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Friday, December 11, 2015

Art Licensing: New Licensing/Selling Shows Emerging

The major way for artists* to connect with manufacturers that license** their art* has always been to exhibit at licensing** shows. But with the rising cost to exhibit at shows that are located in large convention centers (SURTEX, Licensing Expo International), many artists and designers can no longer afford it. Recently a new smaller show (Blueprint Surface Design & Print Show***) has emerged. It cost less for artists to exhibit because instead of using a large convention center it is located in an event center dedicated to smaller spaces. And, an innovative solution to lowering the cost for artists to show their work to art directors is the advent this year of Art Licensing Show .com website.

Note: Another new licensing show (Brand Licensing Select) has a different approach to connecting licensors, agents, and brands with retailers; make appointments before the show. It will be introduced in 2016; also in an event center.

Below is information about the well established shows - SURTEX, Licensing International Expo, and Print Source***; the new Internet Art Licensing; and other new shows - Blueprint Surface Design & Print Show, and Brand Licensing Select.

* In this article, the word artists also encompass designers. And, the words art and design are used interchangeability.
** The exhibitors in the shows mentioned in this article may only sell their work, may only license, or do both.
*** The emphasis of this show is to sell designs outright but some exhibitors also license their work. 

Held in May each year
Next Show: May 15-17 2016 - Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York, NY

The SURTEX licensing show is where where artists, art licensing agencies, designers and design studios exhibit their work to sell or license to manufacturers and retailers. The majority of attendees are manufacturers and retailers looking for art and design to place on their products.

• Licensing International Expo
Held in June each year
Next Show: June 21-13, 2016 - Mandalay Bay Convention Center, Las Vegas, NV

The Licensing International Expo show is where entertainment, character, fashion, art and corporate brand owners and agents exhibit their intellectual properties to give consumer goods manufacturers, licensees, and retailers the opportunity to license them. The majority of the exhibitors are entertainment and character licensors. Thus, the majority of attendees are not looking to license the intellectual properties in the other categories including art.

Licensing Expo recently announced that they are introducing a Matchmaking Service in 2016. It will help attendees and exhibitors set-up meetings in advance of the show. For more information, read the press release "Licensing Expo 2016 to Offer Matchmaking."

• Printsource
Held in January and August each year.
Next Show: January 12 - 13 2016 - Metropolitan Pavilion in New York, NY

The Printsource show exhibitors showcase designs for apparel, bed and bath, kitchen and tabletop, paper goods and stationery, wall coverings, etc. by international surface and textile design studios and agents. Most exhibitors sell designs outright but some also license their work as well.

•Art Licensing is a protected art portfolio hosting website for artists and agencies to privately show art to licensees any day or time. Art directors interested in licensing art can join at no cost. With one password, they can see examples of art shared with them by hundreds of artists. They can then ask any of the artists/agents for permission to view more of their art. For more information, read "® - What is all the excitement about?"

• Blueprint Surface Design & Print Show
First held in May and December 2015
Next Show: May 12-16 2016 - Metropolitan Suite in New York, NY

Blueprint Surface Design & Print Show showcases designs for apparel, fabric, stationery, giftwrap, greeting cards, home, wallpaper, wall decor, bedding, toys, books, crafting, stickers, and scrapbook papers by International design studios and agents. Most exhibitors sell designs outright but some also license their work as well.

• Brand Licensing Select
First Show: September 27-29 2016 - Metropolitan West in New York, NY

Emerald Expositions (owner and operator of the SURTEX licensing show) is introducing a new type of licensing event for brands. The event is for licensors, agents, and brands to meet with key retailers. The Emerald Licensing team will make appointments with brands and retailers in advance of the event. To read about it, read the press release "New York licensing show dated for 2016" and to request additional information go to Brand Licensing Select.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Art Licensing: The Reality AFTER Getting a Deal

So you licensed your art and now the money will roll in! Well, not always OR right away OR maybe you do not receive any revenue. First of all, the products must be produced, then they must sell, and then you must wait for the quarterly report and check from the manufacturer. Believe it or not, after the licensing contract is signed, it can take 18 months or more before you can start earning revenue. Although, if the contract is for a flat fee or the contract includes an advance toward royalties, the fee will usually be paid within a month after the contract is signed and the art transferred to the manufacturer.

It is wonderful when a contract yields a substantial amount of revenue but it does not always happen. And worse, sometimes the contract does not yield any revenue because the products do not sell and/or the contract is cancelled. Below is a discussion about the causes of low licensing revenue and some contract statements that artists/agents may have difficulty enforcing.

Licensing Revenue
Ten years ago many artists could live on the money they earned by licensing their work. It is different now and fewer artists can live on the earnings of their licensed art. Consumers no longer purchase as many non-essentials as they use to. They continually want new products at a low price resulting in manufacturers limiting the production of their products, charging retailers less for the products, and retailers leave the products on their shelves for a shorter time. Thus, artists earn less licensing revenue.

• Reasons why low revenue
Art that is created with popular art styles and themes for the mass market usually sell more products than those that are better suited for niche markets. For instance, images of realistic African animals usually earn lower revenue than whimsical birds and butterflies with flowers because they are not as popular to a wide range of consumers. Below are more reasons why licensed art may receive low revenue.

– Niche market and themes
As mentioned above some themes are suited for a niche market and do not sell as well as themes for the mass market. Also art that can be used on products for everyday use earns more revenue than art for minor holiday themes such as Mardi Gras, Valentine's Day, and Saint Patrick's Day. The amount of revenue also depends upon the type of product. For instance, Valentine's Day art is more popular on greeting cards than on decorative flags.

– Type and number of products
Successfully selling different types of products (ceramic figurines, greeting cards, decorative flags, jig-saw puzzles, coloring books, calendars, etc.) often change as consumer interests change. So revenue earned from certain products is less than from other products.

For instance, collectable figurines were very popular 10-15 year ago but not so much now so the amount earned from a contract for figurines may be small. And, even though getting a contract for wall art has a large royalty rate of 10-15%, the amount of revenue received is normally small. The reason is because the amount of each image produced is not very large. Also, even if the wall art is framed, the artist often only earns royalties for the print and not the entire product.

Other products that are purchased as a collection such as dishes and associated tabletop items earns more revenue because more SKUs (stock keeping units) are sold.

– Use of text on products
Words on products can help sell the products but they can also limit the selling power that reduces the revenue artists earn. For instance, if a greeting card is aimed at a specific person and for example uses the word grandmother on it, the amount of cards sold will be low and thus the artist earns a lower revenue than cards that do not mention a specific person. Unfortunately, what words placed on cards and sometimes other products is out of the control of the artist because most manufacturers choose them and not the artist. The same is true if the art is used for a blank greeting card or another occasion instead of the more popular birthday occasion. Fewer cards will be sold and therefore less revenue earned.

– Mistakes made in art selection
Sometimes the manufacturer art director makes mistakes when selecting art to be put on products. The consumer may not purchase it if the art is not popular, the art is not well executed, or the art is too similar to other art all ready seen on the same products. Thus, the artist earns low or no revenue.

– Manufacturer's distribution small
If the manufacturer has a small distribution of their products, not many products are sold and hence the artist earns a small royalty fee. That is why many artists prefer getting a flat licensing fee when the manufacturer is a start-up and their distribution is not yet very large.

– Short shelf life
At the present, consumers are constantly demanding new products. Thus, products often have a short shelf life especially in chain stores resulting in less royalty revenue for artists than they use to earn. In large chain stores, the products may have a shelf life of three months or less and then the products are put on sale. In the past getting a licensing deal that places the product into large chain stores meant the artist received more revenue even though the royalty was smaller than if it was placed into "mom and pop" retail stores. The reason why is that large chain stores can sell more product because of the larger distribution. Now because of the shorter shelf life in large chain stores that may not always be true.

– Limited production of product
Many manufacturers produce products to sell for only one season even if the contract is for two years. The second year may include a sell off period of the products or to give the manufacturer time to reproduce the product if it is exceptionally popular. Thus, artists usually get the majority of revenue for the first year of the contract and maybe a little or none the second year.

Print on Demand (POD) licensing deals often earn low revenue for artists but of course there are exceptions. Many POD manufacturers depend upon consumers purchasing their products from their Internet website while others sell only wholesale to retailers. In any case, the artist does not earn any revenue unless the product is sold and the amount earned depends upon how the manufacturer markets their products, how large their distribution, and whom they sell to (consumer or retailer).

• Reasons why no revenue
– Products do not sell
Sometimes products just do not sell and the artist does not receive any revenue unless the manufacturer gives an advance toward royalties. Also, some manufacturers license art either for their catalogs to be shown to retail stores OR to present to their key accounts. If art is licensed for key accounts and the manufacturer is unable to sell the product(s) to them, then the products are not produced and the chance in earning revenue is dead.

– Test the market
Some manufacturers license the art, makes a small production run of the product, and then tests the market to see if it sells. If it does not, further production runs are not made and the product is dropped.

– Cancelled contract
Sometimes manufacturers change their mind for whatever reason and decide to cancel the contract. Or sometimes the art was licensed for a manufacturer's key account client and the client decided they do not want it and thus, the contract is dead.

Unfortunately, manufacturers do not always inform the artist/agent that they are not going forward in producing the product. Thus, the contract is not cancelled so that the artist can try to license the art to another manufacturer that sells the same type of product. Artists/agents need to be vigilant when the quarterly royalty statement does not arrive and should find out why. It may be that the manufacturer is not going ahead in producing the product.

Difficulty Enforcing Some Contract Statements
• Samples
Most artists love to have products of the art they license. However, not all manufacturers offer artist free samples of the products such as manufacturers who produce products for fund raising organizations or POD. And, sometimes it is like "pulling teeth" or impossible to get the samples from manufacturers even when the contract states the artist will receive samples. Not all manufacturers automatically send the samples and the artist/agent must ask for them. But even asking for them does not always mean they will be received. For instance, if the manufacturer produced the product for a key account and forgets to include the number of samples the artist should receive in the amount being produced then the artist will not get any samples.

• Royalty statements and payments
Royalty statements and payments are usually quarterly and sent the month after the end of quarter. However, they are not always sent on time because the manufacturer is waiting for its clients to pay for the products they purchased. Sometimes it takes months before the manufacturer is able to pay the royalty fees. Or, the manufacturer has major cash flow problems and eventually files for bankruptcy.

Note: The above discussion is not meant to discourage you in licensing your art but to inform you on the reality that as in every business not everything is a bed-of-roses. 

Artist Comments About Licensing Contract Realities
Artist Jill Meyer

"Once again, Joan, spot on with every point! Art Licensing is by no means a straight path. I think I have had all or most of the situations mentioned in the article happen to me. One learns, from these things to be sure. Often licensing is a question of a "good news" bad news" sceanario. I just received word that one of my paintings had been licensed with Walmart for Halloween, 2016. That is the good news, the bad news is that it will be almost an entire year before the painting is on the shelves, and as Joan points out, it is a seasonal painting, so although the distribution is large, the shelf life will be short! In licensing, you always need to adopt the long view as your perspective, keep your sense of humor, and definitely be prepared to take the "bitter with the better"! Off my soapbox now! :-)"

Artist Collene Kennedy
"Joan! Great article if not a very pragmatic perception! It's a loooong lead business and when it works, it works well. But one thing that can also happen and did to me when I was doing very well with greeting cards is a company can mismanage their funds and therefore not pay out royalties! Yikes! I learned a lesson... tooo late of not allowing so many eggs in one basket! Live n' learn ...n' create!"

Artist Sue Zipkin
"I think it’s great that you are sharing so many realities of the art licensing industry. So often new artists don’t know some of these things and are very shocked and become discouraged when they learn that things do not always unfold according to the way a contract is written.   A perfect example is when an artist creates a lot of artwork for a project, then samples are made and shown at a trade show and to store buyers.   The artist automatically assumes that the products will go into production and then sold in stores. Unfortunately when it’s time to get paid they wonder what’s going on when they see no income. Then they find out that their project was killed on the vine. If an artist is aware of these realities ahead of time they won’t be as discouraged. No matter what level you are in the industry  It’s still frustrating when this happens.  I find it happens often with some products and companies more then others."

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Art Licensing: Photoshop Tip - Use Droplets to Save Time

Artists that use Adobe Photoshop may be aware that the Actions Command allows a person to do repetitive tasks by recording a series of commands that can be used for batch processing of files or for one image at a time. But they may not be aware that Photoshop makes it even easier to use Actions by creating droplet applications with those actions. A droplet is a mini application that can be saved anywhere on the computer or even shared with other artists that use the same or later version of Photoshop. When a single or group of images is dragged onto the droplet, the droplet launches Photoshop and starts applying the action to each of the images. This is a great way to speed up workflow and avoid boring tasks in doing the same repetitive steps on numerous images. Read "Creating Droplets" to learn more about droplet apps.

Droplets can be used to do repetitive tasks in numerous ways such as
1. Change the file(s) size and/or format.
2. Edit images (apply drop shadows, patterns, textures, text, etc.).
3. Place the copyright symbol and signature on the images.
4. Watermark the image(s).
5. Add image(s) to a contact info page for submission to manufacturers.
And of course, much more.

• Tutorials on creating actions and droplets
– Change Photoshop psd files to jpg
Read and view "Bulk Image Compression with Photoshop Droplets" (simple step-by-step tutorial and a video showing how to convert files with the Actions Command and droplet).

– Change file size
View "Create Droplet in Photoshop" (video on re-sizing images with the Actions Command and droplet).

– Add a copyright and signature to an image
View "Graphic watermark Photoshop tutorial" (video placing a signature on an image with the Actions Command and droplet. Hint: Also add the copyright symbol to your signature or printed name. And, if you wish add your contact information to the image.)

– Add a watermark to an image
View "Photoshop - Actions & Batch Processing" (video showing how to place a transparent watermark on an image with the Actions Command. Note: a droplet can be created for this action. Use the information from other tutorials to make a droplet.)

– Do multiple actions (resize an image, apply a watermark, and save it as a jpg file)
Read " How to create a droplet in Photoshop" (step-by-step tutorial on creating multiple actions with the Actions Command and droplet)

• Additional Information about actions and droplets
– Pausing an action
Sometimes when you are doing batch processing with the Actions Command, you need to pause the action. For instance, you may want to pause the action to change the title of the image on a submission page. To find out two ways you can pause the action, read "Can I have a Photoshop action pause itself to wait for user input?" That action can than be made into a droplet. When using the droplet, it will pause so that you can change the title with the text tool. And then, when you press Okay the action will continue.

– Problems with droplets
Droplets have been reported that they stop working when they were created with Photoshop CS3, or CS4, or CS5 and the Macintosh operating system was upgraded to Lion. To find out more and how to fix the problem, read "Droplets don't work | Photoshop CS5, CS4, CS3 | Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion)".

• Related Articles
– “Software Tip: Resizing Multiple Images etc. via Batch Processing

– “Photoshop Tips: Improve Workflow with Photoshop Actions Command

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Art Licensing: What's With the Adult Coloring Book Craze?

Recently there has been a lot of hype about how coloring books is good therapy to relax and reduce stress for those that have stressful jobs and lifestyles, are recovering from surgery, have life threatening illnesses, and even for inmates in prison. With the advent of thousands of adult themed coloring books hitting craft stores, bookstores and e-stores, consumers are gobbling them up as soon as they are printed. People (colorists) are sharing their colored creations on the different social media sites, having coloring book parties, and forming coloring book clubs. So how did the adult coloring book craze start?

As with many trends, the adult coloring book craze took a while to built momentum. In the 1970s, Dover Publications published their first adult coloring book (Antique Automobiles Coloring Book) and now sell hundreds of titles. But it was not until a couple of years ago that Dover and other publishers called attention to the therapeutic values of coloring. Consumers rediscovered the childhood joys and calming effects when coloring, the press published the popularity of adult coloring books and its therapeutic effects, and the sales of the books started escalating. And in fact, several adult coloring books are on the best sellers list for major publishers and e-stores like

In 2013, UK illustrator Johanna Basford published her first coloring book "Secret Garden" which was a HUGE success and so far has sold a whopping 1.4 million copies worldwide. When her second book "Enchanted Forest" was published in Feb 2015, the massive amount of publicity is attributed to have caused the recent surge in adult coloring book craze. But, in the United States it could also be due to the intensive marketing of Adult Coloring Books by Dover Publications.

Dover Publications applied to the U.S. Registrar at the National Day Calendar and received the permission that National Coloring Book Day will officially be observed on August 2 each year. Dover sponsors a National Coloring Book Day website. This year they did intensive marketing for National Coloring Book Day and on August 2 had events in bookstores all over the United States. Now that is a great example of marketing outside-the-box!

Note: Johanna Basford's success with adult coloring books continues. She signed with Penguin Random House to publish her next two adult coloring books. "Lost Ocean" will be published at the end of October 2015 and another will be published in fall 2016. For information about Johanna Basford's success in creating illustrations for other products, read "Illustrator Johanna Basford's Success in Marketing Art Outside-the-box"

About Adult Coloring Books
Most adult coloring books have 30 or more pages of illustrations. And, unlike children's coloring books many adult coloring books have more detailed and intricate line drawings. Popular themes are flowers, animals, mandalas, inspirational, spiritual, and geometric shaped designs although all kinds of themes appeal to adults.

Adult colorists tend to use colored pencils, gel pens, and fine tip markers more than crayons. Many of the books are printed on thick paper with the design on only one side of the page so that gel pens, and fine tip markers do not bleed through. Also the thicker paper is more suitable for framing the finished colored image. Some coloring books use vellum to mimic the look of stained glass. Coloring books come in all sizes and shapes including postcard sizes that can be mailed to family and friends. Some companies offer coloring book kits that can be used for parties.

And even though colorists claim that they welcome getting away from their computers and other electronics, there are apps that will allow a person to color designs on computers, tablets, and smart phones. Read "Adult coloring books: yes, there are apps for that" for information about the apps.

Publishing Coloring Books
The adult coloring book trend has spread worldwide and publishers are going crazy publishing coloring books that are marketed to adults for the benefit of reducing stress. Even Hallmark is producing coloring books with sketches created by their in-house artists. Freelance artists are creating and publishing coloring books and marketing them on social media and e-stores. Or, they license their work to literary publishers.

• Self Publishing and Marketing
Artists can publish and market coloring books they created by themselves or with the help of the many companies found on the Internet such as Create Space, Speedy Publishing, and WMC Publishing. Most sell their books on, other e-stores, and social media sites.

According to the article "Color Me Happy" artist Jenean Morrison has self-published six intricate designed adult coloring books on since 2012. "In all of last year, she sold 15,414 books on Amazon. This year, in half the time, she has sold 43,420."

• Companies that Publish Adult Coloring Books
Numerous publishers are already selling adult coloring books or plan to. Many publishers only accept manuscripts (coloring books also) from literary agents so if an artist wants to submit art for a coloring book they need to hire a literary agent. However, not all require agents so look for submission guidelines on the publisher’s website or contact the publisher to find out how to submit. Note: Do not forget to ask about the licensing fee. I've heard that at least some publishers only pay a flat fee per project. The fee may not be cost effective when you need to produce many designs for one coloring book.

Below are some publishers that produce adult coloring books.
Andrews McMeel Publishing LLC (introducing a line of coloring books in September 2015)

Design Originals (A Fox Chapel Publishing company)

Dover Publications (been publishing adult coloring books since the 1970s)

Fox Chapel Publishing

Global Doodle Gems (collaboration of artists around the world to produce coloring books)

Harper Collins Publishers

Little, Brown and Company

Penguin Random House

Quarto Publishing Group

Running Press Book Publishers

Sterling Publishing

– "Adult coloring books topping bestseller lists"

– "Coloring Books Grow Up" (what themes are popular, stats on books that are flying off the shelves, comments about publishers selling adult coloring books)

– "Health benefits of coloring books attracting adults to childhood pastime"

• Research by artist Peggy Toole 
8/9/15 After reading this article, artist Peggy Toole did quite a bit research on adult coloring books and the following is what she found out. "The Johanna Basford books were originally published in England and they did a lovely job.  I sell on Amazon so I was going to publish it myself and it ship directly to one of their west coast warehouses from China and let Amazon do all the distribution.

But to do a 'Johanna Basford' quality book would cost in excess of $6.25 per book at 1000 books and at even 10,000, the individual book price is about still close to $3.00 per book. Johanna's book cost about $4.79 in Amazon fulfillment fees for them to ship it. Plus you have storage on books that do not sell. Amazon is selling "Enchanted Forest" for $9.63, so there's little profit if I'm publishing something that large and complex.

Books that make the top 10 at Amazon are selling 4000-5000 copies daily.  I learned somewhere- maybe from the book I purchased that "Enchanted Forest" in it's 4th printing for 2015. So there's real money there but finding a publisher is probably like winning the lottery. I'm having some 2nd thoughts about doing it.  Maybe you could make a fortune, but then again maybe not.

Peggy contacted Ulysses Press (publisher of Wendy Piersall) and Fox Chapel Press) and was told that they are not taking submissions for coloring books.  Read more on what Peggy Toole has to say about coloring books in the comment section to this article.

Note: I imagine all publishers are inundated with artists wanting to license their art for coloring books so some publishers have put a temporary stop to submissions.  If the coloring book craze is not a fad and is indeed a trend, publishers will probably start looking at art again; especially if the art is what consumers want to color and is very unique to what is already published.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Orphan Works is Back! Immediate Help Needed from ALL Artists by 7/23/15 ! ! !

The US Copyright Office wants to hear from artists and others in the art business on how art is being monetized, enforced, and registered under the existing Copyright Act. The information collected from the letters submitted will be used during the Copyright Office purposed five-year pilot program addressing Orphan Works and Mass Digitization. The results from this pilot program will most likely determine what will be included in the new Copyright Act to be sent to Congress for approval. As artists and others in the art industry, we need to tell the Copyright Office how Orphan Works will impact our business if it is incorporated in the new Copyright Act!

Please submit a letter ASAP to the Copyright Office! For information on what to include in the letter and to see an example of a letter, read "Orphan Works - Sample letter to Copyright office" by artist Annie Troe.  

Also view "Artists Alert: From the Illustrators Partnership The Return of Orphan Works Part 2: Artists"Letters" to get links to more examples of letters sent to the Copyright Office.

DEADLINE to submit letters to the Copyright Office is 7/23/15 !!!

• What is Orphan Works?
According to "Copyright Office proposes pilot program for extended collective licensing to address mass digitization" report "Orphan Works are works where the copyright owner cannot be identified or located. As the Copyright Alliance observes, this compromises the ability of a potential user to seek permission or negotiate licensing terms. The legislation would apply to all categories of copyrighted works as well as to all types of uses and users who engage in a good faith diligent search. The Office concluded that existing features of the current copyright system, such as voluntary and licensing agreements, best practices documents or the fair use doctrine, do not sufficiently address the legal uncertainty of the mass digitization of protected works."

"The demand for copyright 'reform' has come from large Internet firms and legal scholars allied with them. Their business models involve supplying the public with access to other people's copyrighted work. Their problem has been how to do this legally and without paying artists." is stated by Brad Holland in "The Return of Orphan Works: The Next Great Copyright Act".

• How Orphan Works will Impact Artists
– Brad Holland in "The Return of Orphan Works: The Next Great Copyright Act" states:

"The Next Great Copyright Act" would replace all existing copyright law.
1. It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
2. It would "privilege" the public's right to use our work.
3. It would "pressure" you to register your life's work with commercial registries.
4. It would "orphan" unregistered work.
5. It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by "good faith" infringers.
6. It would allow others to alter your work and copyright those "derivative works" in their own names.
7. It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.

– To learn more about the impact on artist work if Orphan Works Act is passed by Congress, view the video by Brad Holland "Everything You Know about Copyright Is About To Change - Brad Holland.

• Conclusion
Twice, Orphan Works Acts have failed to pass Congress because of strong opposition from visual artists, spearheaded by the Illustrators Partnership. It was the teamwork and support of visual artists all over America calling and writing to their congressional leaders that made the difference.

This is the first step in the once again fight to defeat Orphan Works. Please submit a letter ASAP to the Copyright Office!

Make sure you read the comments to this article!!! Some give additional information and some share horror stories about infringement of their work. 

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: Tips on Getting Deals

On social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs) artists periodically post that they are frustrated because they have not been successful in licensing their work while other artists continue to post comments and pictures about their licensing success. Why is it that some artists are successful and others not?

There are many reasons. But basically the reason why some artists are successful is that their work is very well done and can compete with other artists in the industry, have themes that consumers want on products, and has a lot of art that is licensable.

The following discusses the importance in knowing if your art is good enough, knowing what art styles and themes that manufacturers license for their products, and building a relationship with manufacturer art directors.

• Is your art good enough?
How do you know if your art is good enough (executed well, have the right themes, colors, composition, etc.) to be able to compete against other artists in the licensing industry? Below are tips on what you can do to figure out why you are having trouble getting deals and how to improve the chance in licensing your art.

– Hire a consultant
It is difficult for an artist to recognize why her/his art is not being licensed. Getting kudos from family, friends, and fellow artists will not help to get deals if the art is not licensable. And, one way to find out is to hire an art-licensing consultant. A consultant can tell you if you need to have more art, what themes you need, and suggest what manufacturers to approach. But, most importantly you need a consultant that will be very forthcoming and tell you the truth IF your art is not good enough to compete with other artists.

Unfortunately not all consultants are capable in telling an artist the truth about their art since it is difficult for many people including consultants to hurt an artist's feelings. Thus, when choosing an art licensing consultant make sure you stress that you want to know if your art is good enough to be licensed. If the consultant says your art is not, ask why and ask for suggestions on how to improve your art. Read "On Art Licensing Coaches (consultants)" for links to some art-licensing consultants.

– Compare art
Another way to determine if your art can compete in the art licensing industry is to compare your art with art that has already been licensed. Licensed art on products can be seen in gift stores like Hallmark, at trade gift shows like the Atlanta Gift Market, on manufacturer websites, and on e-store websites.

When comparing your art to art that is already licensed the purpose is not to copy the licensed art but to look at the art and determine what it has that makes a manufacturer license it and what your art lacks. This is not very easy to do since it is hard to accept that your art may not be good enough. Thus, you need to be open-minded and willing to admit to yourself that your art could stand improvement.

Below are some questions to ask yourself when comparing your art to licensed art.
1. Is your art style licensable? Not all art styles are licensable for products in all product industries. For instance, some forms of fine art appear like the paint was slapped on haphazardly and has not well defined motifs. Is that your art style? You probably will not find many products other than home décor prints with this art style because it does not appeal to the mass market. Read the article "Editorial: Not all art is licensable" for information on why not all art is licensable even if it is well executed.

2. Is the composition of your art pleasing and the motifs well arranged? For information about art composition read "Creating Licensable Art: Composition Tips".

3. Do you have enough or too many motifs in your image? For instance, if you have a painting of one flower with a bird and the manufacturer is licensing art with a multiple number of flowers and several birds in the image then you probably will not be able to license that image because your image is too simple. But on the other hand, if your art is very busy with a lot of motifs and the manufacturer is licensing art that is simple with only a few motifs then you would have difficulty in licensing the art to that manufacturer. Closely look at licensed art in the different industries (fabric, decorative flags, greeting cards, jig-saw puzzles) and the different manufacturers in each industry to determine what they want.

4. Does the licensed art for a particular manufacture have a bright and pleasing color combination while your art is dark and drab looking (unsaturated colors)? You probably need to pump up the color saturation if you want to license the art to that manufacturer. Or, is the manufacturer licensing pastel colored art and you don't use pastel colors. Then, probably that is not the manufacturer for your art.

• Learn what art manufacturers want
It is REALLY important for artists to create art specifically to be licensed for products in the industry(s) they target. And because the art themes must be popular in the mass or niche markets, it is REALLY important to know what art styles and themes the licensees need to be able to sell their products. Thus, it is REALLY important to research what art styles and themes the manufacturers license.

As pointed out in "Changes in Art Styles Used on Products" each industry (decorative flags, greeting cards, fabrics, calendars, jigsaw puzzles, table top, etc.) and even different manufacturers in the same industry have different criteria when selecting art to license. The criteria depend upon the manufacturer's customer base and how they wish to differentiate themselves from their competition. Learning what kind of art they have licensed is a MUST before submitting art to them.

For example, since I am interested in licensing my art for decorative flags, I have spent many hours on my computer researching flag images on the e-store to determine what are popular themes, what makes some art on flags standout more than others, are the designs simple or detailed, what art style(s) are used, do they use borders, do they use words, etc.

I now know what art themes are used by individual flag manufacturers. And I have discovered that some flag manufacturers tend to license pretty and more pastel looking art while other manufacturers license images with contrasting and bold colors. The most used word on flags is "welcome". Some manufacturers use words on the majority of their flags, and others only have words on a few of their flags. Applying that information when creating my art has helped me get deals with six decorative flag manufacturers. Thus, researching manufacturers in the industry you decide to target like the example above and applying that information to your art can increase the likelihood in licensing your work.

• Build relationships with art directors
The art licensing industry is all about building relationships. Building relationships with manufacturer art directors is important because if your art sells their products and you are easy to work with then they will continue to license your work.

In order to build a good relationship you need to remember that it is not what an art director can do for you but what you can do for the art director. So being willing to edit your art to their specifications, willing to compromise, being flexible, being prolific in creating art, being reliable, and showing your appreciation helps to build a strong relationship.

• Summary
Licensing art is very commercial and competitive. And to be successful, artists need to create for a commercial purpose and not just whatever they desire. The art needs to be well executed in an art style that is popular for the different mass and niche markets. And, artists need to learn what manufacturers license art, the products they sell, and what art styles and themes they need for their products. Read "Finding Manufacturers that License Art" for more information about the manufacturers.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address). For example: ).

Monday, May 4, 2015

Licensing Art for Decorative Ceramic Plates and Tabletop Products

Although there are many manufacturers that produce ceramic ware including plates and other tabletop products, not that many license art for them. Many do not use art on their products but some use in-house illustrators or purchase the art outright. Also some do license art by well-known brands such as Disney characters, and designer Tracy Porter. And, a few manufacturers like Enesco and Demdaco use a variety of materials including ceramics to create product collections for some of their artist brands. Note: There are many e-stores including Etsy that print-on-demand decorative ceramic plates but do not normally license art for them.

When searching the Internet for decorative ceramic plates and tabletop products, I found a few manufacturers that used a variety of art styles on their products. That indicates they probably license the art instead of using in-house illustrators. And, when artists names are mentioned on the manufacturer website, the art is most likely licensed. Note: Not all manufacturers have open websites that allow anyone to see their products. A person needs to be a retailer to get the password to view product catalogs. Thus, in many cases I had to rely on the e-stores of, JC Penny's, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc. to see the different manufacturer products.

Below are a few manufacturers that I know license art and a few I “think” license art. If you know other ceramic manufacturers that license art, please share with the rest of us by posting a comment to this article. Thanks!

The name of this manufacturer is shared by artist Patrizia Vitrano.

Products: Australian manufacturer of decorated coordinated homeware including ceramic tableware.

1. Licenses art.
2. Products on manufacturer website are visible to the public.
3. No direct contact information is on their website but I suggest contacting their USA & Canada distributor that is listed on "contact us".

Certified International Corporation
Products: ceramic and melamine tabletop dinnerware and accessories 

1. Licenses art collections.
2. Products on the website are visible to the public.
3. Do not submit your art collections unless they are a good fit for the manufacturer’s product lines. Look at their Digital Catalog to see the type of themes and collections they license.
4. Call customer service for contact information to submit art collections.

One Hundred 80 Degrees
Products: giftware - both traditional and contemporary Christmas, Halloween, harvest, birthday, and everyday products

1. Product catalog on the website is only available for retailers.
2. View more products on The Weed Patch Store.
3. You need to ask the manufacturer if they license art. If they do, ask for contact information, submission guidelines, and the password to view products.

Park Designs
Products: coordinating textiles, ceramics and giftware from country to classic traditional and from everyday to holiday

1. Some products on the website are visible to the public.
2. You need to ask the manufacturer if they license art. If they do, ask for contact information, submission guidelines, and for the password to view all the products.

The name of this manufacturer is shared by artist Patrizia Vitrano.

Products: Indonesian ceramics tableware manufacturer that uses art from American and European designers.

1. Licenses art.
2. Products on the website are visible to the public.
3. Contact manufacturer for submission contact information and guidelines.  Contact information is under customer outlet.

Wild Wings
Products: art prints, various room decor and accents, decorative ceramic tabletop and decorative plates

1. Licenses fine art images.
2. Products on the website are visible to the public.
3. Click HERE for art submission specifications

Read more articles about the different industries that license art (calendars, greeting cards, flags, jig-saw puzzles, etc.) by going to Topics on the side bar and click on Manufacturers.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Sunday, April 5, 2015® - What is all the excitement about?

There sure is a lot of excitement about the® (ALSC) website that had its grand opening on March 23, 2015! What is so special about ALSC and what is behind all this enthusiasm?

ALSC is a creation by licensed artist and designer Cherish Flieder that took nearly 6 years to become a reality. It is a protected art portfolio hosting website for artists/agents to privately show art to licensees. Art directors interested in licensing art can join at no cost. With one password, they can see examples of art shared with them by hundreds of artists and ask artists/agents permission to view their portfolios. But ALSC is MUCH more than just a website to view art. It is also an art licensing community where members can easily connect, communicate with each other, and join special interest discussion groups. It is a great way to market art for licensing.

Note: At no cost, any licensing artist, agent or industry expert can sign-up to be included in the ALSC’s “Ultimate Art Licensing Directory” and have access to the basic social networking features. Artists/Agents may also apply to upgrade to a portfolio account that will give them privileges to exclusively upload and share art with authorized art directors. Click HERE to sign-up for the free Ultimate Art licensing Directory, to see the features of the free basic social networking, and the cost and benefits to upgrade to the various portfolio accounts.

Benefits for Licensor Artists/Agents
Artists/Agents find that they can organize their art collections on the Art Licensing Show website anyway they wish; by themes, for products, samples of art licensed, etc. Each portfolio is protected from the public. Also, ALSC member artists/agents cannot see each others artwork on the site. The only members that can see inside an art portfolio is IF the artist gives specific art directors permission. Permissions may be granted (via “shares”) for an entire portfolio of collections, and/or some of the collections, and/or some of the images in a collection.

Members can connect with ALSC artists, agents and art directors. Artists can ask art directors to look at their art and can join special interest groups to ask questions and share information. Some of the groups that have been formed so far cover topics such as art marketing, trends, home décor, textiles, tabletop, greeting cards, character designs, etc. There is also a group that discusses all sorts of general licensing topics and meets once a month on a chat line for a lively online discussion.

ALSC encourages unabashed promoting of portfolio artist’s work on the site. Artists and their work are spotlighted on the ALSC blog and other social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram (#artlicensingshow), and even YouTube. View the "® Official Ribbon Cutting Video" that showcased artist members work during the virtual red carpet grand opening ceremony. The art shown is fabulous!

Many artists that are members of ALSC still use their public website to show some of their art, but then guide potential licensees to their profile link and protected portfolio pages on Because it is important to get as much visibility for their work as possible, artists continue using their own blogs, social media, and other means for marketing, but now have added the marketing capabilities that ALSC offers.

A sampling of art from hundreds of licensors portfolios that can be seen on the ALSC site is shown below; created by surface pattern, illustrator, and graphic designer Natalie Williamson, agency Creative Connection, artist Jane Maday, agency Two Town Studios, and Buck & Libby brand by illustrator and designer Megan Ball. Artist Joan Beiriger's art is shown at the beginning of this article.

Benefits for Licensee Art Directors
Art directors value the ALSC site because they only need one password to view a huge variety of art created by hundreds of artists at no cost. Beside seeing new art from artists they already deal with, they appreciate discovering fresh new works from artists unfamiliar to them. It is easy for art directors to search for art by using keywords and tags, look at artist/agent profiles for examples of their work, and ask artist/agent permission to view the art. And then, any time they wish, the art director can flip through the collections, select the art they are interested in and directly contact the artist or agent to negotiate a contract. [The site isn’t an agency and doesn’t get in the middle of the licensing deals.] Thus, art directors have access to view art 24/7 and do not have to wait for a trade show or hassle with travel expenses.

Also valued is the Ultimate Art Licensing Show Directory where contact information of artists/agents can be found whether or not they have an ALSC hosted portfolio. Click HERE to view a video on why art directors should sign-up for a free ALSC account. Sign-up by clicking HERE.

ALSC Information
• Find out more about by clicking HERE.

• Art directors can sign up for a complimentary account by clicking HERE.

• The price to have a portfolio on ALSC depends upon how many collections artists/agents want to place on the site. The different plans and prices are listed by clicking HERE.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address).

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: Do you need to be a brand to successfully license art?

Note: The following is an editorial and are my opinions so not everyone will agree with them. But, I do welcome all comments (positive and negative) to give everyone a well rounded perceptive on other opinions.

There are many opinions on whether art is a brand or not. And, an often-asked question is if an artist's work needs to be a brand to be successful in the licensing industry. The short answer to these questions is that art can be a brand under certain conditions but art does NOT have to be a brand for an artist to be successful in licensing their work. Read the following to find out why I believe this.

Definition of an Art Brand
According to Wikipedia, "A brand is a name, term, design or other feature that distinguishes one seller's product from those of others". Brands in today’s market are associated with product trademarks (Coke Cola, Harley, Kenmore, Rice Crispy, Vera Bradley), sports, entertainment (Disney, Sesame Street), well-known personalities (HGTV "stars", Donnie Osmond), some artists, and many others. Theoretically any creation of an artist is a brand because every artist incorporates into their art their own style, color combinations, and composition. But, unless the art is VERY different from other art, it is not usually licensed "as a brand".

Art directors and others in the art licensing industry are very familiar with artists work and can easily distinguish whose work it is. However, most consumers cannot recognize small differences between different artists art. Thus, art must be very distinct and unique for it to be considered a brand in the art licensing industry.

Art That are Brands
Licensing an art brand is valuable to manufacturers because brands tend to sell more products. Consumers purchase not just one product but continue to purchase products of a brand they desire. Manufacturers such as Demdaco and Enesco license many brands and produce a huge variety of products specifically tailored for each brand. Sculpture artist Susan Lordi (Willow Tree® brand), artist Kelly Rae Roberts, and artist Kathy Weller (Yoga Pals brand) work is licensed to Demdaco as a brand. And, carver Jim Shore, and artist Suzy Toronto work is licensed to Enesco as a brand. All of these artists are very successful since their art are very much sought after by consumers. Look at the art of the artists mentioned above and notice how unique they are. Also read, "What Makes the Willow Tree® Brand Such a Success?"

Art That are not Brands
Not all manufacturer business-model depend upon licensing art brands. Most manufactures license work based upon the style and theme of the art and not necessarily art by a recognizable brand. Although some manufacturers license both art brands and none art brands. Artists Paul Brent, Hautman Brothers, Susan Winget, and many others earn good money by licensing their art but not as a brand.

Not every person will agree that the artists mentioned above do not have art brands because all three of them do have a consumer following. And, some manufacturers do license collections of their work and showcase them in their catalogs with their name, picture, and biography. However, each of these artists art style is somewhat similar to other artist's art style so consumers may not recognize who created the art until they look at the artists name on the product. That is why they are not considered a brand according to the definition stated in Wikipedia.

But, does it matter the above artist's work is considered a brand or not? NO! It does not because they are very successful in licensing their work. And, the reason why is because these artists have acquired a relationship with many manufacturer art directors and the credibility that they know what art consumers want on products. Thus, they continue to get many licensing contracts. But, it has taken them years of hard work, research, and trial-and-error to become established, and their work sought-after. To learn about Susan Winget and her licensing success, read "An Art Licensing Winning Team: Susan Winget Art Studio."

An artist does not have to have an art brand to be successful in licensing her/his art. What it takes is hard work, learning what kind of art and themes consumers want on products, being prolific in creating art, creating relationships and submitting lots of art to manufacturers for licensing consideration, being willing to compromise, being realistic that it takes a long time to get revenue, and do NOT give up!

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Art Licensing: When do you Submit Art to Manufacturers?

As often heard in the art licensing industry "it depends" is the inexplicable answer to the question "When do you submit art to manufacturers for licensing consideration?" Each manufacturer has a different deadline depending on its business model, product line, production cycle, and clients. So, the only way to find out the deadlines for submitting art is to either see the information on the manufacturers website or ask by e-mail or phone call.

Some manufacturers accept all art theme submissions year round and either license art immediately or files it for future consideration. Some have big box store clients and these manufacturers are constantly giving presentations to them. Hence, they request art for the presentations to be put on hold but do not license it unless their clients want the art put on the products. Other manufacturers have specific deadlines that they post on their websites such as greeting card manufacturer Leanin' Tree and will license the art they choose for the following year product line(s). Some manufacturers send art requests several times a year to the artists and agents on their call-out list. However, the majority of manufacturers need to be contacted via email or by telephone to find out their deadlines. Hint: When you contact manufacturers, ask if they have an art call-out list and request to be added to it.

If you cannot find out the manufacturer art submission deadlines (often happens) then you need to make an educated guess. Most manufacturers are looking for specific art themes at least two times a year. Those are for Spring/Summer (approximately March through August) and Fall/Winter (approximately September through February) that includes all holidays and special occasions during those periods. Many manufacturers decide on what art to license 12 to 14 months before it is introduced to retail. For example, art deadlines for the fall/winter 2016 season could be as early as July 2015.

Do Your Homework
The key to licensing your art is to create the right art for products that appeals to manufacturers, retail stores, and ultimately consumers. Finding manufacturers that license art requires research, research, and more research. You need to find manufacturers that are a match with your art style, find out what art themes they want, how they want art submitted and in what format. Find out more about licensing art by reading "How to license art to manufacturers".

Why does it take so long to see licensed art on products and get revenue?
It "can" take 18 months or more before an artist gets any money after a deal is signed unless the artist is lucky to get an advance toward royalties. The reason is because of the many steps involved during the entire process (contract negotiations, art revisions, manufacturing of product, placement on retail shelves) before receiving the first quarterly royalty check. How long it takes depends upon the industry but paper products made in the U.S. usually takes a shorter time than ceramic products that need the creation of molds and are manufactured and shipped from China. Read "Licensed Art - Getting Paid Takes a Long Time" to see an example of a time-line and steps required from submitting art to receiving royalties. Note: Not all licensing deals or getting revenue take a long time.  Each manufacturer is different and some deals can generate revenue within a few months after signing the contract especially if it was a licensing flat fee.  More information about different kind of licensing contracts can be read on "Licensing Art - There is no such thing as a typical deal".

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: What Makes the Willow Tree® Brand Such a Success?

When fine artist Susan Lordi received her Masters in Fine Arts in Textile Design in 1993, I am sure she had no idea that she would not only become known for her fine art textile designs but also for her sculptured figurines created for the gift market. The transition from creating fine art that appeals to individuals to creating art for the mass market is no easy task. But, Susan did it right because her Willow Tree brand has been a huge success for the last 15 years. Consumers worldwide purchase Susan’s figurines and her other products produced by DEMDACO.

Studying how artists become successful is really informative and one of my favorite things to do. I have followed Susan Lordi's success for years and have always admired the simple carved wooden look of her Willow Tree brand figurines and her ability to show emotion without facial expressions.

Art brands tend to sell more products than non-brands because the customer base grows as the brand becomes more popular. To become a brand that is recognized by consumers the art must be unique and different from other art. And, to become successful and stay successful the brand must resonate some emotional response with the consumer, appeal to a wide spectrum of consumers, grow slowly, and stay true to the look of the brand but continue to be refreshed. I think Susan Lordi has encompassed all these requirements in her Willow Tree brand. The following is why I think so.

• Recognized art style
When Susan decided to create for the mass market in the late 1990s, she did her homework and noticed that there was a void in the gift industry of simple figurative sculptures that depicted relationships with others and the world around them. By creating a sculptured style of less-is-more and capturing a moment in time between persons and nature in her carvings, Susan created a style that is truly unique and recognized by consumers.

View "Susan Lordi Marker, Central High 1972" video of Susan describing her art background and the creation of her Willow Tree brand. And, also view "Susan Lordi - "Willow Tree" video to see a major influence in Susan's carvings. Note: These videos show Susan's passion in creating her work, which is truly inspirational!

• Appeals to consumers
To sell any product, it has long been known that the product has to somehow resonate an emotion with the consumer so that she/he feels the need to purchase it. Susan Lordi creates figurative sculptures that depict sentiments anyone can relate to. And, because no expressions are shown on their faces it allows each person to interpret the meaning of each figure in their own way and makes it more personal. Thus, her sculptures appeal to a large number of consumers. Unlike successful art based on trends that evidentially fade away, Susan’s sculptures are timeless and are continually sought by consumers. No wonder the Willow Tree brand is so successful.

Note: What is critical to Susan’s success is that she carves from her own life experiences as a mother, a daughter, a wife, an aunt, a granddaughter… In other words, something she knows to be true… something that interests her, something she’s experiencing, instead of trying to make something that she thinks might sell. Or, in her words, “it has to come from a personal place in order to resonate with others.”

View "Willow Tree Family Groupings" video to hear Susan's reasoning on why she creates her carvings the way she does.

• Continue refreshing art
Consumers are always looking for new and different looks when purchasing products. Thus, artists need to regularly keep their art fresh and new looking when submitting to manufacturers for licensing consideration.

Susan Lordi has met the challenge of evolving and keeping her carvings fresh over the years while keeping her own aesthetics so that they are still recognizable as belonging to the Willow Tree brand. Although she has kept soft washed colors that are a trademark of the brand, over the years she has refreshed her sculptures by adding some embellishment to her work with deeper colors, and/or metal accents.

Note: Susan really out did herself with the introduction of her elegant Signature Collection at the January 2015 Atlanta Gift Market. When I walked by the DEMDACO showroom in Atlanta, I couldn't stop looking at the collection. A gradation of deep turquoise blue at the bottom of the figures with a scattering of gold-leaf raised dots makes them absolutely stunning. And, gold accents on a turquoise blue background on her triplex shadow boxes of Starry Night Nativity made them really beautiful and totally unique.

• Slow introduction of new products
Brands will not have staying power in the gift market if they swamp the market at once with all kinds of products. This is what happens when manufacturers hop on a perceived new trend like last year's chalkboard style art seen at the Atlanta Gift show. This year there were nowhere as many showrooms using chalkboard art on their products and probably that style will soon disappear. It is better to slowly introduce new products so that the market is not inundated with them and consumers will look forward to seeing what is new each year.

The Willow Tree brand follows that business practice and has slowly added new products over the 15 years since it was introduced at the January 2000 Atlanta Gift show.

There is much to learn from sculpturer Susan Lordi even if you as an artist do not have an art style that is unique enough that consumers recognize as yours or even if you have several art styles. Susan’s success has shown the importance in learning what attracts consumers to art, to create from your heart so it resonates with consumers, and to continually refresh art so that the product is salable. And, most importantly you need to continue to learn everything you can about the art licensing industry and all industries associated with it. Education is power that will help you in creating licensable work and obtaining licensing contracts.

This article was updated 7/17/18.

Your comments are welcome. Click on the comments section (below) to write your comment. Note: Some people have a problem in leaving a comment. The most successful method is to comment as Name/URL (your name and website or blog with a "complete" URL address. For example: ).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Art Licensing Editorial: 2015 January Atlanta Gift Show

The 2015 Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishing Market is for retail buyers to purchase products for their business'.  It is also where artists can meet with art directors that license art for their companies products, get contact information on where to submit art, get inspiration for creating new art, learn about the licensing industry and see trends. Note: Since this is a trade show for buyers, it is difficult for artists to attend unless they have the right credentials. For suggestions on how artist can attend the show, read "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show"

The Atlanta Gift show was booming this year with huge crowds in comparison to the last several years.  And, the Reps in the showrooms were extremely busy writing up lots of orders. Although not everyone attending the show feel that the attendance is up significantly from last year like I do, the hallways and showrooms were often at times difficult to get through because of the crush of people. Also, the elevators were so slow and full that most people used the escalators (which were also full) or even the stairs to access the 20 floors in Building one, 18 in Building 2, and 15 in Building 3.  Note: As with all trade shows, not all showrooms were doing as well as those that had a huge selection of SKUs (stock keeping units), were not selling only to a niche market, or were a distributor that represented multiple manufacturers.

Tidbit:  Because taking photographs inside the AmericasMart is prohibited unless you have permission, I instead took two photos from outside.  The photo at the top shows the 8:30AM rush of exhibitors streaming into Building 1.  It is across the street from the Peachtree Station for MARTA rapid transit system. Once you are in any of the three buildings comprising the Mart's campus you can get to the other buildings via bridges that are located on certain floors.

The photo at the left is of a 120-foot long (8 stories if each story is 15 feet tall) escalator from the MARTA railway to the street level.  The three 120-foot long escalators at the Peachtree Station are considered the longest escalators in the Southeast. Because so many people use MARTA and the escalators during the 8:30AM rush to get to the MART for the 9AM opening of the show, sometimes security is forced to hold people back so that there are not as many on the escalator at the same time.  Otherwise, the weight of people and luggage would shut it down. I find it mind boggling that when the escalators are not as busy, riders like me need to move to the right because those that have the stamina literally run up it on the left. Gasp!

There did not seem to be any "NEW" trends at Atlanta but coastal images were showcased in lots of showrooms.  I was really surprised because the last I heard coastal was considered kind-of-a niche theme.  When I questioned one showroom Reps if the Mart had sent out a flyer asking the exhibitors to showcase coastal, she laughed and said "No, it is just popular right now."  She also said that coastal products are not just sold in stores on the east and west coasts of the US but in stores along the many waterways throughout it. Most of the coastal art and products in the showrooms and in the temporary booths had a distressed patina look although there still were a variety of other art styles.

• What Seen
Other than coastal I did not see many other themes stand out. But the usual rustic looking products with a distressed finish on them were visible as well as distressed finished American flags on many products from kitchen products to handbags. If there was anything really trending at the show, it was the distressed look with unsaturated color palettes for all kinds of themes.

Of course, the typical popular themes usually seen at the show and seem to be the staple for home and gift products were abundant.  These included flowers, butterflies, birds, grapes and wine, cats, dogs, owls, cupcakes, coffee, high heel shoes, inspirational words either alone or with art including lots of angels.  Also popular were seasonal, holiday and special occasion art such as for Valentines Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Halloween.  And, do not forget the most popular holiday of all – Christmas.

Showrooms had major displays centered on either Santa or snowmen, but over all there seemed to be a fairly even distribution of both. Other Christmas images seen were snowflakes, polar bears, penguins, deer, nutcrackers, angels, Christmas trees, white foxes, owls, partridges, more amaryllis flowers than poinsettias, pinecones and needles, presents, and ornaments.

As usual, the use of colors for art depended on the type of product and what it was used for.  The traditional red and green were predominating for Christmas art with the exception if the art style was graphical or whimsical for a younger consumer.  Then a bright red and chartreuse green were used.  Unsaturated and muted colors are still used for home decor but brighter colors are starting to appear on products in some home decor showrooms.

• What Not Seen or Less of
Last year chalkboard art was everywhere on products at the Mart but this year it was not prevalent.  Even though there are still evidence of owls and red foxes, the whole concept of the woodland theme seemed to be on the back burner.  The anticipated next new woodland creature "the hedgehog" was missing from most products with the exception of stuffed animals.

This & That
• Be Prepared
The key to getting the most out of the Atlanta Gift Show is to be prepared.  A month before the show is a good time to ask art directors for an appointment to show them your art. Although, I am finding that in most cases when artists ask for an appointment they tell you to just drop-in. Appointment times seem to be saved for art licensing agents that have more art to show.

Bring business cards, postcards and if possible an iPad with your art on it. It is now the standard to show art with an iPad when attending Atlanta.  You never can tell when you ask for contact information if you will also be able to show your art to an art director.  It happens to me all the time.

Wear comfortable shoes and take plenty of breaks to overcome exhaustion and sensory overload and to write notes.

• Importance in Asking Questions
Asking questions from EVERYONE attending the show is a must if you want to take full advantage of attending the show.  Talking to buyers, Reps, art directors, and other artists is huge because it gives you information about all aspects of the art licensing industry and gives you a better understanding of it.  I drum-up conversations with people anywhere - while taking a break, waiting in line for food or an artist signing, on MARTA, and in showrooms.  This is the most friendliest trade show that I have ever attended and everyone loves to talk about products and their business.

Having a big smile on your face goes a long way and I am always amazed when busy Reps and art directors are willing to show me their products and talk about them even though they know I am not a buyer. It gives me the opportunity to ask what are good sellers, the artists that created them, and what themes do best.  Getting any information is huge in understanding the industry that I would not get it unless I asked.

This year I even went into showrooms that I assume only used in-house designers (most of the art look like the same artist created it) and got a big surprise.  Several of these manufacturers also license art from free-lance artists.  And, the Reps even spent some time showing me the products that they licensed and of course gave me the contact information to submit art.  Huge!  So make sure you talk to everyone and ask lots of questions when you attend the show.

• Traveling Woes in Attending the Atlanta Show
Traveling and hotel problems happen all the time to those attending trade shows.  For this show I was one of the unlucky souls that experienced airline and hotel woes where everything went wrong; airline delays, broken MARTA train and standing outside in freezing weather for 20 minutes until another train arrived and then the clincher - no room at the inn.

Every year there seems to be a lot of broken pipes at the hotels in Atlanta during the Atlanta Gift Show.  But the broken water pipe excuse is really a euphemism for over booking hotel rooms.  5-6% of booked rooms in hotels are no-show, so hotels make the practice of overbooking with first come first serve.  I do not know about other customers but with me it really cost the hotel that gave away my room. I paid for it four months in advance and had to wait over two hours for them to find me a room in another hotel.  They paid an $85 taxi fare to the new hotel with a free night lodging and a customer that will never book with them again. It is not fun to spend all day on an airplane, have hours of layovers at airports, and not get a hotel room until 1AM.  The only solution seems to be to book a hotel room far from the AmericasMart so that there is not the likelihood of losing your room OR arriving early enough so that the room is still available.  Because I live on the west coast, the second option is not feasible unless I am willing to take a red-eye flight.

Articles  - information and photos of showrooms and products
• Art and Product Licensing: Thought and Comment from Jim Marcotte - "Atlanta – A Study in Contrasts…and Not"

• Gifts and Decorative Accessories - "Direct from Market: Atlanta Winter 2015"

• J Wecker Frisch "AmericasMart 2015"

• the moon from my atticThe 2015 AmericasMart Atlanta - "The Nation’s #1 Product Destination"

Related Articles (originally posted for the January 2014 show)
•AmericasMart Atlanta (youtube video) - "The Atlanta International Gift Market - January 2014"  Note:  The 2015 video will probably be posted on youtube later in the month or in February.

• "Art Licensing: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - the amazing AmericasMart campus"

• "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - insights on walking the show"

• "Art Licensing Editorial: 2014 Atlanta Gift Show - trends"

The health of the gift industry ultimately affects art licensing and the amount of art that is licensed by manufacturers. Thus, successful gift shows (Atlanta and other regional ones) bodes well for the licensing industry. This year seems to have started off well and hopefully that means good news for artists in obtaining many licensing contracts.

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