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Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
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Monday, July 23, 2012

Art Licensing Editorial: Overnight success takes 10 years

You may have heard the saying that "an overnight success takes 10 years." That is so true in the art licensing industry because it usually takes MANY years to gain recognition. And the reason why it takes so long is because art does not get the exposure that cartoon characters get on television or by going viral like singers Justin Bever or Susan Boyle have on Although at least one artist was lucky that her art hit the market just at the right time when consumers yearned for a particular art style and theme(s). An almost overnight success happened to the prolific floral artist Cheri Blum in the early 2000s to the amazement of the art licensing industry. Her simple and elegant florals with an old world charm was just what consumers were looking for. And Cheri's agency Wild Apple Graphics Licensing were able to get deals for her art in a very short time.

For most artists it has taken them the proverbial "ten" years to become successful enough that their art is recognized by consumers and licensed on many products. Xavier Roberts' Cabbage Patch Kids series hit it big in the 1980s. And one of the latest overnight success stories are doll makers David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim with their Uglydoll series. It did take them ten years while it took artists Jim Shore and Susan Winget longer, and artist Kelly Rae Roberts somewhat shorter. Below are links to their stories. Note: Characters usually are animated first and then licensed. But Uglydoll was licensed and now will become an animated film.

Artist journeys in becoming successful art licensors.

• David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim
     "David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim: The Doll Makers"
     "Uglydoll to be an Animated Film"

Jim Shore - bio

Kelly Rae Roberts - "Small Steps (Leading to now)"

Susan Winget - bio

Xavier Roberts - "Cabbage Patch Kids" on

So the lesson learned in this editorial is to NOT quit your day job because being successful in licensing your art is not immediate. Also you may never be able to make a living in licensing your work. I estimate that less than 50% (probably much less) of the artists that license their art make a living doing it and they need to supplement their income by some other means.

Related article:
"Licensed Art - Getting Paid Takes a Long Time"

Your comments are welcome. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. Great great posting.... as I have always said "successful licensing is all about managing expectations" or, C+L+T-FCxP+P1=ALS
    where C=creativity, L=luck,T=timing, FC=friends comments,P=patience, P1=persistence, ALS=art licensing success...
    Jeff Grinspan

  2. I feel very fortunate to have made a comfortable living licensing my artwork since the dawn of time (ok,since the mid-nineties). It is possible to earn a living without the "big break" of named artists. Good work, compelling content and a great attitude are the components for a career in this venue. I just keep showing up!

    1. Thank you for saying this. It is encouraging to hear that artist can make a living without the "big break" of the named artist.

  3. HI Joan, Great Article. I have just read the article about Ugly Dolls - amazing!
    It's a bit of hope that things are still possible :)

  4. That means I'll be 60! Nooooo!

  5. thanks for sharing.