When I find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off, it helps to stand back and take the long view of my work. Where do I want to be in 5 or 10 years? I am inspired by artists who have taken steps on the long road of licensing. This may be your busiest time of year, so I offer this series of interviews and resources as a chance to gain perspective from some successful artists I have met on Etsy.
Ali J is a talented artist who resides in Perth Australia. Here is my interview with her:
What inspired you or nudged you toward licensing your artwork?
To be honest, I never knew it existed. I was selling my artwork, and creating more everyday. Then companies started to get into touch with me to hire my artwork for their products. I researched it a bit more, and was very happy to proceed with working for them. I've licensed images to t-shirt companies, cd designs, character illustrations, magazines and much more. It has given me many opportunities to create my work in new formats and reach a wider audience then ever before.
I think a lot of artists have reservations about licensing their work. They belive that they will get taken advantage of or that licensing will reduce the value of their original works. What do you have to say to those artists?
To stop looking for negatives, and look at the positives of every opportunity that is presented with an open mind. Whether it be an exhibition, or wholesaling, or consignment, or selling online, or licensing..... there are always negatives. But if you focus on those, you'll never be able to move ahead. Negativity shuts down creativity. Licensing has open up new worlds for me, but I ensure not to limit myself to this field.
Do you have a vision for the success of your licensed artwork that you would be willing to share?
I think the most important thing is not to jump on the trend bandwagon. Moustaches, owls, big eyed girls, dollhouses, lazer cut....... they are trendy now, but won't be in a few years time. Something else will be. The thing with licensing is that you are always working to the future trends that you don't know about. So all you can do is create new work, be honest, and companies will license your work according to what they feel will be big sellers. It can take months and years for images to be printed, or transformed into products, so do realise that licensing is a long term commitment.
How long did you spend creating a body of work before you were satisfied that you had a portfolio worthy of licensing?
I still am not satisfied with my portfolio, it is always being updated on a continual basis. I don't think any artist can be, and if they are, it means they are being safe as a business. Companies like to see recent artwork (created in the past 18 months) that is fresh, future focused, and unique. The most important thing is to have a wide variety in your portfolio as well as a certain style that will differentiate you from the millions of other artists in the world. Not a copied style, and not a forced style.
Do you create artwork with certain products in mind?
No, because at the end of the day each image could be used for such a multitude of purposes, sizes and types, the best thing to do is create an image that is open. Ensure all your artworks have a large reproduction size, as that is what always limits my ability to license my work. I had one company that wanted to reproduce my artwork to well over 12 feet wide, but simply couldn't reproduce one of my paintings (12" x 12") that large.
What is your favorite piece that has been created featuring your work?
I have many, but I'm going to say a CD of "Para Todo O Mal" by Mesa for Sony/BMG. The reason being is that the process of creating the artwork was so amazing, stressful, creative and inspiring all at the same time and I'll never forget it.
How does that piece make you feel?
Fresh. It marks a moment in time when I realised I was a real illustrator, and that I was entering a new phase of my life.
Do you approach manufacturers yourself, or do you have an agent for that?
I don't actively approach any manufacturers, all my licensing deals have been through companies contacting me directly. In the future I'd like to have an agent, but for the moment I enjoy learning as much as I can by doing it myself.
What role has your Etsy shop played in licensing your artwork?
Etsy has introduced many people to my artwork, and has been a great avenue to introduce communication between my brand and other people on a worldwide basis.
Have you been discovered by anyone noteworthy by having an Etsy shop?
Every single person who has visited my shop has been noteworthy. I have been approached by many companies who have found me through Etsy.
Any words of caution for fellow artists?
Licensing your art isn't easy. It is a business transaction and one that requires paperwork, follow up, maintenance and a lot of legwork. Make sure you research as much as you can about the field before diving in. It is a hugely competitive field, and if you want to make a real go of it make sure you know what you are saying & doing. Charging $5 to license your artwork for a book cover will get you laughed out of the industry. That means you should know your rates, what you want to license your images onto, and even better.... communicate with others who have experience in the field. There are many great books out there to help guide you into the field.
Any words of inspiration for fellow artists?
Licensing your art is a challenge, but so rewarding. Waking up everyday to new clients wanting to license my artwork onto books, onto products, onto clothing is exciting. However nothing in your life will eclipse the moment you hold that item in your very hands, or see it sitting in a shop on a shelf, or see a life size cutout of your characters on a stage whilst the band plays music beside it. It will open up your world.
Do you offer licensing for independent crafters on Etsy, your images on their products?
I have in the past, but don't actively promote it. I'd be happy to license my images for other independent crafters to use on their products.
Just in case a manufacturer or licensing agent is reading this article, do you have anything to say to them?
I'd be happy to discuss licensing my artwork to new clients, please feel free to contact me at anytime.
Ali J is AussiePatches on Etsy.
I will get back to posting my entries from writers group on Mondays in December.