Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Art for Little and Big Moments - Artist Tatyana Starikova

Tatyana Starikova and I briefly met at Surtex last May. My first impression was that she really liked to be there and that art licensing was a perfect world for her. This interview will tell you more about her and her lovely work.

The Moon from My Attic: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your art? I was born in Ukraine where I grew up and received an education in Fine Arts. Now I live with my husband and daughter in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley, creating art for licensing and editorial illustration.

I work in a variety of styles — from whimsical art for children to sophisticated florals — bringing my passion for illustration and surface pattern design to products for everyday, holidays and special occasions.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? Creating art for products is especially rewarding to me, not only because it is beyond exciting to see my designs in stores, but more importantly, it allows me to share the way I see the world, who I am as a person, and at the same time to be a part of their lives when people buy products with my art and bring them home.

When I work on a new design, I imagine who might enjoy it – maybe it will be an image on somebody's favorite coffee mug, a pattern on a tablecloth at a family gathering, or a design on a nurse's scrub that could make a child smile. Thinking about it leads me to many new ideas and gives my art purpose. I believe that art for products is not just for decoration, it’s for celebrating the little and big moments in our lives, for making memories, expressing our taste, and making statements about who we are.

TMFMA: Briefly share with us about your experience in art licensing and any art show you exhibited in. My first steps into art licensing began when I discovered Tara Reed's "ASK Calls" and started to learn more about the industry. In 2013 I took Surtex seminars and walked the show. In order to bring my art and business to the next level, I signed up for Lilla Roger's and Tara Reed's classes which equipped me with knowledge and confidence and brought me to the decision to show at SURTEX.

The upcoming Surtex 2016 will be my third time exhibiting at the show. It's a great place to meet manufactures and art directors face to face and start business relationships. I am happy to say that I have quite a few deals with paper, gift, fabric and tabletop companies since stepping out into the art licensing arena.

I would like to add that I had a great opportunity to meet energetic, wonderful agent Brenda Manley, at My Favorite Designs, who represents some of my work at shows like Printsource and Blueprint.

TMFMA: What's your favorite art style, if any? I enjoy so many art styles, I can't name them all; folk art, children's book illustration, mid century modern, painterly, graphic, bold or delicate, as long it is a great art. I appreciate beautiful lines, interesting or sometimes unusual use of color and strong design.

Recently I discovered iconography. I am taking classes from my 80 years old Russian (French born) amazing artist and teacher Olga Poloukhine, who unlocks ancient egg tempera icon painting secrets of masters like Andrey Rublev. It is quite an experience to make everything from scratch; glue, gesso, paints! It inspired me to create my own Angel collection, that I am currently working on now.

TMFMA: What inspires you? I find my inspiration in almost anything that excites me and I never know where it might come from. Sometimes a quiet walk in nature, travel to a new place or country, taking a class to learn something new, talking to an interesting person of any age, or an unusual color combination could spark a new idea.

TMFMA: Any useful tips that you'd like to share about art and licensing? While staying connected with other artists through social media is very important for support, I would suggest to go deeper and find an artist friend who would be your accountability partner as well. I am lucky to have Marsha Rollinger, who is my friend and colleague.

Even though we live on the opposite costs of the country, we found out that we are very close in spirit. We support each other in our art licensing journey through our weekly phone meetings, emails, and texts to keep each other accountable in our weekly goals, give each other encouragement or kick in a pants when needed, share tips and laughs, and maybe sometimes a tear or two. I highly recommend having an artist friend who "gets it" and is on the same path as you.

TMFMA: What are your future aspirations and goals? The thought of seeing products in stores with my art on them makes me very excited! My goal for 2016 is to get new deals in paper, gift, and tabletop markets.

You can find more about Tatyana's art here:

Wishing everyone a Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Painting as a Visual Communication - Fine Art Painter Felice Panagrosso

I know, I know. I've been away for several months. I have been taking care of a couple of important family/personal life events in Europe. Fortunately all is well and I couldn't be any happier!

So I decided to resume the publishing of my blog interviews along with some other creative concepts, although I won't be able to publish as much as I used to do before - at least for the next couple of months, but it's a start.

In my next blog post I will share with you some of the art and design I saw while I was in Europe this past summer. Meantime I want to welcome my first guest of this month. He is an American painter, Felice Panagrosso, who has lived and worked in Paris since 2001 but is originally from New Haven, CT where he grew up in an Italian-American family. He returned to the United States for two years in 2006 to receive an MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Previously, Felice attended the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and Parsons, Paris. He has also studied drawing in Italy with the New York Studio School.

Tell us about yourself:

I've shown at The Forbes Gallery and The Windham Fine Arts Gallery in New York, held two solo shows in Paris and participated in an exposition entitled "A Bi-Cultural Palette: Les Artistes Franco-Américains" at the Mona Bismarck Foundation, also in Paris. My paintings have twice been accepted at the Annual Salon Exposition in the 15th Arrondissement in Paris, in 2009 and 2010, receiving "Mention d’Honneur" in 2009.

Painter Felice Panagrosso
In March and April, 2015, my painting "Rooftops from Atelier" was on exhibit at the Salon Aguado in the Mairie (City Hall) of the 9th Arrondissement of Paris, in support of Paris' bid to have its rooftops included as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. I've also shown my work at Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

I have a monthly blog called "The Art of Felice Panagrosso" (, where I write about painting, family, and Paris, always including one or more of my paintings.

What brought you to art in the first place?

I should answer this question by telling a story about the first painter I ever met in New Haven, Connecticut. Well, I didn't actually meet him. I saw him when, as a child, I was riding in the backseat of my father's car. There under a highway overpass was a man with a portable easel set up and painting on a canvas. I knew what that was because I had seen painters on television. Was he painting the streets? I didn't think so. Was he painting the cars? No. Was he painting some Grand Vista? Definitely not. Then what was he painting? His easel was set up so that he was facing the concrete highway abutment. It had rained the night before and he was painting, as far as I could tell, the water stains running down the concrete face of the abutment.

I only saw that man a few times after that, and only after a rainstorm. I never learned his name, but he taught me something that day. He was SEEING something that I had not seen. Something I was unaware of before I saw him and his painting. He was appreciating something that I had not appreciated before. He was seeing it and painting it and in the process showing it to me. So, when I see a broken down neon sign selling rubber stamps, the litter in front of some bicycles or even a triangle of sunlight on a patch of concrete, I am moved to paint it.

That's what brought me to painting.

What's exciting about your creative work?

I'm excited by communication, and to me that's what painting is, visual communication. If I am captivated by an image, a configuration of buildings or a stand of trees I trust that someone else in the world will be too. I think that that's why I love to write a monthly blog. The images and words compliment each other. I must add that, in spite of this, I still paint for myself, for my own pleasure and astonishment, and experimentation. Every painting is different and comes from a different place.

Who/What Inspired you?

I am inspired by the work of Les Nabis, a group of Post-Impressionist French Artists including Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Dennis and especially Pierre Bonnard. "Les Nabis" means The Prophets in Hebrew and Arabic. I lived within walking distance of Maurice Dennis' home in Saint Germain-en-Laye where I was able to study first hand much of his work. The Musée Gustave Moreau, perhaps my favorite museum in Paris, is just around the corner from me. Gustave Moreau, a Symbolist, was one of the teachers of Pierre Bonnard.

Tell us about a recent art project/series.

© Felice Panagrosso
My current series is called "Sign Language". These are neon signage from the 40's and 50's, mostly found in the United States but also a few in Europe. For me they evoke a sense of permanence, confidence, and solidity from the past, even in their present decaying state.

They also display an unabashed sense of commercialism and modernity. I try to capture their unique combination of art and technology in my paintings.

Find out more about Felice Panagrosso's paintings here:

Monday, July 6, 2015

Putting the "U" in Unique! - An Interview with Margo Tantau, Vice President of Design & Creative at Midwest-CBK

I have been traveling around Europe for sometime and am seeing some new trends and innovative designs. I will post more about this adventure but in the meantime it's my pleasure to publish this exclusive interview with the wonderful Margo Tantau, Vice President of Design & Creative at Midwest-CBK!

I met Margo at the Atlanta Mart last January and walked through her beautiful showroom. She is one of the most fun, loving and professional people I've met in the design world, a pleasure to talk to! I share with her a few passions: art & design, traveling and helping artists find their ways. 

Here are some very inspiring insights she shares with us today: 

Margo Tantau
Tell us about you, your background and your own experience as an artist and art director. I come from a creative family. My Mom has spent over 40 years as an Interior Designer, so from early on there was always lots of talk about color, pattern, shapes, rooms, details...and my Dad was a pilot, so we were able to take advantage of very low fares and see things in far away places. Plus someone was always singing. That combo just puts color in one's step.

I was the "creative one" growing up, always asked to hand letter the signs and draw the pictures. I was encouraged all along the way, which I truly appreciate. Career-wise, I have done several different things...retail, wholesale, selling, entrepreneurial and corporate forays, creating, and more creating. These have all added up to more years of experience than I sometimes care to admit. My passion, though, is helping other artists and makers further their own careers. Watching someone grow and flourish and find personal success is just my favorite and most rewarding thing.

© Amy Rice - Cottage Bloom
What is exciting about your work, what inspires you as artist and art director? The best part for me is twofold. Finding great talent and then working together to turn ideas into fresh, interesting products. I completely enjoy the learning curve. I like to have my nose to the ground, so to speak, and discover what feels new and interesting. I push myself to be aware of what is happening in the market and to trust my gut and push for great style. I love to travel (cue Pilot's daughter!) and therefore having my hands involved in the creative process, wherever that takes me in the world, is truly inspiring.

What are your views in regards to trends and art styles? Style and trend are subjective to the market. I look at it kind of like the food triangle with "high trend" or the latest newest coolest things at the tippity top. That's a very exciting place to play and is highly creative. It's where one can try things and see what sticks. It's hot and happening, and often expensive. Then as you move down to the wider bits of the triangle, the trends grab a broader market share. They become more the norm, more affordable. You start to see the subject matter showing up in many more places, more markets.

© Zoe Ingram - Decor
Think of the last few years; owls, foxes, indigo, shibori, Moroccan rugs, quotes on everything. The bottom of the triangle, in my mind, is Mass Market. Big box stores that sell to the masses. Lower prices, cheaper product, the trend is becoming old. New things are always brewing up at the top of the triangle, and making their way down. There is room for good product every step of the way! People are buying, and companies need design. It's an endless cycle.

Tell us about your new e-course in collaboration with Lilla Rogers. What are you hoping to achieve through it? I'm super excited and honored to be collaborating with Lilla and Beth Kempton on the new Make Art That Sells course. It's called Creating Collections for Home Decor. What I hope to pass along is the idea of designing for three dimensional product, as well as techniques and information about different materials and how to use them. I want to demystify the process.

© Zoe Ingram
We're playing with the concept of taking flat art, learning to visualize how to dissect and shape it, and beginning to think about product. The industry needs more diverse and better goods. We rely too much on the familiar. This class will produce people who will have the power to shake it up. That's pretty thrilling to me. The talent is definitely there.

What's your philosophy about commercial art and licensing? I think many artists consider licensing to be the end-all, the pinnacle. For me, the most meaningful creative practice is that of doing something you are proud of and of putting products you believe in back into the market. There are several ways of doing that and licensing is only one. Licensing is a fantastic way to go if you have the right connections and/or agent. If you are going to make a go of it yourself, you do need business sense, a stick-to-it attitude, and a way to pay the rent as you get your work out there and grow your business. It's a balance.

What is some key advice you can give to an artist who wants to make a living through their artwork? Network network network. Understand your competition. Pay attention to the market. Stay fresh. But above all, more important than anything else to me, is BE UNIQUE. It may feel daunting, but if you continually put your own creative energy into the world, there will be a payoff. If you keep it to yourself and just timidly play in your studio, who will know your intentions? Who will see your talent?

© Susan Black
I can think of many artists now who post on social media a lot. They get noticed. They are trying, they are growing. That kind of energy and dedication goes a very long way. When people can see that you are trying, you gain respect, and you grow your own talent. You might be thinking, "How do I make the time? I have kids, I have another job..." If you want to make money eventually with your own art, MAKE THE TIME. Take classes. Meet other people who can support you and who you may be able to collaborate with. Push through the scary bits. That's the golden are already holding it in your hands.

Anything else you'd like to share about art and licensing? The creative community is amazing. My best and dearest friends are part of this global community and most of them don't live anywhere near me. But we share the same passions, goals, challenges and defeats, and we can therefore knowingly support each other. I have great respect for anyone who is putting their creativity out in the world. After all, one of the hardest things is to share of yourself. But it is also one of the most generous and rewarding. The world will always need product. There is a new groundswell of appreciation for art, for artists, for good, fresh design that will set a company apart. Artists are the keepers of that talent. What do YOU want to see out there is the world? Your ideas hold great value. Find your boldness. Share it.

- o - 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Ramp It Up! An Exciting New Consulting Panel of Seasoned Professionals in Art Licensing

Sheila Meeham and I met at the AmericasMart Atlanta last January and again at Surtex this past May. She's been in the art licensing business for many many years now. She has a strong background in marketing and sales in the greeting card and gift industries where she quickly discovered to be passionate in the 'art' of doing business, as she calls it.

She was the Vice President at Determined Productions, Inc., representing Felix the Cat and Peanuts to name a few, and then she moved to Schurman Fine Papers (now Papyrus) as Director of Licensing. In 2002, she opened her own agency while also consulting with emerging and seasoned artists on growing their business.

Sheila is relentless in helping her artists and strives to make the world a better and more artistic place to live. I share with her the same purpose, which is to help artists make beautiful things and ultimately to make the world a better place.

Sheila, together with three other art licensing and product development veterans, also recently launched a new and exciting venture called Ramp It Up.

In their words, they "offer expert advice for growing your creative business." They "are a platform where artists, creatives, designers and product developers/inventors can share their designs and concepts with our expert panel in order to get them to the next level."


I found their program to be very inspiring and more comprehensive than many others on the market because they provide a personalized consulting service which covers a broad array of developmental needs, from portfolio reviews to marketing art work to product development and placement in targeted markets. They are professional, experienced and lovely to work with.

Check it out their site for more information on advancing both your art and your licensing business!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Surtex, NSS and ICFF 2015 Shows - A Year of Flexibility and Transition

After 3 consecutive years of exhibiting at Surtex, this year we decided to take a break and take care of some personal affairs instead. However, we did walk the shows - Surtex, NSS and ICFF - as Press. Why did we do that?

Last year we started to publish some interviews and editorials in an On-The-Road Series and we will continue doing so as we travel around the globe. We also wanted to find out what's going on in the world of commercial art and share our findings with this very generous community of amazing artists. Many have asked me to report straight facts, so here we are, with no embellishments.

I also always advise to read up on all blog editorials to get the full view of what's going on. You'll find down below several links to posts I have found so far.


We walked the show all three days and the traffic seemed to be pretty much the same as last year and the year before. Yet some manufacturers said to me that they felt that the energy was different from earlier years, that the show was missing something this time around. Exhibitors told me that they had better quality clients approaching them.

So what changed? Several things changed and I will list just a few that were the most obvious. To begin with, Surtex was smaller and was sandwiched in between the NSS and the ICFF.

The Furniture show expanded and in addition to the first floor, it took over part of the 2nd floor where the Surtex Atelier section used to be. Many veteran and non-veteran artists chose not to exhibit this year, for whatever reason. The show management changed, manufacturers were newly qualified by the show management, and fewer artists walked the show because of the higher entrance fee.

We gathered some informal and rough data by counting the number of booths for the past three years out of the Surtex Directories for 2013, 2014 and 2015. Below is the chart that shows the results, and although this graph is not the only way to measure whether the show was a success, it does indicate that it is in a transitional phase.

I am not sure how this transitional phase will play out, but Surtex is indeed changing, for better or the worse.

In my opinion, the transition with Surtex is but a piece of the larger transition enveloping the whole design industry as there are many other ways to sell or license a design now. New technologies allow for faster communication but that's not the only change. Artists are collaborating more and more amongst themselves in the form of collectives or joining in an exclusive partnership with manufacturers.

Agents are in demand, as the costs to exhibit through an agent are generally less if they bear all the fees. And of course, if they do so, they want a guaranteed return, so they pick the best selling artists to be in their portfolio. Or, some also share the costs of exhibiting with their represented artists. Some don't show at all but they are internet savvy and do online marketing instead. Today, there are many different business models being used.

There are also other design shows that have successfully increased their marketing, affiliates and exhibitors. Take for example, the newly launched virtual world of the Art Licensing Show, where artists virtually show their work for a fee. There are many online POD sites as well as professional sites like Linkedin, Pinterest and Instagram, where visuals are the key to connecting with clients.

Yet Surtex has positioned itself as the premiere event for selling and licensing original art and design. Many independent artists still prefer to exhibit there in addition to the above venues or other shows, like the AmericasMart Atlanta or the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas to name only a couple. There are so, so many more. It would be interesting to do a survey of who sells, licenses or freelances but I think it would be safe to guess that some combination is the new business model for most artists starting out and perhaps for veteran artists who need to keep relevant.

In short, the competition is fearless and flexibility is the password for such transitional times. Even the trend conferences we listened to at the show stressed the mix of styles and trends, the transition, and the flexibility of doing business.

I took some quick notes about the themes and trends, although I am sure other blogs have done more in-depth analyses and more will be talked about in upcoming weeks - don't miss the Ask Paul Brent on May 27, hosted by Tara Reed - Paul will be doing his fabulous SURTEX trend review as usual.

Aside from the still going strong birds (including owls !!!), butterflies, sheep, dogs, cats and other cute animals are all over the market. Lettering and editorial art is still strong. Humor and cuteness was displayed by many. Abstracts, geometrics and florals are everywhere. Black and white, a classic, is again on the rise and adult coloring book line art is highly desired by the Publishing market. In short, nothing particularly new that I could tell with the exception of more hand painted art, which is finally strong enough to compete against the flat digital art that started flooding the licensing arena some years back.

The most exciting thing about Surtex this year was to meet with many artist friends, agents and exhibitors. Here are some photos, although I wish I have taken many more!

Kelly Ventura - Surtex 2015
Kelly's fine art is very fresh and colorful. Her contemporary take on florals and abstracts is for sure unique amongst the numerous hand painted artwork at Surtex this year.

Caleb Gray Studio - Surtex 2015
Caleb Grey's art is so much fun and uniquely modern in style with a fun, retro vibe. In Italian we say "simpatico"!

Giordano Studios - Surtex 2015
Bob Giordano is a veteran of art licensing. Every year he exhibits at Surtex, Licensing Expo and AmericasMart Atlanta. I will publish a full interview with him this summer. I can't wait to have him as our guest! You can find his lovely work here:

Monika Forsberg - Surtex 2015
I recently interviewed both Monika (above) and Jennifer(below), who exhibited at Surtex as part of Cloverly Art Collective - such lovely and unique work!

Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren) - Surtex 2015
Sarah Frederking - Surtex 2015
Sarah has done Surtex for the 3rd year, although she also exhibited many years ago. Her textile books are really cute and fun! You can find out more about her patterns and designs here:

Kate Austin - Surtex 2015
Kate has exhibited in the Atelier section of Surtex last year and this year decided to be in the art licensing section instead. Her colorful patterns stood out at the show. You can find out more about Kate here:

Ashley Rodriguez Reed - Surtex 2015
Ashley walked the show a couple of years ago and this year took her designs to Surtex - her lovely hanging wall planters and patterns looked very playful! Her website:


It was fun to walk the NSS this year. Of note, letter press and hand painted art were nicely displayed by large companies as well as small businesses and independent artists.

I took some pictures with the exhibitor's permission, although the lighting wasn't the best. I will publish more interviews and articles in future weeks.

Katharine Watson - NSS 2015
Katherine hand painted her backdrop wall and has block printed her images on paper. Her stationery and textile products are fantastic in both quality and design. You can find her work here:

Our Heiday - NSS 2015
Patricia Shen walked away from a legal career to pursue her dream and launched her own business in June 2014. Her work is colorful and fun! You can find her designs here:

Mara-Mi - NSS 2015
This display was one of the best at the NSS, although my photo doesn't do it justice. The design was lovely. You can find more about Mara-Mi here:


I loved it! It was so much fun to see some of the trends coming in from Europe and how the interior design in the 21st Century is influenced by many trends and the flexibility of emerging designers who are also artists. Small businesses created by them exhibited here amongst large or well established businesses. Very brave indeed!

The eco outdoor/indoor themes were very present and it was great to see how they were incorporated in interiors to play together.

We saw more of exotic and sophisticated rustic textures, vibrant and neutral colors, and hand painted art was also visible at this show, along with natural fibers and other innovative concepts.

Fom Icon Mag 2015
Sylvie and Mira of Lisa Peck's home accessories company.
Sylvie's method reproduces her watercolors for interiors, curtains, rugs and wall paper - made in the USA.

Valerie Laudier
Valerie created these Japan-inspired interiors with a European twist, featuring some of her exquisite hand stitched artwork - made in France.

Ronel Jordan
Ronel has been a textile designer for 26 years. Inspired by nature, she featured these beautiful hand crafted felt florals - made in South Africa.

La Fabbrica del Lino
La Fabbrica del Lino manufacturers a beautiful stone-washed linen and other high-end goods - made in Italy.

Garden on the Wall
Garden on the Wall exhibited real plants treated with non-toxics chemicals to adorn interior walls of houses and buildings. Really nice work made in the USA.

Antolini showcased some beautiful marble textures in geometric forms - made in Italy.


Here some of the best promo kits we picked up from the Press Room. There were many, many more but we couldn't get them all. Watch out for upcoming interviews with artists who did have a Press kit!

Fox & Fallow & Design Design

One Canoe Two

Kelly May - Krenz

Printable Wisdom

Our Heiday

Miriam Bos

Neiko Ng


We think Surtex is still a great show and per what we gathered the quality prevailed over quantity, however since the attendance of the exhibitors significantly dropped this year in all three categories of exhibitors (Atelier, New Exibitors, Veterans), it will require some stronger and innovative marketing to draw an increasing number of qualified manufacturers to make it worthwhile for independent artists to continue to bear the high costs of future exhibitions. Manufacturers are the clients, true, but without the artists there is no show.

We will continue to go to shows and explore the increasing landscape of possibilities for designers and artists. Trends are not as important as the quality of the art itself and the connections between the artist and the manufacturer. We did talk to several of them after some of the conference workshops and we will write more editorials on those topics as well in upcoming weeks - we just couldn't condense everything here.

The NSS is still strong although it also seemed smaller compared to other years. I don't have the directories for 2013 and 2014 though, so I can't say for sure. We liked the more sophisticated letter press mixed with hand painted art. It looked fresh and very crafty.

The housing market is on the raise and so therefore is the demand for good Interior Design. It's now another venue for creating and selling art on a commercial basis through manufacturing your own home decor and accessories. The combinations are infinite! Wall art, curtains, wall paper, small objects, eco-friendly accessories, you name it!

In short, it seems there have never been more opportunities for artists to find ways to get their art into the hands of their public - though this means that the world of art and art licensing is growing even more ambiguous and challenging than ever before!

(I will add more as they get published)

by Nicole Tamarin

by Annie Troe

by Anne was Here