Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Long Term View of Licensing - Artist Bee Sturgis

The Surtex show is less than a week from today and we can't wait to see what is happening this year! One thing for sure is that art licensing is a long-term view, as my guest Bee Sturgis correctly says in this exclusive interview.

Bee is a contemporary mixed media artist with over 25 years of art, design and advertising experience.

Artist Bee Sturgis
"Often I paint a single motif using gauche or acrylic. I scan the pieces I have painted into Photoshop where I digitally modify and merge the motif with previously painted background acrylic washes, pastels, alcohol inks, monoprints, etc. I also use digital textures and Photoshop brushes to create textural, engaging designs", she says.

She lives in the beautiful foothills of the Colorado Rockies but she enjoys taking frequent trips to recharge her creative juices. "Some of my favorite places to visit are Santa Fe, New Mexico or to the soul-satisfying beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. I am owned by 3 little Alaskan Klee Kai doggies. They keep me laughing with their daily antics and energy," she adds.

I asked Bee to share her professional experience in art licensing with us as she has been doing it for 11 years. She started licensing her art while she was a senior designer at Leanin‘ Tree in Boulder, Colorado.

The Moon from My Attic: How long have you been doing art licensing? I worked for Leanin’ Tree for 16 years and I had a lot of access to top agents and agencies. I am a fine artist first and foremost so the thought of approaching manufacturers on my own never appealed to me. I have been more than happy to let my agent approach the contacts they have developed to sell my artwork. I like to focus on creating, my first love. For 11 years my licensing art has been shown at Surtex, and the Licensing Expo. I am very proud to currently be represented by one of the top licensing agencies in the USA, Julie Newman at Jewel Branding.

I love creating licensed artwork. I like the idea of designing art once and selling it many times to different manufacturers. I have been around the business of art licensing for over 16 years and before that I was a senior designer at a quilting magazine. That is where I really developed my love of pattern and fabric design. I was thrilled when I received my first quilt fabric licensing contract with industry leader, Cranston Printworks.

TMFMA: How does one go about getting licensing deals? What's the "protocol" if any? My agent and her seasoned staff attends all the major trade shows - Surtex in New York, Art Licensing Expo in Vegas, etc. She and her staff set appointments with many manufacturers during the show where they show my portfolio. Throughout the year, as soon as I complete a collection, Jewel Branding sends out digital samples of my new artwork to the many contacts they have in the industry. Every "deal" is unique to the manufacturer, the product, the artist, and the agency. If you have a good relationship with your agent, you can trust that they have your best interest at heart and will always negotiate the best deal they can. Your agent knows which manufacturers will respond to your unique style of artwork. This is why an agent is so valuable. They know where to show your art, when to show it, and what products will work with your style.

TMFMA: What brought you to art in the first place? Art is more about who I am than what I do. As a child I was always interested in art, music, and dance. I decided to study fine art in college and have been in love with all artistic endeavors since.

TMFMA: What is exciting about your creative work? It is very exciting for me to have an idea in my mind, to toss it around in my creative brain space, to re-color it, to re-design it, and then create the artwork in Photoshop and have it turn out exactly as I imagined in my mind. If I smile when I see my finished design then I feel proud to release it into the world.

TMFMA: Who/what has inspired you in your art? Honestly I am inspired by everyone and everything. I find that there is an element of unique creativity wherever I look. I appreciate the fresh perspective of watching a child create with a new art medium for the first time, and I am always inspired by all the professional and self-taught artists that share their art in the digital world on their Facebook pages or on Twitter. I find a lot of inspiration in the colors and textures in nature. One of my favorite things to do is wander the art galleries and shops in Santa Fe. I always come away with a new, inspiring way to see color and design.

TMFMA: What advice would you give other artists that are considering the art licensing field? Above all, new artists should create artwork that they love doing, because if you love what you do it shows in the quality and energy of your artwork. It is important to look for what is currently selling in the marketplace and to pay attention to design trends, color pallets, etc. I like to walk the Atlanta Gift Show to see all the new products being offered.

If new artists can manage to go to Surtex or the Atlanta Gift Show they can see what other licensing artists are creating and presenting. It is good to look with a critical eye to see if your work is up to snuff or fits in. The one thing I see with new artists starting out in the industry is the belief that they can get rich quickly and easily or that there is a simple magic formula to being a successful licensing artist.

My advice is to take a long term view of licensing. Find an agent you respect and trust and one that has a good reputation in the industry. Then finally, be prepared to work long and hard with no return for a long time. It takes years to get your art in the pipeline and you must be willing to continually create new art, whether you are selling or not. It is a lot of work for a pay day that occurs sometime in the future. So if you do the art because you love to do art you will find artistic satisfaction, if you do it to sell art you will find that your creativity dries up when there is no huge paycheck waiting in the mailbox each week.

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