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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can an Artist be Successful in Licensing Multiple Art Styles?

I've often questioned the possibility of successfully licensing art when the artist has several styles. Some art licensing experts recommend that when the artist first starts out they can try licensing different styles and then choose the one that clicks with the consumer and discontinue the ones that do not work. Other experts recommend that the artist should choose one style from the beginning and stick with it no matter what. But what about licensing multiple art styles at the same time? Read the following comments from art agent Suzanne Cruise.

Licensing Multiple Art Styles
by Suzanne Cruise

I have seen a lot of portfolios over the years, many of them from artists who offer different styles. Most of the time I find that very few artists have SOLID multiple styles. My artist Sandi Gore Evans was one of the fortunate ones. She did those wonderful whimsical characters and then then she created those beautiful (almost botanical) florals. People are often shocked when they learn that the work was done by one artist.

What gave her work away (that the same artist created both styles) was her color palette. Sandi only used six colors of paint so all her work had a similar feel when the styles were viewed next to each other.

Many artists think that they are strong in 2-3-4 styles but realistically they are not. If an artist is truly blessed, then I would say devote time to all the styles and go for it. But artists need to be brutally honest with themselves about their work, and many are not . . . or cannot be. As human nature has it, it is quite difficult to be unbiased about what we do, especially when artists are first starting out. This is where a creative "sounding board " is critical. Ask a person in the business who you trust implicitly, what do they think of all your styles. Then take to heart what they say without getting your feelings hurt. It is a total waste of your creative time to fall in love with a style that you do not do well.

Whether you are really top notch at more than one style or only great at one, always ask yourself how you feel about your work and what part of yourself you are putting into it while you are creating it. If you are painting from your heart, this just shines thru and the art "sings from the page." Many times those artists that paint from their hearts have a leg-up in getting their art licensed as often times, the consumer "connects" with that energy. Work with this "on the page" excitement because it has some innate ability to capture the consumer's attention.


  1. Hm, as a painter and illustrator, I find my styles are highly influenced by the medium and while there are some styles I know I could be good at (photo-realism for example) I just don't care for. Is there. though, a difference between the meaning of the word "style" when it comes to art created for licensing as opposed to art created as "fine art?"

  2. I define "style" as how you execute your art.

    Do you create works in one of the following ways (which would then be your "style"):
    Graphic or contemporary
    There are many other terms for a given style, these are just a few.

    Fine art would be considered a "style" but often it looks like work you would see in an art gallery. This art does not generally translate well to licensing onto product. Now, some people might consider a traditional look to be a fine art look. In a case such as this, what it would be accurately called would boil down to subject matter and technique.

    Overall, I would not get too hung up in the name I would label my style.

    The bigger picture is this: what is important (for licensing purposes) is the subject matter you create and the technique you are using. Are either of those 2 things going to be something the consumer would put in their home on more than a handful of product.

    Your comment about photo realism: " I just don't care for" it, is very telling. If you do not like that style, no matter how well you execute it, don't waste time on it. Your heart will never be in it and the art will just lay on the page like a wet dish rag.
    Create the art that you love to create.


  3. This has been very helpful. I recently had someone suggest that I needed to have one strong style and develop it, but my heart tells me something else. Thanks for corroborating! ;)

  4. My experience supports what Suzanne has said. There are a few artists that can pull this off—creating multiple commercially viable looks or styles—but it's rare. There are a handful that come to mind, and I am amazed when I see them. Every once in a while, I encounter an artist who has more than one style and they are a little disappointed or confused when we choose to use work from their "other" look rather than pick something from the style to which they are personally attached. Being a guy, I'll use a sports analogy: Michael Jordan's first love is baseball, not basketball. But as those of you who followed his career know, his experiment with the national pastime did not go so well. Whereas he is generally considered the greatest basketball player of all time, he managed to rise "only" to the AAA ranks of minor league baseball. Wisely, he returned to basketball and finished off a great career. If at first an artist is truly confused as to which of his or her styles to pursue (from a commercial standpoint), don't worry too much about it. If you're listening, the licensing world will speak pretty clearly and pretty quickly about where you should be spending your time.

  5. hmm, Im not sooo sure in developing one style, my approach to art was to learn anatomy and be able to accomplish realism, then with that knowledge be able to create more stylized works. I believe approaching different styles will help you in other art works, for example learning how to draw characters in comics is something say far different from realism however combined you may find you can create somewhat realistic comics.while being good at both styles. I say keep learning new things and perhaps you will fall into your one style, but its not necessary, If you truly have a passion for art your work will reflect this, be it one style or many.