Tuesday, February 23, 2010

finding work

One of my favorite parts of the creative process is the research. I love the time spent at the library looking for books that fuel my inspiration. I can spend hours upon hours pouring over the stacks. Then I come home and look through the pages, carefully identifying the pages I like with sticky notes.

One of my least favorite parts of the creative process is researching manufacturers. I hate spending time cruising websites and Google searches for manufacturers of various products. Then the sorting, and the reading, and bookmarking contact pages. Carefully identifying the sites that have potential.

Funny how both are research, yet I hate one, and love the other. So how do I find what I am looking for without hating it? I don't know! I like window shopping, but really being a parent of two young boys, I find it difficult to sneak off and window shop when I want to be making art. I am ever so grateful for the internet because it does allow me freedom to research from the comfort of my own sofa while my youngest is curled up watching Shrek.

Here are a few things I am trying in an effort to make the most of my online research. One, I keep a folder called 'licensing' that I bookmark all the sites that seem like good fits. Second I create a spreadsheet and input manufactures and contact info. Third, I send query emails or pick up the phone and call manufacturers to find out who to send work to (or if they accept outside submissions). Not that this makes this part of my job more enjoyable, but it does help to make it productive. The last part is to create and send appropriate work to leads.

If you are like me, drudgingly researching markets, what do you do to be productive and get the most out of researching potential clients?

Monday, February 15, 2010

being your life

A good friend of mine forwarded me J.K.Rowling's Harvard commencement speech. The title "The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination" speaks to me as an artist, as a person who like many other creatives, has had to choose a road that doesn't guarantee a golden parachute but instead one that has an uncertain ending.

I won't attempt to paraphrase her message. Please take time to listen to her yourself. But what I will do is tell you that she makes me proud of my choices. If you are like me and have chosen the creative, non-corporate, unstable, make your own way road, you too may feel proud of your choice. We have taken a risk. Many of us have taken more than one risk with our careers. We forego the 9-5 for our dreams. If you are like me, you have failed along the way. I have tried many different avenues of illustration. Trying on each one like a 17 year old girl searching for that perfect prom dress. And some felt better than others. Some were ill-fitted, ugly dresses that made me look dowdy. Others seemed pretty good, but then over time I found them constricting and not playing to my best attributes. So I decided to go the prom in a dress I made myself.

What I connect to most, is that she says if she had been successful at something else, she wouldn't have finished her book. I know that I have had many artistic diversions in my life, Art director, Designer, Advertising Illustrator, Technical Illustrator. Being good at all of them enough to stay employed and bring home a steady paycheck. But, in my heart that is NOT what I want. Her message reaffirms to not give up on what you love. Remembering, failure can allow the the runway to start something new.

With that, I embrace my past, my present, and my future.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I have been a professional artist for around 20 years. It sounds romantic doesn't it? But I think every month I have a near mental crisis over what it means to be an artist.

I have two young boys who I adore, I am madly in love with my husband, (who is incredibly supportive of my artistic desires). However, this life with a family as at odds sometimes with my art. You see most of the artists who achieve the success I long for, sacrifice relationships, and much more to achieve that success.

Some days I don't know how to get started. I want to work on so many projects, many are speculative and don't pay. Or at least haven't born fruit yet. Then there is the marketing and the business stuff I NEED to do, but don't. There is the bread and butter work that pays the bills, but isn't always the creative work I want. As a mom I have obligations too. I am the Art Literacy coordinator at my son's school. I value that job. I have grocery shopping to do. Phone calls to make. Some days it is a struggle to prioritize. I work late at night a lot. The kids are sleeping. My husband is reading or watching sports. I get conflicted because I want to spend time with my husband at night too. Yet often I draw, draw and draw.

As much as I love my art and my goals as an artist, art breaks my heart all the time. Disappointment from the letters of acceptance that haven't arrived yet, to the art that is well loved but still hasn't sold. Being an artist is both liberating and soul wrenching. I know I can never do anything else, because being an artist isn't really a choice. Being an artist is WHO I am. I love working from home, researching what I want to create then spending hours creating. The business aspect is not fun. Balancing my artistic life with the people I love is the biggest challenge. Yet having both my art and my family is the biggest reward.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Last year when the economy really took a nose dive (for me it was last January), I decided to start working on new art for licensing. I had been to Surtex twice before as an observer and knew a bit about licensing. Not much mind you, there is so much to learn. But I knew in essence what it was and the basics of what I needed to do. So I started working, sketching, writing down matrices of what I wanted to draw, categories and ideas. My sketchbook started to fill up with new work until finally I found it was time to actualize the work into finished pieces.

February was the month I spent painting and creating patterns, and repeats. I took all the time I would have spent on design work for customers (who vanished with their budgets) and took all the sketches to final art. I can't tell you how many hours I spent, but it was all of February, day and yes into the night.

March came and I decided enough images were done to put together promos and start submitting to manufacturers. I researched and compiled and started sending. Nothing happened. So I kept drawing, and painting, researching and occasionally sending. I responded to a small Craig's List ad and end up creating 4 patterns for Sock It To Me Socks.

Fast forward to July. I got an email from one of the manufacturers. They liked what I sent and wanted to look at more. I sent more. They presented all my work and said they loved it, got great responses, sent me a contract. I wondered if this was it, the big break. But no, learned that you still sit and wait for orders. Not a bad thing, just a thing requiring patience.

August, draw, paint, mock-up, send. That was September through December too. I did submit a few things during that time, including some art to Sassy Switches. Yippee they liked what they saw and I signed a contract. Now, sit and wait.

Fast forward again to February. Surprise surprise at the mailbox, I got my first royalty check! Sassy Switches just sent me my first $41.65 in royalties. To you it may not be much, but to me it is an exciting and rewarding moment in time. The beginning of something new, of a new path, another angle, another means to earn a living as an artist.

It has been a little over a year since I lost my old clients and I am still making new art and submitting. Getting good feedback, interested parties, and in general positive movement forward. Each day I find there is a lot more to learn, I have so much art yet to finish, to mock-up and submit. But it is a good day. I am a lucky girl.