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Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Art Licensing Resource: Tracking Licensing Contracts & Art

Keeping track of art, copyright information, and licensing contracts can be difficult at the beginning of an artist's licensing career. And nearly impossible with even moderate licensing success as the number of art collections and contracts increase. Not properly keeping track of art and contracts can result in assigning the same art identification number to multiple collections, losing track on whether copyrights have been filed and forms received, missed opportunities in negotiating new terms for renewable contracts, and not knowing if collections are available for licensing in a particular category.

Some artists try to keep track of contracts and pertinent information by manually filing them with printed pictures of the individual collections. Others use software such as Microsoft Excel (spreadsheet), simple database software such as Bento, or more complicated relational database software such as FileMaker Pro. However, the problem with any software package is that you need to learn how to use the software to build the tables and relationships (if applicable) for tracking which can take time. And some of the software is complicated and not very intuitive to learn such as FileMaker Pro.

Note: There is an online service that is dedicated to tracking licensing information. Unfortunately, most artists cannot afford it because it costs thousands of dollars. But just released is a new affordable software package called Art Licensing Management. It is turnkey (ready for immediate use) database constructed with FileMaker Pro that was designed by artist Tara Reed in collaboration with CampSoftware. See below for more information.

Spreadsheet Software (Microsoft Excel)
Spreadsheet software is okay for listing data but is cumbersome in retrieving data and updating tables after adding data.

Database Software (Bento - software)

Databases like Bento (Mac only) works well because it uses pre-designed templates and forms so that the user can organize contacts and track projects. Bento is somewhat limited for use in art licensing because it does not have a fully customizable interface (limited in constructing forms, tables etc.) and does not automatically link related data. But some artists find that Bento fit their needs and is well worth the cost of $49.

Relational Database Software (FileMaker Pro)

FileMaker Pro costs $300 and has all the bells and whistles that you can think of. The user can create any kind of customized forms/tables, graph data, and link data to multiple files. I use FileMaker Pro to track my art, copyrights and licensing contracts. But its ability to do so many things makes the learning curve very steep. The instructions are not always clear so that I was often frustrated as I spent MANY hours in building tables and trying to figure out how to link the data by setting up relationships. It was not a fun experience but at least I can now effortlessly track the information I need.

Turnkey Database Software for Tracking Art Licensing Information
Artist Tara Reed and CampSoftware's "Art Licensing Management" software costs $250 which I feel is a bargain (unsolicited and uncompensated recommendation). It is turnkey which means that all you need to do is enter data. The different tracking lists (collections, licensee, etc.) are created automatically. Because the database was created by an artist that licenses art (Tara), it tracks that right kind of data that is needed to keep artists organized. For instance, it tracks art collections with associated code numbers, copyright information, backup information, manufacturers, contact details, licensing deals including products and royalties.

The only drawback in using this software is that additional data lists cannot be created by the user and CampSoftware needs to be hired to create them. However, additional lists are probably not needed because the basic lists are included in the software. Check out Art Licensing Management info page for more information, examples of data tables, and a demo video.  Note: I have not used Art Licensing Management database but Tara always produces quality products.

Hint: Even if you do not yet have any licensing deals or very few, this software is an excellent way to track your art collections and copyrights.

Tracking art and licensing information can be one of those boring jobs that no artist likes to do. But it is very important to keep track so that the same image is not licensed to more than one manufacturer, contracts are renewed (or not) on time, copyrights are received in a timely manner, etc. So whatever way you choose to track your art and contracts (manual filing system, spreadsheets, or database) make sure that it gets done.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the comment section below.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Art Licensing Tip: Converting Paintings into Digital Images

In art licensing, normally a computer with Adobe Photoshop software is used to manipulate art into various formats, crop the art, isolate icons from central images to use in patterns, and add other design elements to convert it for products shapes. Manufacturers wishing to license the art expect to receive digital images not original paintings. They usually request high resolution (300dpi) jpg format or layered Photoshop or Illustrator files. Art that is created with paint instead of digitally need to be converted into digital images by either photographing or by scanning them with a flat bed scanner. Unfortunately there are drawbacks with both methods.

Photographing Paintings
For fine art artists, photographing art seems to be the method of choice in order to convert the art into digital images for Giclee printing. They claim that colors and textures are more accurate by photographing than by scanning the art. They also recommend that a scanner should not be used for oil paintings because of the long drying time of the oils. Oils not completely dry leave a residue on the scanner platen. To successfully photograph art, the artist must make sure that:
1. the camera has a high enough resolution to capture fine detail. That means that if a digital camera is used it should have at least five megapixels and preferably over 10 megapixels resolution.
2. digital camera photographs should be saved as RAW image files to preserve accurate color and obtain the maximum pixel data. Later the files can be converted while in Photoshop to device-dependent colorspaces for viewing and printing. Note: RAW image files, sometimes called digital negatives contains all the information needed to produce images but has not been sufficiently processed to do so.
3. natural subdued and even lightening is used to give accurate colors and to avoid any glare off the surface of the painting.
4. the camera lens in relationship to the surface of the painting must be absolutely parallel. Otherwise, a parallax distortion will occur and the shape of the painting will be skewed.

Getting good lightening and evading parallax while photographing paintings takes experimentation and practice. That is why some fine art artists have their paintings professionally photographed instead of doing it themselves.

Scanning Paintings
Modern scanners can scan at a resolution comparable to high resolution digital cameras. And the problem of having parallax distortion is avoided because the art is placed on the scanner platen which is parallel to the lens of the scanner. But there are still problems to solve when scanning large paintings that do not fit the platen and/or have a high sheen or complex designs that cause moiré patterns.

Most artists that license their work use scanners to convert their paintings into digital images because they are easy to use and normally do a good job. Some artists find that scanning at 300dpi resolution is sufficient while others scan at 600dpi to make sure that their art does not lose resolution when they are enlarged for large products like decorative flags. Photoshop is used to correct any deficiencies that occur from the scanning process such as correcting colors and moiré patterns, and blending several images together when the painting is too large to scan in one pass. Read "Photoshop Tip: Quick Method to Color Correct Scanned Art and Photographs" and "Photoshop Tip: Tweaking Scanned Art" for suggestions on how to color correct, extract design elements, merge scanned images and remove moiré patterns.

To avoid having to piece images together in Photoshop, some artists paint art that is small enough to fit their scanner platen so that it can be scanned in one pass. Some create backgounds, icons, and design elements separately that is then scanned and arranged in Photoshop. Other artists scan the paintings that fit on their scanners and take photographs of their larger paintings. But whatever way you decide to convert your paintings into digital pictures, make sure that they end up with good color and high resolution.

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the below comment section.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Licensing Art – Can You Make a Living Doing it?

Sure you can make a living licensing your art but there are caveats in being able to do so. Artists that are successful have discovered the right mixture in creating art that consumers love, getting licensing contracts with manufacturers that successfully sell products with the art, and being lucky. These artists work hard, continually evolve their art, and never give up when the going gets tough. To find out more about the benefits in working hard and evolving art, read "Licensing Art is Hard Work," and "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Continually Evolve Your Work - part 1."

It usually takes years to get enough strong licensing contracts to generate a constant revenue stream. The overnight success of artists making it big are few and far between. Although it can happen, such as artist Cheri Blum found out in the early 2000s. In four years she went from zero licensing deals to having her art licensed on over $100 million dollars of products at retail to the amazement of licensing experts. Her uniquely textured floral art that emotes nostalgia of bygone times, having a huge body of work with a popular theme (flowers), having the right art at a time that consumers were looking for art reminiscent of the past, and being represented by a licensing agency with a strong marketing program contributed to her success. However, it has taken other well known artists 10, 15, or 20 years to generate the same amount of success. To see money earned (retail sales of products with licensed art) of the top art licensors, read "Tracking the Success of Top Licensors." Study the included table and see how the retail sales has increased, stabilized in some cases, and then decreased. That is the typical life cycle of business' and definitely applies to licensing art.

Even though you and I would love to make the money that these extremely successful artists do, we may never achieve that dream. However, it is possible to make a living in art licensing if you create unique licensable art that emits an emotional response with consumers, partner with manufacturers that are successful in selling lots of products with your art, work hard, and most of all do not give up. You may start by only making a couple of hundred dollars a year but by working hard, having patience, and keep plugging away you should eventually increase the income and finally make a living by licensing your art. But is it a sure thing? Unfortunately the answer is no because there are just too many variables. But there are artists making a living at licensing their art such as artist Drew Brophy with his unique surf art. Maria, his wife and agent shared in her blog article "Art Licensing 101 Lecture RECAP" that they earn a good living from licensing Drew's art but it took " . . . quite a few years to make it happen, though. Ten years ago we earned all of $5,000 in one year of licensing. So far in the first 6 months of 2010, we've earned about $150,000." Now that is inspiring!

Hint:  Make sure that you read Maria Brophy's blog articles. She shares great information. 

I welcome any comments or suggestions. Please write them in the comment section below.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Licensing Art is Hard Work

Too often I get emails from artists hoping to license their art and they have the misconception that they can use their existing work, automatically get licensing contracts, sit back and watch the money pour in. Licensing art is NOT easy. Artists that are successful in licensing have to work very hard to continually create new art that is licensable, create collections around their central images, format and edit their art to manufactures specifications, and market their art to some degree if they have an agent and a lot if they do not have an agent. On top of that art licensing involves lots of research in learning how to license art, what kind of art manufacturers want, what art themes and colors are currently popular, and the list goes on.

The ultimate goal of manufacturers is to sell products. Manufacturers are willing to license art to enhance their products so that consumers will purchase them. Thus, artists need to work hard at understanding what kind of art will entice consumers and realize that not all art sells products. Artists new to licensing often create art first and then search for products to put the art on. This method is not always successful. Instead the artist should think about the product first and create art for the product. For another perceptive on creating art for products, read art agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios article "What is it?"  

Hint: Check out all of Jim's blog articles. His quirky and amusing comments are full of interesting and helpful information about the art licensing industry.

All the hard work can pay off though; not only financially but having the satisfaction in seeing your art on products. Read the following blog articles of artists that attended the summer 2010 Atlanta Show and see how pleased they were when they saw their wonderful art on products in the AtlantaMart showrooms.

Terri Conrad - "A new Cottage Chic day by Terri Conrad Designs® for Creative Co-Op"

Phyllis Dobbs - "Hot'lanta - trip to the Atlanta Gift Market"

Carol Eldridge - "Atlanta Follow Up"

BJ Lantz - "Atlanta Gift Show * July 2010"

Jane Mayday - "Atlanta Gift Show"

Joyce Shelton - "Atlanta Market"

Sue Zipkin - "Adventures in Atlanta"

The above artists have worked very hard for years in order to successfully license their art. Now that they have finally made it, do you think they are going to rest on their laurels? Nope! They know better and most likely they will work harder than ever.  But as artist Andy Mathis points out in his comment to this article, if you are passionate about your art it is NOT a chore!

Comments are welcomed. Please click on the below comment button and enter your comment in the Post Comment section.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Photoshop Tips: Save Time & Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Often I hear that if a person frequently uses the same commands in Photoshop it is a lot faster to use the keystroke shortcuts. Those shortcuts are found next to each command on the pull down menus. For example, if you hold down the selection icon (marque) in the tool bar you will see that the letter M next to the Rectangular Marquee Tool and next to the Elliptical Margue Tool but no letter next to the Single Row Marque Tool or Single Column Marque tool. The Single Row and Single Column do not have keystroke shortcuts assigned to them. Thus, if you press the letter m either the rectangular or the elliptical margue tool will be selected depending on which one was last used. Hint: If the shift key and letter m key is held down you can toggle back and forth between the rectangular and elliptical marque tools. And you can toggle from the Dodge Tool, to the Burn Tool, to the Sponge Tool by holding down the shift key and pressing the letter o key.

When I first started using Photoshop it seemed too much trouble to memorize the commands. So I continued doing it the old-fashioned way by using the pull down menus to select a tool or command until I finally got tired of interrupting my work flow by continually moving my mouse and using a pull down menu. And what I heard is right.  IT IS A LOT FASTER TO USE KEYBOARD COMMANDS. So now I press the command plus the letter s to save the file, the letter l to select the lasso tool, the letter w to select the magic wand tool, the letter b to select the brush tool, use the ] key to increase a brush size and [ to decrease the size, etc. And to remind me what keystrokes to use for the tools and commands, I have a cheat sheet of the shortcuts next to my computer.

Customizing the Keyboard Shortcuts
Unfortunately not all the tools and commands have keyboard shortcuts BUT you can customize the keyboard in Photoshop to assign them. The Tools menu uses the letters A to Z and all the letters have already been assigned default settings. However, shortcuts for commands that you rarely use can be reassigned to ones that you wish to use.

To look at and edit keyboard shortcuts on the Mac, hold down the option (alt key on the PC) key plus the shift key plus the command key plus press the letter k key OR go to the Edit menu and select Keyboard Shortcuts at the bottom of the menu. To see the different command menus,' select Application Menu, or Panel Menus, or Tools in "Shortcuts For" pulldown. For instance, if you select Tools a list of the Tool Panel Commands with the associated shortcuts will appear. So far, the only shortcut commands that I have needed to customize are the tools.

Below are a few examples of why and how I customized the keyboard shortcuts to fit my needs.  Your needs will be different than mine so you will customize the tool and command pallets differently.

1. Dodge / Burn / Sponge Tools - The default keystroke for these tools is the letter o for each of them. You can then use the shift key plus the letter o to toggle between them. However, I rarely use the sponge tool. Thus, I removed the O from the Sponge Tool in the shortcut menu so that now I can toggle just between the Dodge and Burn Tools.

2. Blur / Sharpen / Smudge Tools - The default does not have a shortcut for these tools. I often use the Smudge Tool and rarely toggle between screen modes so I removed the F key shortcut from Toggle Screen Modes and reassigned it to the Smudge Tool. Note: If I wished, I could have also put the F letter for the Blur and Sharpen Tools and then could have toggled between the blur, sharpen, and smudge tools by holding down the shift key and pressing the letter f.

Any suggests or comments that you would like to share about this article would be greatly appreciated. Click on the comment section below.