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Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
give me credit and link to my blog when using it on your site. Thanks.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Eight Steps to Become an Art Brand

Until I started licensing my art, I thought brands were food products like Rice Krispies. Then I found out that characters such as Mickey Mouse and also some artists could be brands. Having an easily recognized art style and color pallet that Mary Englebreit, Jim Shore, and Thomas Kinkade does and/or certain subject matter like Thomas Kinkade's cottages or Paul Brent's coastal images is a major component needed to becoming an art brand. However, it takes more than that and it normally takes a long time. Overnight success stories that you hear about doesn't happen overnight. Many times it takes longer than ten years. Read the following strategic steps that you should take to become a brand. It was written by Eric Kuskey of Creative Brands Group (Thomas Kinkade's agent) and posted with his permission. Although it was originally written in 2003, it is still relevant today.

ABC's of Art Licensing - The Right Markets & Partners

1. Define yourself as an Artist but take the longer view of defining yourself as a Property.
2. As an Artist you are defined by your style and subject matter. As a Property, you are also defined by other things, such as a message, a certain typeface or a logo.
3. It is necessary to go through the above and then establish the necessary sales and marketing tools before you can really define either the right manufacturing partners or preferred retail outlets.
4. Create an image piece. Create storyboards. Fine-tune your logo. Establish a detailed branding story and overview. Include virtual product mock-ups in your storyboards.
5. Envision the finish line. What does your product assortment look like in its most mature state? Make a three stage plan to accomplish one-third of those products at a time.
6. Pursue the foundational contracts first. Those contracts that will give you the most exposure initially, like greeting cards. Later, plan to establish those contracts that will best define your brand and branding statements like books and products that rely as much on your message (if applicable) as your imagery.
7. Choosing the right markets will depend to some degree on the nature of your plan for your brand. A mass media brand might have a different strategy than a brand that portrays a handmade essence. However, the retail landscape is changing and the lines of demarcation between Specialty and Mass have become blurred.
8. When finalizing contracts, select quality people and quality products over the best terms possible. Encourage the manufacturer to invest in you and your brand. If the license is working, you can earn a bigger piece of the pie when your brand is proven and the license renews.


  1. Thank you Joan for posting this in your blog. A jewel of information!
    I wonder what exactly is meant in #5 "Make a three stage plan to acomplish one-third of those products at a time"?

  2. I think what Eric means is to divide up the type of products that you want to see your art on. As an example, first concentrate on getting your art on greeting cards and other paper products to build equity in your brand. Other artists get established in fabrics, scrapbooking, etc. You then move on to the second category of products that you strategically planned which could be tabletop and giftware. After you are established in those categories you concentated on the third which could be home furnishings or other products related to ones that you already have licenced. The ultimate goal is to build equity in your brand so that you are able to get licensing deals for related products. When displayed together, they make an impact and you get more visiblity which leads to more equity. Note: Unfortunately most artists are so happy to get licening deals they don't follow the steps that Eric suggests and they have licenses in many unrelated industries which is not conducive to branding.

  3. I've been getting emails from people asking about what does storyboards have to do with branding. A storyboard is essentially showing a poster of an art collection and product mockups to a manufacturer or retailer. In other words, create tearsheets of the art collections you wish to license. Storyboards/tearsheets can be actual hard copies for presentations to several key players in the company or electronic versions in powerpoint. They can also be sent as jpg or pdf files attached to an email.

  4. Thank you for your answers Joan... they make sense.


  5. For your information. A link to this article has been posted on the Art of Licensing linkedin forum. There are some comments posted on the forum about this article (negative and positive) that may be of interest to you. They are under the News section - "Joan Beiriger's Blog: Eight Steps to Become an Art Brand." You need to be a member of Linkedin and the forum to read and respond to posts.

  6. Very valid and helpful information. Thank you Joan for sharing it.

  7. I come up with ideas from time to time for art. But then find someone is already doing that. How do I find out if I'm copying someone else?

    1. Geraldine, That is a difficult question to answer because unless an artist that create art similar to yours publish their art or they license their art to manufacturers you would not be aware of them. To find out where my licensed art is sold legally or not legally, I use google reverse image search engine ( ). It doesn’t always find my images but most of the time it does. It also shows visually similar images of the art I submit (mostly due to the color locations in the image). So by using this search engine you may find art that is similar to yours. I have found that the file that I want to search works best if it is a jpeg file that is approximately 220 pixel wide. Good luck! Joan