Monday, November 11, 2013

Artist 007 - "License to Draw", with Two Town Studios!

It's already the holiday season and I have Thanksgiving and Christmas on my mind. What to give this year? My Designer Keka cases for iPhones, Galaxy and iPads (plus some tasty chocolate cookies...) are going to be excellent gifts so I thought to let you in on a special deal that is going on right now ~ if you buy any 2 products you'll get 1 free!

Bo & Gigi is a trendy design but you can choose from 10 different ones. If you click on the image above you'll go directly to the Keka case site.

In addition to a cute iPhone or Galaxy case, you can also buy a new and fun book that my friend Ronnie Walter just recently wrote. It's called "License to Draw." As she mentions in the interview below, she highly recommends it ~ I know I am going to get one for myself for Christmas! 

The Moon from My Attic ~ Please introduce yourself:
R: I'm Ronnie Walter; licensed artist, writer and agent with my husband and partner at Two Town Studios, Inc. In 2014 I will celebrate 20 years since I signed my first license - it was little, but by golly it was a license!

J: And I'm Jim Marcotte. We incorporated as Two Town Studios back in 2000 and currently represent five fabulous artists and a couple of branded properties. Along with Ronnie we represent Leslie Murray, Ellen Krans, Krista Hamrick, Gretchen Kish Serrano's Paw Palettes® and Life is Country®. Most of our licenses are placed in the gift, stationery, homegoods and craft markets.

TMFMA ~ What drives/inspires you as an art licensing agent/agency?
R: I really like working together in partnership with an artist and seeing them develop successful careers. I also like the contact with our clients — almost to a person they are smart, funny and enthusiastic about product development.

Ronnie Walter and Jim Marcotte
J: It's actually very gratifying to collaborate with a client, discover what they need, be able to say "we can do that" and put together a line. You get a real sense of accomplishment from working as a team – artist, agent and licensee - to "build" a better product. Nothing makes us happier than sharing that kind of success with our artists.

TMFMA ~ What is your view of the role of an agent in art licensing?
R: We are the connectors, the people that help artists get licensing deals and help the manufacturers get the kind of artwork they need. For us it's a partnership on both ends of the deal. We need to identify where and then to whom the artist's work can go, and our clients expect us to save them time and effort by supplying appropriate designs.

TMFMA ~ As an agent, how do you find a new artist? When you look at an artist's work, what are the key elements you are looking for?
R: We always have our feelers out for artwork that looks "licensable." That being said, we like to see a professional presentation and a clear message of what the artist is about. We also evaluate the work based on whether or not that artist would compete with anyone we already represent and we need to have a sense that our current clients will respond positively to the work. Then, after some extensive conversation, we cross our fingers that the artist isn't going to be difficult or crazy.

J: It goes back to the partnership we talk about. Product licensing – which is really what we are talking about here – is a long road that you travel in fits and starts with forks and dead ends everywhere. We are looking for artwork that is adaptable to a variety of products and people that are adaptable to the process. Content and connection are now the way of the market, so we are also looking for the story in the art – how will customers relate to it?

TMFMA ~ How does an artist know their work is right for licensing?
R: After studying the market, the artist should be able to tell if their ideas and quality of artwork is competitive with what is out in the market. And they should show it to as many people as they can, both professionals and consumers (who do not already love you).

J: Ronnie makes a good point – feedback from your family or other artists is not nearly as valuable as what you will get from, say, retailers or potential licensees. I think every artist who thinks they have something saleable should consider making up some prints, renting a tent and doing an art fair. You couldn't pay enough for the education you will get on how people buy, what works and what doesn't. Another way is to take your portfolio to the gift stores and see if the owner is willing to give you an opinion on your designs. Retailers are the front line on saleable product and they will definitely have an opinion.

TMFMA ~ What’s the worst error a new artist can make in art licensing?
R: Underestimating how long it takes to develop a career. It's excruciatingly slow sometimes! It can be a waiting game for decisions to be made, forever until it comes out on the market, and an eternity until you get paid!

J: And not doing their homework. They should take the time to learn as much as possible about a company and what they make before sending them any art, because nobody wants art they cannot use.

TMFMA ~ What's your view of the current market and trends?
R: I think the "connection" based collections are still strong and resonate with consumers. I definitely see a trend back to good quality drawing and color is very important. Pattern only work, without illustration seems to be waning a bit. I think the market has settled down over the last year or so, but it is far below the "good old days" of the early 2000's.

TMFMA ~ What are your "must" trade shows to attend?
R: Whew, that depends on the artist and what they want to do. From year to year that may change, depending on the market, your work and your budget — so, yes, I am avoiding the answer.

J: I think we should differentiate between "attend" and "exhibit." There are only a couple shows where you can exhibit and for all the others I'd say you need to examine why you are going. There is nothing like a gift market to see actual product, how it's merchandised and what is on the market now. Every major city has them but many won't let artists in without a retail or showroom connection. Exhibiting at Surtex is great if you are ready, but very expensive. The Licensing Expo, also expensive, has an art exhibitor section but that is not the focus of the show. And there are hundreds of specialty trade shows in specific categories that can be quite good if you can work in that niche.

TMFMA ~ How do you see the future of licensing?
R: Well, I know for sure that the business cannot sustain success for every artist that wants to license their work. There just aren't enough products that use licensed art to accommodate all the people that would love to make a living this way. I think we'll see more "hybrid" careers develop in the next few years. There are just too many eggs trying to fit into the art licensing basket.

J: I couldn't agree more. This business has changed far more quickly than most will admit, and while there are tens of thousands trying to get licensed only a handful of people actually make a living as full time licensing artists. I believe licensing will always be a viable tool but it will only be one of many for someone hoping to live a creative life. Art fairs, e-commerce, teaching and coaching, crafting, corporate or educational work, commissions and work for hire, consulting, publishing … all are parts and pieces of what we see artists doing now. Some agents too.

TMFMA ~ What do you recommend to a new artist starting out in this field?
R: Get smart and realistic about the business. Read blogs and books (I highly recommend "License to Draw" and Jim's blog of course…) but don't get paralyzed by information overload and wait to get everything "just right." There is no "just right" but there is "get going." And do really good work.

J: First off, be different. No one needs another generic snowman or simple graphic, there are thousands out there already so you want to be truly unique. Treat every experience as a learning opportunity. If your work isn't getting any traction, try to figure out why and then make the adjustments to both your work and your methods. Experiment and test new approaches. Flexibility is important.

TMFMA ~ What other useful tips can you give a new artist starting out in this field?
R: Find your tribe. It's important to find people who "get you" --- and you may or not be related to them! I found a writing group that has been very supportive of my writing and has helped me find my voice. You get to make the rules on this one — do you want critique? Support? Or just someone to laugh along this crazy road? The choice is yours.

TMFMA ~ What are your future goals and aspirations?
R: Well, I'd like to get a big-ass RV and have Jim drive us all over the country while I drink fine wine and write best sellers, but he has seemed somewhat resistant to the idea. Oh, and I want to make our dog Larry the next big thing because he's just so darn adorable.

J: Hey, I'm in.

Visit Two Town Studio's website:
Ronnie's website:
...and Jim's blog:

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