 2009. We had just designed a beach line and she was sure it would look great on lots of products. We have attended Surtex ever since as well as the Las Vegas licensing show for the last two years.

TMFMA: Do you work with an agent or do you represent yourself? We have always represented ourselves, but at this very moment Eric is working with an agent on a potential product in a new industry.

TMFMA: What do you suggest new artists do to present themselves to the world of licensing for the first time? Take your business seriously and present yourself professionally. As an artist you can get away with a lot of quirkiness, but people will take you more seriously and feel more secure with you if you have a level of professionalism. We all know the creative mind can have a hard time with follow through and many licensees have had bad experiences with artists for this reason. Don't ever let a potential client assume you are one of these artists. Take notes, remain focused and try not to let your mind wander onto your next great idea!  

© The Comstocks

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? The best advice is to consider where your art fits in the market. If you can't think of a market for your art, you won't be successful with licensing. If the market that would love your art is extremely niche, it will be much more difficult to be successful licensing it. There are many talented artists that create great work who will never be licensed because there isn't a market for their look. If you are one of those artists you will either have to change your art or change your expectation of licensing success. It's not fun to hear, but it's true.

See more of Eric and Julie's art here:

© The Comstocks

Monday, September 9, 2013

Personalization Is Key: Solid Line Products & Their Stylish Keka Cases

I live in the San Francisco Bay area and love it! 

It's a beautiful region and San Francisco is one of the most inspiring cities on the globe. I feel lucky that I get to work in such an artistic and picturesque environment. I also feel lucky to have entered in a licensing partnership with Solid Line Products/Keka cases ~ such fun people!

As a little background, in the summer of 2010 they launched the original iPad keyboard case. While that was making news, they were quietly perfecting what would become the Keka™ case – a fully customizable hardcover case for all iPad models, Kindle, and the Kindle Fire.

Their goal with the Keka was to create an iPad and Kindle case that is so beautiful that you'll want one to match your every mood or your outfit. The only way they could do that was by creating a canvas that would unleash a designer's creativity.

Part of what I like about this licensing partnership is that their products are Made in America. This is idea of being made in the U.S. is not just a trend, it's also a statement of quality. Growing up in Europe, I always loved the Made in the U.S.A. label but now that so much manufacturing has turned to other countries it's hard to find the authentic domestic-made products that I so much sought after.

So here it is, my latest collections for Keka cases for all walks and styles - see, you can buy one for every day of the week! And, be sure to tell your friends...!

'Bo & Gigi'

© 2013 Alessandra Colombo ~ Keka™ case


© 2013 Alessandra Colombo ~ Keka™ case

'Eveline's Dream'

© 2013 Alessandra Colombo ~ Keka™ case 

'Milano Chevron'

© 2013 Alessandra Colombo ~ Keka™ case

Here's the whole collection:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mid-Century Design - Artist Caleb Gray

This has been an unusual week for me, several new life and artistic challenges presented themselves all at once! So I pondered more about some topics and asked myself these simple questions: what's my vision for what I do? What am I trying to accomplish?

As my understanding of art licensing has increased and has changed as a consequence, I think the direction is going to be a bit more tailored for what I want to do. Chatting with artists and friends has also inspired me to try out new ideas and techniques of painting which I want to pursue.

And as for new and unique ideas and looks, I am very happy to feature artist Caleb Gray, who I met at Surtex this past May. His style is just very fun and engaging!

The Moon from My Attic: What made you want to become an artist? Even as a kid, I was always imagining, creating, and drawing so I knew I wanted to be some sort of artist when I grew up. Then, once I realized all my favorite artists were illustrators, it helped me hone in on exactly what kind of artist I'd enjoy being.

TMFMA: What's exciting about what you create? Little things like a perfect color palette or a character's expression with just the right twinkle are always exciting to me. In general though, balancing the mid-century and contemporary aesthetics I enjoy so much along with carrying a kid-at-heart vibe through my work keeps it all fun for me too. And if it's exciting to somebody else as well then it's a success!

TMFMA: What medium(s) do you use to create your art? Why did you choose it?
I start out sketching everything by hand before moving it on to the computer, so the finished art is digital. Call me old school, but I enjoy sketching things out with pencil first and getting fluid lines or funny character poses just right! Then fine-tuning it on the computer cleans everything up and gives it the bold, graphic nature of so much of the mid-century design that inspires me.

TMFMA: How would you describe the art you create? My art definitely has a retro vibe, but with a contemporary twist. Most importantly, though, I hope my art is as fun and cheerful for everyone else to see as it is for me to create!

TMFMA: Is there something that inspires you to create art? While mid-century design and illustration is a big source of inspiration for me, random things like funny dialog, sassy characters, catchy music, or a color combination that catches my eye can also get my imagination going. Such fun sources of inspiration make creating art fun, which hopefully also translates into a fun and entertaining final product!

TMFMA: How do you hope your art makes people feel? On first glance, I hope the overall impression is cheerful and fun. Hopefully my art also tells a story or makes people smile that sticks with them afterwards!

TMFMA: Can you tell us about your art licensing journey? My introduction to art licensing came when I was designing in-house for C.R. Gibson. Seeing the huge range of art being licensed and the equally huge range of applications for that art really opened my eyes to possibilities for illustration that I hadn't realized. The projects where I got to create the artwork in-house and then design products using my own art were always my favorite, so that let me know I would really enjoy creating art for product design.

Also during my time at C.R. Gibson, I attended the Surtex trade show which gave me great insight into creating a portfolio and presenting it to manufacturers. Even still, there was a learning curve once I went out on my own. I was lucky to have met several more established licensed artists during my time at C.R. Gibson, though, who were very helpful and encouraging as I started out and still continue to be today.

TMFMA: What advice would you give to someone new to this industry? Create, create, create! Not only will you improve your skills as you go, but you will also begin to realize what your strengths are so that you can emphasize them. Also, as you start out building your portfolio try to stick with subjects you enjoy. If you try to force themes you don't particularly enjoy it could show in the final product, but if you enjoyed what you're working on, that comes through too!

Caleb Gray Studio: