Monday, March 31, 2014

Surtex and the Art & Design Licensing Source Book 2014

The Surtex show is coming up in May and many artists have started to work on their booth designs and marketing campaigns. Every year much excitement builds up around this particular art licensing show where beautiful artwork is shown to busy clients; long lasting friendships are also made among the participants. As part of this evolution other businesses also thrive, like art magazines and similar publications since many artists like to reach out to potential clients through colorful and catchy ads and promotional pieces.

Published in advance of Surtex and mailed to a circulation of nearly 20,000 art licensees and retail contacts, the Art & Design Licensing Source Book features artists and agencies on a global scale. In addition to the printed copies - which are distributed at key events around the globe, the magazine also has a digital reach all year round. You can view the 2013 edition here.

They are working on the 2014 issue now, so if you're interested in making your name or brand known before the show, it's advisable to talk to them about being included in the next publication that will be distributed at Surtex this upcoming May.

This is my own promotional ad for Surtex 2014 that will appear in this magazine; it features the theme of one of my newest collections, called Natural Wonders:

Available from this collection as a free download are a high quality paper print and digital wallpaper starting April 1st through the end of the month. An archival print will also be available soon through Etsy for those who don't have a means to print their own. Go to and sign up for your free art today!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Working with Other Artists - Ink Nest

This post will conclude the series on Artistic Collaborations and Business Partnerships although I will publish similar types of articles on this topic in the future. It has been a fabulous opportunity to meet many artists and I hope to see them in person at Surtex this coming May.

Speaking of art licensing, some of you might be interested in the upcoming Art Licensing Academy by Tara Reed. You can learn a whole lot within a short time, so save your spot here!

This week I am happy to introduce the Ink Nest, which consists of artists Sabina, Iglika, Rhian, Denise, Rachel, Emma, Nicole, Rebekka, and Sarah.

Sabina says, "the Ink Nest was a single artist shop initially. However, it quickly attracted more artists with a similar hand drawn style. The benefits of selling together became obvious to us - attracting attention to the shop collectively with our work and through our personal channels, such as our blogs, social media and personal websites. The traffic to the group shop is higher than to our personal websites and results in better sales. It also makes sense to centralize the technical and customer support in one place and free the individual artists from having to deal with shop maintenance and customer communication."

She then adds that as a group "we motivate and inspire each other to create new graphics. New sets are coordinated according to current trends and customer requests." Some of their members help with the social marketing and updating the blog. "It is really impossible for a single person to maintain such an active shop. Our success is only the result of our group effort," she concludes.

So I asked what's their creative process like: "Each artist in our group has freedom to create the graphics that they want to make and this is one of the benefits of making clip art images," adds Sabina. "The creative process itself is rather independent. Only the initial direction may involve the group. These are established artists with experience and published work. They don't need much direction or help." The final designs go through the approval of the shop manager (Sabina) to make sure the style fits the rest of the products. Sometimes feedback is given to modify the set to make it fit better.

"As a team what helped initially was to agree on a common system for packaging our clip art, explains Sabina. We developed an internal standard which keeps all our files consistent and easy for the customer to use. The customer knows what to expect when they purchase several sets from different artists in our shop. All sets have the same technical specifications and quality."

Rhian added, "I enjoy the different creative aspects of each artist. Working with other artists exposes me to different styles and design approaches and as a result it enhances my knowledge of art. Each artist at the Ink Nest has her own style and uses different tools and methods to approach her design projects. The results are original designs even though we sometimes start with the same subject."

She also enjoys the sense of community and feeling more connected to the design and art world, she says. "Sharing and discussing projects with other artists motivates me to be a better artist. It's also good to know that I am not the only one that faces challenges as a freelance designer and that I am likely doing the right things for my business since other artists are following the same methods I use to run mine."

Nicole then adds, "definitely there's a motivation to be awesome. When our group is doing such great work and producing quirky and cute and useful sets it actually makes me feel more creative myself. There's so much talent in our group that it can't help but motivate us to be our coolest."

They use Google Groups for their internal group messages. They also recently opened a Facebook group. Email is their main channel of communication to keep connected.

The advantage in working together, says Rachel, is "being in a group full of artists I admire, which is a huge motivation. I want my work to be as strong as the others in the shop. We are also able to be cheerleaders for each other and it is so fun to see the other ladies succeed in their personal work. Working as a freelancer can be quite lonely but being part of a group is great for bouncing ideas around and learning from each other. We can also discuss problems in our business lives that our families may not want to hear about constantly!"

I wanted to know what excites them to work together. Denise says "being in a group like this is very motivating. It's exciting to see new work we create. And it's really exciting to see how much The Ink Nest has grown and how each of us has grown because of it."

Rhian added, "working with other artists is very inspiring! Every one of us has her own unique style, it is always fun to see how each member of the team interprets design trends and ideas and comes up with her own unique set of graphics."

I have been getting emails from other artists who have been learning more about this topic of collaborative teams and partnerships after reading the recent articles and interviews so any suggestions or tips for starting up a group was my final question for this lovely team.

Sabina said, "working together can be very powerful. My advice to other artists is to be curious about people online. Take the opportunity to network offline and online. You can meet very interesting people and if you show interest they will often respond back. Send them a message, comment on their blog, make a connection. They are much more willing to start a project with you or help you if they know you already."

Find out more about Ink Nest:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Amethyst and the Moon - Artists Stephanie Ryan & Melissa Schulz

It all started for me with a mural and a moon ~ I love the arts. I also love painting and dreaming under the moonlight and so The Moon from My Attic was born, to celebrate what I most connect with. One of my biggest dreams when I was a kid was to have my own studio in an attic, you know, like the real painters such as Monet and Modigliani, two of my favorite artists. My aunt, who was also an artist, used to sing beautiful songs to us kids while teaching us how to paint. One of the songs was about a man on a river boat praying under the moonlight for good luck - in Italian, of course.

So the moon has been on my mind for a long time and I am thrilled to have as my guests this week a pair of formidable artists who have found a way to collaborate in a business venture together and recently launched the Amethyst and the Moon. They are both very creative and fun!

Artists Melissa Schulz and Stephanie Ryan
Melissa Schulz is a brand strategist, a licensing agent, a creative and marketing director, an artist and a jewelry designer. With close to 20 years of experience in the art licensing, product development and marketing fields, Melissa has helped artists and companies strategize their business growth. All the while, she has devoted creative time for the development her own lines of jewelry and mixed media pieces.

Stephanie Ryan is an artist and designer with 20+ years of experience in the product development field. In 2012 she launched her brand and licensing business and has had many early successes. Stephanie's art can be found on dinnerware, fabric, home and garden decor, greeting cards  and much more!

The Moon from My Attic: What's the main story behind the team? How did it form? We worked together in the past and have always talked about collaborating and we knew we had similar aesthetics and interests and thought it would be so fun to combine those things and work together again. Over the course of the last year we found ourselves living through some life challenges which forced us to do a lot of soul searching and through our discussions of what we wanted for our lives we kept coming back to this idea of working together.

These little conversations sparked a passion within us that grew and quickly turned into a tangible dream of combining our love for crystals and the healing powers found within them and the magical realms that surround us into a collaboration that we were both very excited about. We love the idea of taking this passion and presenting it to the world in a beautiful way. We also love that we can shine a little light of inspiration and healing on others during their times of soul searching, too.

TMFMA: What's your creative process about, i.e. how do you work together, how do you develop a product as a team? The most important thing is that we have a very strong vision of what Amethyst and the Moon is. That is our foundation and as a result we are able to work independently and collaboratively towards our goals.

TMFMA: What do you enjoy the most when collaborating? We are both night owls and find that magical things happen under the light of the moon. Hours pass quickly during this time and we love how the inspiration and ideas flow between us as we iMessage throughout the night. The energy between us is so strong when collaborating about Amethyst and the Moon it helps to feed our lives and other businesses as well.

TMFMA: What online or other tools do you use to keep coordinated and in the loop on common projects? We love Google Drive! Google documents and calendars are fundamental. iMessaging, facetime, screenshots and iPhone photos are LIFE SAVERS as well as a great way for us to keep each other laughing throughout the day.

TMFMA: What's the advantage in working together? We both bring a unique set of skills and expertise to our collaboration with just the right amount of overlap to create the perfect synergy. We are very comfortable with each other and have a high level of trust between us. It is such a gift to get to chose who you spend your time with and we love working together. We also seem to have the sense of humor of 15 year old girls which means we like to laugh and giggle a lot! One of the things we promised each other when we started this is that Amethyst and the Moon would be a way for us to have fun and feed our souls. You really need to find the right partner in order to fulfill that kind of dream and that is the biggest advantage of us working together.

TMFMA: What excites you to work together? The energy that is created by the two of us working together really excites us and gets us into bigger picture thinking for our lives and business. We especially love the idea of being able to help others on their journey to connect to their hearts and souls and what lies beyond them with inspirational art and messaging, jewelry and healing products.

TMFMA: Any suggestion or tip for other artists interested in starting up a group? It is so important that you have the same vision. Articulate your vision through visual and editorial references so that you know you are on the same page and your dreams are aligned. Private Pinterest boards are great for this and fun too!

Find out more about Amethyst and the Moon:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spreading Happiness and Fun via Their Art ~ the Happy Happy Art Collective

I have been running this series of artistic collaborations and business partnerships for a few weeks now and in celebration to our blog's 150,000 page views, I want to thank you for all your support and help in making this one of the most read web art publications!

We have in store much more in upcoming months, including a whole series of free promotions for artists attending Surtex. Whether you walk the show or exhibit, we welcome you to our booth to doodle on our Artist's Doodle Board. The board will be permanently published on our Artist's Doodle Museum blog page after the show.

Trade shows can be intimidating to new (and veteran) artists. My friend, artist Nicole Tamarin, wrote a wonderful article about this topic and you can find it on the Surtex blog. I encourage you to read it!

Some artists instead join forces and share the same purpose, like Happy Happy Art Collective. What's the main story and purpose behind this new group? How did it form, I asked?

Emily: We all took Lilla Rogers' "Make Art That Sells" e-course in 2013. Upon graduation Tammie approached us to gauge our interest in forming a collective. We all loved the idea and the collective was formed! Choosing the name was surprisingly easy - since we all had colorful, happy styles (though different) and we wanted to focus on making happy art, 'Happy' just made sense - so we decided to use it twice, for good measure!

The Moon from My Attic: What's your creative process about?

Jill: I think we all have our own creative processes, but as a group, we have a common mission of spreading happiness and fun via our art. The collective is about how to creatively accomplish this goal via encouraging each other's efforts and working together on group projects.

TMFMA: How do you develop a product as a team?

Muffin: We start by posing a question and then each of us takes time to answer, such as what kinds of projects would we like to pursue. We enjoy talking via Google Hangout to talk about our ideas and decide what is best for our team. It's interesting to see how we all end up on the same page and wanting to do the same things.

Emily: We all have our preferred markets and our favorite subject matter - but we understand the value in challenging ourselves to try something new. We selected our group projects based on a combination of what we love to do and what we need to practice a bit more.

TMFMA: What do you enjoy the most when collaborating with your team members?

Lauren: It's fun to see how everyone interprets each project in a totally different way. It reminds you that there is no single "right" way to do art.

Muffin: I love the variety of our art and that each one of us has something different to offer. I love the simplicity of Emily and Denise's illustrations, the complexity of Lauren's illustrations, and the happiness and bright colors of Jill and Tammie's art.

Tammie: I love that we are all supportive of each other's work and process.

© Tammie Bennett 
TMFMA: What online or other tools do you use as a team to keep coordinated and in the loop on common projects?

Tammie: we have a private Facebook group, we use Google Hangouts for video chats, and we use Asana as a task management system.

TMFMA: What's the advantage in working together?

Lauren: We can use our individual strengths to help the group as a whole. Someone might be more comfortable with social media, while another person might be better at running our website. Working in a group also allows us to break up a large to-do list into something manageable!

Jill: There is never any lack of ideas or inspiration. Freelancing can be very isolating so this allows us as artists to work together in a mini virtual office.

© Emily Balsley
Denise: Sharing trade secrets! Having someone to complain to about work! Getting to learn new techniques! Hearing tips! Finding new tricks! All of us are from different industries and have different backgrounds - it's so great that we get to learn from each other and see how we work. It's better than taking an e-class or buying a book on how to illustrate! All the best information is right in this group.

Muffin: It motivates me to go out of my comfort zone and try something new. Plus since we have deadlines, I work really hard accomplishing those tasks so as to not let the other's down. I have tried setting goals for myself to accomplish with deadlines, but it hasn't had as much affect as working in a team has. I feel responsible to do what I say I will do. Plus it's so fun that I have just gained a group of talented friends all virtually!

© Denise Holmes
Emily: It is so nice having a group of people who really understand what I'm going through. I can only jabber on to my husband so much before he starts to tune out - but these ladies are my tribe! They totally get what it means to be an illustrator. When I am freaking out, they are always there to talk me off my ledge. When I have big news I want to share, they are right there celebrating with me!

Tammie : I think we are all pushing each other to grow as artists in a fun and supportive environment.  We really get each other and want each other to be successful.

TMFMA: What excites you to work together?

Jill: Having the accountability of working alongside like-minded artists is an invaluable resource and really inspires you to strive to do your best.

Lauren: I love getting a new project idea from another member. It's never boring!

Denise: How motivating it is to see all the work the group is making. It really pushes me to create more awesome work!

© Muffin Grayson
Muffin: I love seeing the variety of projects. When a task is checked off in Asana from another team member, I immediately want to go to the blog and see what they have done!

Emily: Individually, we are super talented - but viewing our work as a whole is truly impressive. Even though our individual styles are different, they really complement each other and bring strength to our collective - just how it should be!

Tammie : I love seeing how we can all take the same idea or assignment and come up with something totally different but they all still work well together on our site. I always want to do my best work to keep up with the other talented artists in the group!

TMFMA: Any suggestions or tips for other artists interested in starting up a group?

Lauren: Ask yourself what your focus is and what you want to accomplish as a group (casual projects or global empire?). After you get a solid group together, make a plan immediately. That initial momentum will make or break your group.

© Jill Howarth
Denise: Start talking to artists whose work you admire; you never know what a new friendship might bring.

Muffin: Don't be afraid to just ask! If you like or admire other's work you've seen online, ask if they are interested in starting a group with you. If you get turned down, don't be afraid to try asking another. I wasn't really sure what I'd gotten myself into at first but after starting and getting involved, I'll never turn back. It's all about doing what you love and sticking to it, even if it takes you years to get to where you want to be! Keep moving towards your goals and don't let others deter you from your dreams!

Emily: Once you have your key players, tune in to everybody's strengths. Everyone has something to offer - and take advantage of it. By utilizing what each person does best, anything is possible!

© Lauren Minco

Tammie: ASK! Ask artists whose work you admire to join you. Ask what their goals are. Ask what you can do to help each other in the group. ask lots of open questions and you'll find that honest answers can make fun things happen!

Happy Happy Art Collective & Artist links:

Happy Happy Art Collective:

Tammie Bennett:
Denise Holmes:
Lauren Minco:
Emily Balsley:
Muffin Grayson:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Working with Other Creative People and Experiencing Their Processes ~ Swirly Designs

As I work on developing some new collections and preparing for my second year at Surtex (booth #337), I discovered that I am evolving as an artist. My passion and connection for watercolors is deeper than I thought and my style is definitely settling for a lighter and more spiritual look.

So, I am happy to be a part of the amazing Lovely Ink Project, a group of twelve artists who have come together to create beautiful art that includes an inspirational saying. We deliver this art to you each month for a year in the form of an 8" x 10" printable image that is ready for framing and a desktop wallpaper to cheer up your workspace. Sign up now and be inspired! It begins on Tuesday, April 1st:

The mission of Lovely Ink is to uplift, to awaken a sense of wonder, and to sprinkle inspiration around the world. The contributing artists include: Jessica Swift, Rachael Taylor, Cori Dantini, Lizzie MacKay, Anne Waters, Victoria Johnson, myself Alex Colombo, Karma Voce, Nicole Piar, Dari Design Studio, Anne Bollman, and Kat Kalindi Cameron!

In the spirit of collaborative work I want to welcome our new guests, artists Lianne & Paul Stoddard, the creators behind Their unique story goes like this: "Our passion for decorating for the holidays inspired us to combine our artistic skills to create our own collection of original handmade polymer clay holiday ornaments. We create ornaments for all the major holidays and have built a nice following of wonderful collectors who anticipate new designs each and every year."

Artists Lianne, Dani, Paul
Early in 2012 they shared a Valentine cookie how-to project through their online/social media outlets which caught the eye of Dani Fiori, founder of She is a cookie decorating expert - her clients include the likes of Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren as well as many other party and event hosts who agree with her mantra that "Life is Sweet!" Lianne and Paul continued, "So she reached out to us and as we chatted through email, a new partnership was born: Sweet + Swirly!"

What's your creative process about, I asked? "When Dani was looking for a way to preserve her cookie designs, she contacted us. We thought what a great way to allow her customers to have a cookie that lasts forever! And we are always looking for something new to offer our own collectors. The challenge for us was how to take Dani's beautifully decorated cookies and interpret them using non-edible products."

I then asked how they developed a product as a team. "We had many discussions deciding which cookies we were going to create out of clay. We both agreed Christmas was the smart choice to launch this collaboration." They had to figure out how many designs and what the theme of the cookies would be since they needed it to appeal to both of their audiences.

"We decided on two designs: a Santa and a snowman snowglobe design. Dani felt a gingerbread cookie base would work well for the holiday. Once we decided on the cookie designs it was up to us to replicate these cookies into clay. We worked on figuring out how to mimic the texture and color of gingerbread. We also were challenged in working out how to replicate her white sprinkles for Santa's beard. Then we searched for just the right seed beads for the snow in the snowglobe. All the while we were making sure these designs represented Dani's cookies but also have that Swirly twist to them."

What they enjoy the most when collaborating is how interesting it is to be working with other creative people, experiencing their processes, and seeing how they interpret and approach different subject matters. They add: "Our communication is mainly through email. Dani will send us sketches or pictures of the selected cookies and we then send her work in progress images. Once we think we have the right look we will send her samples to compare and approve. We think the advantage of working together is that we are able to offer something new and different to both of our customers."

Lianne and Paul love to try new things and having people respond so positively to them makes it so much more rewarding. Their first collaboration sold out for the season and since then they have collaborated twice in 2013: a Halloween set and another gingerbread design.

So what would be good advice or tips for other artists interested in starting up a group? "When deciding to work/collaborate with another creative person make sure both parties could benefit from the experience. Figure out what each person is bringing to the table.

And make sure you know up front who will be doing what, like marketing, selling, shipping etc."

To find out more about Swirly Designs follow these links: