Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting Started In Art Licensing

Ten years ago, when I started licensing my art, I thought that it meant that I could paint whatever I wanted, and someone would love it so much they'd put it on their products. Well, a decade later I have learned that isn't the case. I have learned that I have to gear my paintings to the manufacturors' needs if I want my art to get accepted. Yes, you should paint the subjects you love, but you have to keep in mind that you are creating the art to go on products. A lot of the artists that I meet tell me they want to get started licensing their art, but they seem to think that it is easy and takes very little effort. Rather like someone who told me once that she wanted to be a children's book illustrator, but she only wanted to illustrate the books that she herself had written. I suppose it boils down to if you consider art licensing a career or a hobby.

So, I thought I would talk about what it takes to be successful in licensing.

1. Do your homework! Remember, licensors are commercial artists. Manufacturors use our art because they want to sell their products. That means doing research to find out what actually sells on a particular type of product (and they are all different). For example, I do a lot of garden flags, which are vertical in format, so that's the kind of art I send.

2. Pay attention to what the clients say. After you have been doing this for a while, you will come to see that some of your work is more popular than others. Pay attention to that! For me, for some reason, clients seem to like the way I paint cats better than dogs (other people might be way more successful with dogs, I'm just talking about me here), so I paint more kittens than puppies. I have another client who doesn't like the color orange, so I don't send them any paintings of nasturtiums!

3. Build up your portfolio until you have a decent sized body of work. That way, if a manufacturor calls and asks for a specific subject matter that they need to do a presentation for their clients, I can send them several examples without having to do new work on spec. Its really frustrating to create a piece of work especially for a client's presentation and then they don't end up using it!

4. Be patient. Someone once told me that she was going to quit her job and start licensing her art, because she had enough money to live on for a year. I hated to tell her, but a year isn't long enough. Even if you got a contract tomorrow, it can take a year for the product to appear in the marketplace, and then another quarter before you begin seeing royalties. Someone told me once that on average it takes three years to become an "overnight success", and I must be kinda slow, because it took me longer than that (and I still have a long way to go)!

So what I am saying is that art licensing is a job, and you need to think of it that way. Like all jobs, it takes hard work and you need to educate yourself continually. However, it can be wonderfully rewarding too (and I'm not just talking financially here). The people who make the big bucks are few and far between, and of course we all admire them for their success. But licensing has other benefits to think about. I get to work at home, so I have no stressful commutes, and I can be around for my kids. It is very exciting to see my art on products. I get to meet fantastic people who work in the field. And best of all, I get to spend all day doing my favorite thing: painting!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My First Giveaway

So, this is what we woke up to this morning...(that thumping sound you hear is the kids jumping for joy because there is no school today). I hope our bees are all snuggled up to keep warm in their snowy little hive! No matter how long I live in Colorado, I don't think I'll ever get used to how quickly the weather can change. We can get snow here no matter what the season, even if it has been toasty warm the day before.

So, in that spirit, I thought I would do a four seasons give away. I'll be sending four garden flags to the winner!

Oops, you can see the tips of my toes in this pic! (toes are not included in the giveaway). To enter, leave a comment on this post. To enter twice, mention it on your blog. I'll do a random drawing on April 1st. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Agent Appreciation Day

There is a lot of chat amongst my artist friends about whether or not to have an agent, so I thought I would add my two cents. I have always had an agent, and the busier I get, the more I am grateful for having one!
To start with, my theory was that as I have no head for business, it would be wise to have someone to represent me who understood contracts and financial dealings. I have sat in on meetings with my clients, and as soon as they start talking about production runs, mass market versus specialty, royalties, skus, oh, my head starts to spin!
Now that I have been in this business for a long time, I have started to see other benefits.
1. Agents generally know the track record of the companies they work with, so even if a client is new to me, my agent can tell me what to expect from working with them.
2. Agents get "calls for submissions" from the clients. Maybe if I was famous, the clients would contact me directly with what they need, but generally they have a pool of agents, and when they need something they send out an e-mail asking for it. This doesn't mean that I create something new on the off-chance that it will get picked. Once you've been in the biz for a while, you end up with a big stockpile of images. So if a clients asks for apples, for example, my agnet will send them five or six apple paintings from my portfolio.
3. Agents can tell you about general trends they are seeing from their clients, and that helps me decide what new work to create. I can keep track of things like color trends, but sometimes there is a certain subject matter that all of a sudden everybody seems to be looking for.
4. My agent also helps me keep track of what I need to do. My work is a balancing act of painting what I want to paint, and fulfilling requests from clients. My agent helps me prioritize, otherwise I would be in a complete tizzy. Right now I spend a lot of time just keeping up with the clients' needs, and sending files, and making tweaks to designs, and generally keeping my paperwork in order. I can't imagine how much more time I would spend on that if I had to represent myself as well. I would never have time to paint!
Of course, everyone needs to decide what is best for them. Some people are much better at the business side of things than me, so they would be reluctant to pay an agent to take care of that for them. Licensing agents generally take 50% of the income, so it is an important financial decision to make. I have been lucky to have worked with some really great women, who have made my career much more succesful than it would have been without them. So that's my two cents.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

We're Back!

I know this is supposed to be an art blog, but I can't resist posting pictures of our wonderful trip to Florida. We just got back yesterday, coming home to a nasty Spring storm! We wanted to turn around and go right back again. We went to Epcot the first day. I haven't been since I was a teenager and it had first opened, and it sure is a lot different now.

We went with my brother John. He is the best brother anyone could ask for and we all adore him. He and I frequently take vacations together. We have been to Maine, Vermont, and England so far, as well as all over Florida and Colorado.

I was so excited to see one of my flags for sale in one of the Epcot gift shops! As you can see, it is one of the ones for which I just received the samples that I posted about last time. They were having a flower and garden festival so they had lots of garden themed stuff for sale, so the flags might not always be there. Still, I was thrilled, is that totally dorky of me?

We liked the World Showcase area of Epcot best. This is Paris; you can just see the Eiffel tower in the background.

We also went to Cape Canaveral to the Kennedy Space center. Here is my lovely Margaret looking at the shuttle on the launch pad. She really wants to have a career involving space or astronomy, so our main reason for going to Florida was to take her to Kennedy. There was supposed to be a shuttle launch while we were there, but it got postponed. We were so disappointed, because one of the shuttle astronauts this time is from our hometown and graduated from our high school!

So now I'm home and its back to work for me. I really want to paint lots of beach scenes and seagulls and stuff (I love shore birds), but there is lots of stuff on my to-do list before I can get to that!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today is Our Day

Today is International Women's Day. Time to celebrate how far we've come (okay, I know there are a couple of men who read this blog, but bear with me). When I told my parents that I wanted to go to art school, they thought that being an artist wasn't really a career path, but that it would be okay as I would be a housewife who just did little paintings as a hobby. Well, years later, I'm still a pretty lousy housekeeper, but my paintings are much more than just a way to pass the time! I'm so grateful that I can have an actual career (and that I don't have to wear a corset). So today I am sending much love to all the wonderful women I have worked with over the years; art directors, publishers, agents, artists and all.... okay, all you gentlemen, I love you too.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Lucky Find

Yesterday I took some books to trade in at the secondhand bookshop. Of course I had to browse around, and look at the lovely book I found! I already had "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady", which came out about 20 years ago , but I never knew that they had found another of her sketchbooks and published it.

Here is the page from March. I love some of the country quotes she writes in for each month. For March, there is "As many misties in March, so many frosties in May". I truly hope that one isn't true, as it we are having a very misty morning here! On this date in 1905 she "Picked Colt's-foot and Procumbent Speedwell. Groundsel in flower and Chickweed. Rooks busy building their nests." Isn't Procumbent a wonderful word? I'm going to have to look that one up in the dictionary and add it to my regular vocabulary. I do that to tease my children who would much rather I spoke like the brain-dead parents they see on television.

Isn't this an adorable painting? I think loose watercolors are lovely. I try very hard, but my paintings seem to come out very tight and detailed. I just keep noodling away at them! Which is fine, my clients seem to like it, but I wish I could paint both ways. I think I will just have to practise more and build my confidence.

Now I'd better go get busy. We are going to see "Alice in Wonderland" this afternoon, and we have friends coming over this evening, so I'd better do something about the big pile of laundry so that we're not eating dinner surrounded by socks and underpants!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Waiting For Spring

Okay, it isn't quite Spring yet, but we're getting there. Today is chilly and rainy, so I am working on creating Spring themed garden flags. My mind is a little bit scattered-I've been having the weirdest dreams lately. Last night I dreamed that we were having a party and this monster was attacking all my friends, but that you were safe if you wore a sheep on your head! Not even a lamb, a great big sheep. Every now and then someone would get tired of that so they'd let their sheep go. It would trot off, baa,baa,baa, and then the monster would swoop in. I never did get back to sleep after that!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nature Walk

My favorite form of exercise is to take a nice walk in lovely weather. I sometimes go with dear Rosanna, and she thinks I am quite crazy, because by the time I get home my pockets are full of dead bugs and things! I just can't resist nature's little treasures, and I have a couple of drawers in my studio devoted to my finds. And yes, they do often end up in my paintings! (by the way, I never kill bugs to bring home or anything, but I will pick up their little bodies if I find them. You can all say "Yuck!" very loudly now).
This photo is of some of my Autumn finds. Look at the variety of sizes of acorns! The giant acorn cap is from a Burr oak. And I love dried seedheads, like the poppy and teasel shown here. Soon I will be looking for Spring things, hooray!