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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Licensing Art to the Calendar Industry


Calendar manufacturers produce all kinds (desk, mini wall, engagement, daily, pocket) but the most popular is the monthly wall calendar that has 12 art images based on one theme. The standard themes for many manufacturers are cats/kittens, dogs/puppies, butterflies, birds and flowers. And depending on their consumer base, some also produce calendars with themes such as Americana, country, and specific hobbies like quilting. Thus, artists MUST do their homework and research what kind of art a manufacturer uses BEFORE submitting art to them.  

When looking at calendar manufacturer websites, notice what kind of art themes they have and the number of different calendars for each theme. For instance, how many cat calendars do they have. If it is more than one? Is it by the same artist or by a different artist with a completely different art style? Calendar manufacturers tend to license art year-after-year from the same artists if the calendars sell well. So unless your art style is completely different and also if the manufacturer feels they can add more calendars with same theme to their product line you will probably be unsuccessful in getting a deal no matter how good your art. For that reason, it is hard to license art to some calendar manufacturers unless the themes are different from the standard themes, that are popular and on-trend, and the manufacturer is willing to take a chance they will sell. Not all manufacturers are willing to take a chance in this economy but some do. For example, several years ago artist Tara Reed was right-on-trend and created images for a "green" calendar as shown in her blog article "Be Green! Be Crafty! Be Healthy!" She was successful in licensing it to Trends International for 2010 and another "green" calendar for 2011. Way to go Tara!

  
Calendar manufacturers generally want art that: 
1. has themes that appeal to the general consumer. However, some manufacturers do produce calendars that has the art for niche markets such as western, fantasy, and sports. Also, some manufacturers produce calendars strictly for niche markets such as Amber Lotus Publishing with their metaphysical, healing, and spiritual themes.  

2. is already formatted for their calendars. There is no universal format and each manufacturer has an unique format. For instance, The Lang Company normal uses art that is 12-3/4 by 10-3/8 inches for their wall calendars. Others use rectangular or square art that fits into their more square shaped calendars. So it is advisable when painting for the calendar industry to create art that can be cropped or edited to fit a variety of calendar shapes. However, some art is used as painted no matter the format and placed on backgrounds to fit the calendar format. But, I do not like the look and think this detracts from the art and the overall look of the calendar page.   

3. has themes that are suitable for calendars. It is unlikely that you will get a deal for themes that are not popular to the mass market although most manufacturers do produce calendars for some niche markets. Also if the theme is for a certain season as Christmas it is unlikely a manufacturer will produce it because Christmas is thought to be only for December. BUT any calendar theme may be possible to license. I am wrong about not being able to license a Christmas /Winter themed calendar. See Susan Winget's "Sam Snowman" calendar licensed to The Lang Company. Thus, if you think a theme is licensable for calendars and has enough consumer interest go for it because you never know. Note: A snowman calendar probably works because there are many consumers that love snowmen.  

4. the artist is willing to edit (change colors, remove icons, reformat) to their specifications.  

5. is in a collection of at least 12 paintings (one for each month) for wall calendars. But more paintings are better so that the manufacturer can have a choice on which ones they prefer.  

Calendar Manufacturers: 

  
  

  


Read more articles about other manufacturers under the Topics section on the side bar.  

Make sure you read the comments to this article.  Consultant Jeff Grinspan posted an informative comment about the calendar industry!    

I welcome any comments. Please click on comments section at the bottom to write your comment.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Editorial: Is Your Art Good Enough to License?

In several of my editorials I have stated that if you have the passion, commitment, have the art themes consumers want, and do not give up you should be able to eventually license your art. But is that enough?

Art licensing agents often state that they get many art submissions from artists with "bad art." Of course, the words "bad art" is subjective and can mean many things. Does it mean that the themes are not suitable for licensing? Does it mean that an agent that represents fine art thinks that only fine art is good art or an agent that represents country art thinks that any other art is not good ? Does it mean that some art styles are not licensable? Or does it mean that the art technique is not good enough to license in todays highly competitive licensing industry?

There are all kinds of art styles that are licensable. And that have been proven by many artists such as wildlife fine art artists Hautman Brothers, stylized & whimsical graphic artist Laurel Burch, and rustic styled Americana folk artist Warren Kimble. But what makes the art of those artists licensable? Their art evokes an emotional response (nostalgia, cute, gorgeous, etc.), has popular themes, and the technique and color of the art is beautifully executed. Hautman Brothers realistic wildlife art is drop-dead gorgeous with images and colors that "pop." Laurel Burch's art of her popular stylized cats is full of rich color combinations and rendered in interesting ways. Warren Kimble's rustic art painted on wood with unsaturated color gives his Americana and patriotic images a feeling of time gone-by.

Recently a friend sent me a link to an article "Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller." In it, author Kathryn Stockett wrote an inspiring and hilarious account on how she did not give up in trying to get her book published. But she did more than just send her book to literary agent after literary agent. She continued to improved her writing by " making the story tenser, more riveting, better." And that is just what artists need to do when they are continuously rejected by manufacturers and art licensing agents IF they are really passionate and determined to license their art. They need to figure out why the art is being rejected and make it better.  Note: Not only did Kathryn Stockett's book "The Help" become a best seller after five years of writing and 3-1/2 years of rejection, a movie based on the book was released this month.

My Story
Many artists that license their art have similar journeys as did Kathryn Stockett. They also had rejections until they finally achieved success. The following is my story.

In the late 1990s, I decided that I wanted to license my art. The reason is immaterial and too long to tell in this article. But first I had to learn how to paint (another long story) and I decided to teach myself by reading art books about painting with acrylics. This was not the smartest move on my part because I should have taken some art classes. Clearly my art was not very good. The art at the left is one of my first paintings. Compare it with the one of my recent paintings at the top of this article.

Even though I instinctively thought that my art was not as good as other artists work, I did not know why. But I continued to paint and I slowly improve my technique (and I mean slowly). It has taken me years to improve my technique but I could not have improved it if I was not willing to ask art experts (art directors, consultants, manufacturers, artists) to critic my art and if they were not willing to give me constructive criticism. I heard such words as "your art is so dark," "it doesn't pop," "it is pretty but it doesn't emote a me-to-you emotion (for traditional greeting cards)," "your art isn't polished," "the background is too busy." I did not take these criticisms personally and in fact I welcomed them because they helped me to see what was wrong so that I could improve my art. Unfortunately, too often art experts do not have the time to critic artists work and also are afraid to hurt their feelings. Thus, artists do not find out that their art is not good enough to license.

So how do you figure out if your art is good enough?
First, compare your art with licensed artists art that have a similar art style. And second, ask others that are knowledgeable about art for their honest opinion. The following is some suggestions on how to accomplish this.

• Look at art agency websites
Agencies choose art to represent that they consider good and think they can license. Look at art on their websites that has a similar style as yours. Is your art as well executed as the art on the website? If you think so, then ask art experts their opinion to make sure that you are right. To find art agency websites, read "List of Over 50 U.S. Art Licensing Agencies."

•  Hire an art licensing consultant / coach
You can hire an art licensing consultant / coach to give you advice about your art but I caution you that art licensing coaches may know the art licensing industry but not all are experts in giving constructive criticism. They may not want to hurt the artist's feelings or just do not know enough about art that is licensable. So before hiring consultants to critic your art make sure to check out their qualifications. If the consultant has the qualifications, ask if she/he is willing to give a honest opinion and constructive criticism. To see a list of some art consultants / coaches, read "On Art Licensing Coaches (consultants)."

• Join or form an art licensing support group
Art licensing support groups share art licensing knowledge and the members help one another license art. Giving suggestions and critiquing art is one useful function of this kind of group. There are at least two of these groups in the U.S. One is in the San Francisco bayarea (California) and another in the Denver Colorado area. If there is not a support group where you live, consider forming your own. Read "Start an Art Licensing Support Group" by Kate Harper for information about the San Francisco group. Note: I belong to this group and find it inspiring and very helpful.

• Team up with an art pal
Find another artist that is willing to give you constructive criticism in return for doing the same for her/him. If you do not know of anyone, advertise on one of art licensing linkedin groups or the art of licensing yahoo forum that you are looking for an art pal. For information about art licensing forums, read "Networking Resource - Art Licensing Forums," and " Art Licensing Resource: Networking in Linkedin."

• Take art classes
Another way to get constructive criticism on your art is to take art classes. Many towns and cities have adult education classes, community colleges and freelance artists that offer art classes.

• Ask questions
When you are rejected by a manufacturer or agency, call them up and ask them the reason why. I found that many times that the art director or agent is reluctant to tell you why but sometimes you can learn important information that will help you improve your art.

If you are unsuccessful in licensing your art and you have done all the right things such as created popular art themes, collections, and product mock-ups, maybe your art technique is not good enough. Ask questions, improve your art, and do NOT give up.

Related articles:
"Editorial: Not all art is licensable"

"Don't give up Your Dreams and Grow a Thick Skin - Part 1"

"Don't Give Up Your Dreams and Grow a Thick Skin - Part 2"

Comments are welcomed. Please click on comments and write them in the comment window at the bottom of this article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Editorial: Art Licensing Myths

Some of the reasons why artists want to license their art is founded on myths and assumptions. They have heard via the grapeline that they can make good money in licensing their art and they assume that once they start licensing their art they can sit back and relax while the money pours in. As artists that have been in the art licensing industry for years know, creating art that appeals to the consumer to get deals is darn hard work and it takes time.

The reason why I am writing this article is that I do not want artists to enter the art licensing industry with misconceptions. Licensing can be rewarding but it can also be challenging and frustrating. Below are my comments on some art licensing myths.

Myth #1: License your art so you do not have to work so hard.
Artists that are new to licensing think that just because they have the art they can easily license it. Licensing art takes a lot of work in researching and understanding the different industries that license art, creating art that manufacturers want, and finding the latest design and color trends. It takes time to find suitable manufacturers and to continuously follow-up after submitting the art. New art needs to be frequently created and existing art may need to be reworked to make it fresh and new. Also the artist must be willing to edit the art to manufacturers specifications and meet their deadlines. To be successful, an artist needs to regard the licensing of her/his work as a full time job and not as a hobby. To learn more, read:

"Licensing Art is Hard Work"
• "Art Licensing Tip: What does follow-up really mean?"
• "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Reworking Old Art for Today's Greeting Card Market"
• "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Continually Evolve Your Work - Part 1"
• "How to Keep Art Fresh & New: Continually Evolve Your Work - Part 2"

Myth #2: License your art if you are broke and need money.
It can take a long time to get the first licensing deal (months and sometimes years) and once the contract is signed it can take 18 months or more before an artist gets any money from it. So art licensing is not a quick way to earn revenue. For more information and see an example of the time line from signing a contract to getting paid, read "Licensing Art - Getting Paid Takes a Long Time."

There is no guarantee that an artist will be successful in licensing her/his art or even make a living at doing it. Rarely is there an over night success story of an artist licensing her/his art. All the well known artists that license their art have been in the industry for 10 or more years before they became an "overnight sensation." For more information, read "Licensing Art – Can You Make a Living Doing it?"

Myth #3: Any art can be licensed.
Many artists have created art to sell in galleries, craft and art shows, illustrations for children books, and for handmade and print-on-demand websites like Etsy. They think that a good way to make some extra money is to license their work. However, even though an artist may have a huge portfolio of art it may not be suitable to be put on products. To make the most revenue, the art needs to be licensed to the mass market. Find out the type of art that agent Lance Klass has success in licensing for his agency Porterfield Fine Art Licensing by reading "How to become a Porterfield's artist." And read "Editorial: Not all art is licensable" to find out more about the type of art that is licensable to the mass market. Make sure to read the comments to the article because many licensing experts posted valuable information.

Myth #4: One design can be licensed for ALL products.
Yes, the advantage in licensing art is that the artist keeps the copyright and then can license it for all kinds of products. However, in reality the art may not be suitable for every product because each manufacturer has their own specifications and needs. For instance, an intricate whimsical pastel colored design for a baby will look well on products strictly for the baby and on gift wraps and other paper products but most likely is not right for decorative flags. Most decorative flag manufacturers want bold and simple designs that "pop." Read "One Painting Can be Licensed for Multiple Products - Right?" Also read articles about several manufacturers and their art needs.

Myth #5: An artist will get many licensing deals by signing with an agency.
Agencies choose artists to represent who has the art they think is licensable. But that is no guarantee that the agency will be successful in licensing the artist work. Read art licensing agents J'net Smith and Suzanne Cruise comments in "How Long Does it Take to Get a Contract After Hiring an Agent?"

Myth #6: Licensing revenue is always from royalties.
There are all kinds of licensing deals and payment to the artist can be with a flat fee, by royalty, or payment only IF the product is manufactured (on-demand). To find out more read, "Licensing Art - There is no such thing as a typical deal."

Will you be successful in licensing your art? I do not know. But I think it is possible if you do your homework and learn about licensing art, work hard at creating art that the consumer wants, be persistent & not give up and also have some luck. :)


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