This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Friday, July 16, 2010

7/15/10: Guest chat with Tara Reed

TOPIC: Licensing your art with @ArtistTaraReed.

Q&A with licensing artist Tara Reed:

What is licensing for? Is it like copyrighting?
Art Licensing is a way of licensing the rights to manufacturers to use your art on products. Sports teams license the rights to manufacturers of products to use the team name/logo, etc. Artists can do the same.

Are you constantly updating your portfolio to follow trends?
Art licensing requires new art all the time. So yes, I add to my portfolio on a regular basis.

Once a week, once a month? How often do you add/change art?
I try to create 1-3 collections a month. Some take longer if they have more to them--the more used a theme, the more I create. So my coffee collection has a lot more than a Halloween cocktail collection--it has more potential in licensing, so gets more time.

How many collections should an artist have before they start promoting?
A good rule of thumb is to have 12+ collections before promoting, to show that you "get" it and are committed to the industry.

What is your advice for children's illustrators?
Creating art for licensing is different than illustrating a book--you have to think about the art and create it a little differently. When doing a book you need to illustrate a story. In licensing you need art pieces to go on products. We think in "collections."

What makes a good collection? What are licensees looking for?
A collection = a minimum of four images--like something you could frame or put on a salad plate. Then adding borders and patterns is always good. Manufacturers can make dishes, wrap borders around gift bags and have the patterns below, create greeting cards, etc. Think about what you see all the time in stores: wine, flowers, baby, beach, holiday . . . they always need new art.

Are there any resources that list the contact and sub info for companies that take submissions for licensing?
If you get a feel for who licenses and see who they work with, you know the company licenses. Or call and ask "do you license art?"

How do you go about putting your name out there as someone interested in licensing art?
To get your name out there, you can exhibit at art licensing trade shows or contact manufacturers directly that license art. There are also agents in the art licensing industry who can help promote artists who don't want to do it themselves.

Is there a site to reach these agents on?
I'm not sure where there is a list of agents, but I will let you know if I find one.

Do you recommend an agent for a licensing newbie?
I recommend agents for artists who really don't want to do the marketing. But you give up control and 50% of the money not to do marketing. It is possible to license your art without an agent--I'm proof. In defense of the 50% take, I spend that much of my time on marketing, contracts, calls, etc., but I feel I'm best at promoting myself.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got started.
I've been licensing my art since 2004. Before that, I designed in the scrapbooking industry for a few years.

Do certain styles of art work better than others?
Yes, art that appeals to the masses is more suitable for licensing than abstract or really unusual art. Manufacturers have to make things by the 100s or 1000s, so they need to know that many consumers will spend money on it.

Does it mean that when they buy the art for licensing that they only have the rights to using the art?
Manufacturers "license" art; they don't "buy" it. So they get the rights for a period of time, and only for their products. You maintain copyrights and can license the same art to others for different products. That's how you make money in licensing.

Where do you get your color and trend info?
Pantone.com has trend info, and just watching things: TV, movies, clothing, etc., I just start to notice things. Color is tricky. You want to watch trends but not be defined by them--use what works for you and your art.

Would you share a link to your web site?
I have a site that gives tons of resorces to learn about licensing: http://www.artlicensinginfo.com/
If you want to see my art, it's at http://tarareeddesigns.com/

Do manufacturers typically prefer vector over raster artwork?
It depends on the manufacturer. All my art is hand-painted and in Photoshop, so no vectors. I'm doing ok! But I won't be able to work with companies who want the vector art look and it's not what I'm known for. Providing art in digital format is pretty much a must. Illustrator or Photoshop files are the norm. Layers get you loved!

Is it possible to get established without attending the big licensing shows? I hear they're very expensive.
You can get licensing deals without exhibiting at art shows--it just takes more legwork. They are spendy, but have been worth it for me.

Does selling at print-on-demand (POD) sites like CafePrss or Zazzle hurt or help your chances in licensing?
I don't think it hurts, but if you license the design, I'd pull it down.

Is it ok to show multiple styles or just one consistent type in a licensing portfolio?
There are pluses and minuses to having multiple styles. It's harder to create a recognizable brand if you start all over the map.

Do you think there's a market for kid-centric art? Is it hard for kid's art (that isn't well-known licensed characters) to get used much?
Kid art characters can be tricky because so many parents buy things with the characters the kids watch on TV. But there is opportunity. Greeting cards; fabric, maybe; craft, etc. Go shopping and look at the art on things and not just at what you need to buy. Shopping is a great way to see where you and your art might fit. I call it "shopping research." :-)

I noticed most images are flat color, not much shading. True?
Flat color--more vector art--seems to be trending right now. It will swing back to a more painterly look--and back again.

Are size and resolution of images something to consider carefully when creating collections?
Resolution should be a minumum of 300 dpi. As for size, create larger than you think you need, so you can scale down. There is no magic formula, though. If I know I'm painting for a quilt top, I create larger than if I know it's for a greeting card . . . does that make sense?

Is it advisable to develop characters or just do random pieces of art that look nice?
It depends on your goals. Developing characters is much more time-consuming to develop and sell the idea, in my opinion. [But] companies are looking for the next Julius or Bobby Jack.

What is the window from concept to in-store?
Often 12-18 months between the contract and giving your art to products, shipping and you getting paid in art licensing.

How late can you register to exhibit at Surtex and/or NSS and still get a decent booth?
I know people who registered for Surtex a few weeks ahead--but didn't get prime locations, usually. You just never know.

I think it can be hard to think with a "mass market" mind. It's much different than a more "personal" children's book look.
Yes, you need two art brains: a book brain and a licensing brain.

Aren't you having a telechat soon?
I do calls about art licensing every month--either me or I interview other experts in the industry. Details here: http://ht.ly/2cdpG

I've heard that artwork used to have a longer life in the licensing world and now gets "old" much faster.
Yes! Most contracts are for two years now--and often end and they want new. Customers always want new, so we must provide!

Thanks, Tara--the hour went by too fast!

Full transcript below:

#kidlitart 7-15-10

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