Uh, What do you do?
In my journey as a licensed artist, I find most do not understand what I do. As I explain, I see the look of complete confusion on their faces. I know I’ve explained well when folks smile and say “that is so cool!” It really is cool.
I am invited to art festivals, shows, bazaars pretty often. I did the local circuit for awhile, but quickly realized the amount of effort really did not equal the payoff. Having a disability is a real problem when setting up heavy, framed pieces of art for display. Getting it all to the venue (which is usually NOT handicap accessible) is quite a issue itself, then loading, unloading to only sell one or two pieces (If really lucky) just wasn’t worth it to me. Most people find buying original art (at a large price) an extravagance. Thus, enters the starving artist stereotype….Without a rich, sick relative that was going to be the case for me until I found art licensing.
When someone approached me about art licensing, it was an answer to prayer. I mean that literally. I could create art, send it all electronically, then have my designs in major retailers is a dream come true. I couldn’t stand the thought of yet another office job dealing with the public….always having to smile, always looking pretty. UGH! So, when art licensing came along, like other folks, I thought “that is so cool!”
So here is a very brief explanation of art licensing. The term “licensing” isn’t a certification of some sort, as most automatically think. It simply means you provide art to a manufacturer/retailer, for a certain amount of time, for a certain use, in a certain area of the globe. There is a contract stating what can and cannot be done with the art, from that point on, for both parties. Once I prepare the art (explanation for another day), it is sent to said manufacturer/retailer and they print it (on a mass scale) on the product they want to sell (garden flags, dinnerware, fabrics, many more product examples), then it is packaged and distributed to retailers, usually on a pretty grand scale. According to the contract, you then receive $ for a percentage of amount sold, in most cases, at least a year later. That is basic, but that's the skinny.
A lot of artists & curators revile licensing. I’ve been told it somehow lacks emotion, which is completely untrue. The art starts out exactly the same way as the pieces in the museums, shows, etc. For me, in my pajamas, with hair a mad scientist would appreciate, a never ending flow of Dr Pepper, coming up with a concept that is appealing (to somebody), sketching madly until it’s just right, then finally putting it to paper or canvas, eventually putting it out there, praying someone really likes it, and somehow, it speaks to their soul. Phhhhhewwww! Breeaatthhee!
Thomas Kinkade is prime example of the art world being against the licensed artist. His art appealed to millions, conveyed escape to a world we’d rather be in than reality, and the snobby, elitist art world hated him for it. He was far from a starving artist.
I have never been an art snob, but I do appreciate a beautiful museum piece. I think art should be for everyone to enjoy. Not everyone can spend thousands on a painting. Not every artist can travel to every show and hang art from the ceiling. There should be a place for every artist and every art lover. There is a place for the $10,000 paintings to hang…there’s also a place for the average wage earner to have a beautifully decorated home and garden. There is nothing wrong with either.
Maria Brophy has a great piece about this subject & her writing skills far outweigh mine. I can never get a link to work but here it is (copy & paste): http://mariabrophy.com/business-of-art/why-artists-should-not-be-paid-for-their-artwork.html
With that being said, art licensing provides many artists with income to do what they love. Any artist “worth their salt” (as my southern Mom use to say) should be able to appreciate that. I certainly know that my consumer base does! So, while I may get to an art show or two, art licensing is my little corner of the art world. I love every minute of it. You may not see me at the next festival, but you’ll certainly be able to spot my affordable art adorning homes and gardens all over the place. Paint on!