Skip to main content

Become a Working Artist

Lesson 19 of 22

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 2


Become a Working Artist

Lesson 19 of 22

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 2


Lesson Info

Tips for Breaking into Art Licensing - Part 2

I have work in your portfolio that is conducive licensing we touched on this yesterday, we talked a lot about the benefit of creating work in particular themes and having collections and well and the importance of that if that is something that you feel comfortable with and is in alignment with the kind of work you would already be making or that you'd be excited to make. But we also talked about the fact that it's not always necessary, so let's talk about the benefits of knowing how to make repeats and making work that's conducive to license, saying first, but that's also talk about the flip side of it that there's also other ways to enter our license. Yeah, I think that even with repeats you don't literally know have to know technically, how to make a repeat. Most companies that are going to be interested in going to be working with repeat patterns have in house creative staff who are really skilled at that. And, um, even if you gave them a repeat, they might yet not use it precisely...

. It's funny, you know, I was sent some repeats to affair of major fabric company and not the one the other one that I work with, but it with another one and, um they were the designer emailed me was like, do you have this in layers because I need to rework it a little bit guy it wasn't that I hadn't done it correctly it was just that they thought it would look better in a certain other arrangement and I was interested in working with this fabric company so I sent her the work in layers and she was wonderful and great to work with him very respectful of my work but that was the first time that it had ever happened and I had no idea that that's how warped sometimes. So that was a great learning experience. I think teo thinking about just on the simplest level what's conducive to licensing is really look out their products that are using licensed art there you'll see the same kind of subject matter and motifs over and over again florals our huge, very much more decorative things they tend to be intends to be happier it tends to be a little bit more kind of it kind of light hearted um and so really being but also the holidays the standard holidays like christmas and halloween are also really, really big licensing subject matter um again kitchen going sort of like food related themes are another early obadiah pearson's website just screen shops you see like she really specializes in in food illustration she does other things but she's really hone her portfolio in that area and it works well for her too so it's that's just another good thing to remember if you're thinking about licensing as any kind of ah, um, significant component of your overall work palate, do you genuinely like working in those kinds of subjects that are that are popular? What about this idea of creating collections? And you say a little bit more about elections, and if you want to create collections, that sounds appealing and fun to you? How many things should go in a collection? What should they be? How many collections should you have in your portfolio in general? It's funny when we started talking about this in our call, I was sort of yes working in collections you need to know how to work in collections, as I thought about that over the week since our call, I realized that, you know, a lot of the most successful artist that I've worked with actually don't work in collections at all, so it's not, but it's, not it's, not a prerequisite, although if you're just starting out, it might be a good way to think about an organizer were right, it is actually a great way, and I think just actually it's sort of a great exercise kind of format for building your portfolio so a collection would be basically but human wanted to maybe three kind of central motifs and then a lot of coordinates and those coordinates could be repeat patterns they could be border elements they could be little kind of stand alone decorative ding bat do dad kind of spot spot the frustration here exactly on dh having them all like coordinate as apiece and you can think about again you khun look at a bed and catalog like land of nod would be a really good example and you'll see a whole coordinated beautiful room set with a piece of wall art that is using one of those central motif images a gorgeous pattern on the bed maybe one of the spots is on a throw pillow so it is a really helpful way to build your portfolio to present your work online for licensing and definitely if you're going to a trade show like surtax, it can be really beneficial to have developed your portfolio that way. What about mocking up products, pros and cons? Yeah, you know I hear different things about that from different art directors most of the time I hear that they don't they don't really need it it's not all that beneficial to them they tend to they tend to ask they're building their next product release they have an idea of the products that they are going to need art for and the kind of art that they're looking for and generally how that our needs to work on the product so for you to mock it up the one thing that can be helpful with mock ups I think if you're going to a show like surtax or maybe even demonstrating a little bit of this in your portfolio is that you think like a licensing artist you know that your product is ultimately going to be enhancing products and so it shows that you have some appreciation and kind of like knowledge about how that works but again that might be something you know if you when you have opportunities to talk to art directors out there it doesn't hurt to say what do you think about product markups because there does seem to be some people appreciate it and some people I don't feel like they need it I mean in our director's job is to envision things themselves know they don't necessarily need you to tell them how your stuff could be used um but you could also if you're if you're at a licensing trade show you could have mock ups on your ipad for people who want to see them and then just have your regular port folio for people who are not interested I don't think it hurts yeah it doesn't hurt you don't need to go overboard with it though yeah yeah that's great okay we already talked about that different themes we talked a little bit about that let's all be with your digital skills yeah, that, um I think that knowing photo shop if you obviously if you work a cz more of an illustrator uh knowing knowing illustrator knowing how to vector rise your artwork I think can be really useful. The great thing about vector artwork is probably most of you know is that it's infinitely scalable, whereas a photo shop image a raster image is going to be mostly only able to scale it down from the from its first from its original size scan. So definitely knowing those programs is key knowing it helps to know what the product designer is going to be dealing with. So if you're dealing with something that's going to print understanding for example, the difference between the c m y k and the rgb art spaces really critical knowing, um, knowing bleed and trim size is really important on building your files in layers can be super super helpful is you get mentioned to an art director gives a lot of flexibility all of these things so everybody's working really fast and really hard and as much as you can make their jobs easier even when they have large in house art department's making their jobs easier by building like presenting really professionally built files will make you a dream to work with was going to say to that a lot of times when I've done licensing gigs or created artwork for products, looking me a template that you can layer on top of that has the bleed built in as a layer that they, of course, haider removed when they're printing or not, because sometimes that it's the lines that tell the printer where to cut things or whatever, too, but so oftentimes companies will be very helpful if you're not sure you understand exactly where your art should fall in the trim guidelines. That's, the art director's job to help you with that. But as much as you understand the terminology, going into a job is really great. We have time now for questions, and I'm sure we probably have some coming from the internet land. But any in, uh, in the studio audience for betsy army? Yes, anna, I'm anna by the children's books and murals, and I wanted to ask you, what recommendations would you give? Toh? Ah, new illustrator that just wants to get into licensing. And, in your opinion, what is the kind of things that he would like to see you? Yeah, I would encourage you. First. Have to really think for yourself about what kinds of products you would like to see her artwork on, I think that I always like to put it back to the artist rather than rather than approaching it from what is an art director? One going to want to see? What do I want to do with my artwork? So that wouldn't be question number one and once you have once you have determined that. So when you say children's book illustration, for example, my mind automatically goes to greeting cards, which I think could be a really good fit for someone who likes to do that kind of illustration also anything in the children's market, so children's apparel or again betting things like that game's toys puzzles really start looking at those kinds of products and developing your work with those things in mind, so not necessarily developing your work in order to get those but it just to me, it's, kind of like a frame worker and exercise for creating your artwork. I'm always advising artist tio really like, stay in touch with them with themselves and why they're doing what they do rather than thinking externally about what somebody else's going to want because I find that the artists who have the most success or the ones who start from that very, very personal place, you know, and, um through their websites through their social media, often through an etsy shop, I don't know if you have an empty shop or anything similar to that again, getting back to what I said in the beginning uh, it really helps you establish an understanding of how what you're creating is resonating with people. So does that help to answer your question? Okay. That's a great question. Um I had a question about color. I know that when you're branding yourself, you really want teo keep within a certain color scheme. But I also feel like, um, teo keep, like, a more variable prospect list. It would be nice to have different colors. What are your thoughts on? Like how to? Kind of like, oh, you know, this could be more feminine because it's maybe past ellie or something or like, more primary and more masculine. What are your thoughts on that for? Like, incorporating those? Yeah. You might be thinking about you want me to go home? That's when you might be, you might be thinking about kind of, in a way, two different kinds of branding. So if you think about your branding as your businesses branding your logo, for example, versus branding as your art as your brand. So whereas you might want your logan always be very consistent, I think you're right. But you do want a lot more variety in your heart when there are generally leo, look and feel of your website in your presence online. Exactly. So yes, by all means within your portfolio I think that it's great to be fleck to show flexibility and variety and I do think that it helps like getting back to collections actually collections can be more branded with them themselves so that you might have like I said a collection of you know spring birds and bees and flowers that has a few central motifs and all of these coordinating patterns and borders and whatnot on dh that would have an overall cohesive color palette so within collection yeah but then you could do something completely different for a different collection of things that's how you choose to work any questions out there on the internet that people have about licensing yeah we have a couple of them have come in here joanne wants to know our licensing rights international and how do they vary between countries? We do have a huge international audience out there I know it could be tough but how does one manage if the artists and iceland companies are in different countries okay so I would just say off the bat I don't have a lot of experience and we're in working with international artists or for that matter with companies outside of the u s who license but it definitely happens and I think that ther e u s and britain tend to be very kind of you similar in their laws and with licensing contract so I would assume that there's like plenty of crossover there about terms you be so sure? I think that question may also be about, um it made on the one hand be it depends on the company, so so if, um if a if a british company hires me to create artwork for or buys the rights to my art it's from one of their products, they're goingto have a licensing contract and that contract is going to say where those rights exist? Are they worldwide? Are they uk? Only are they you know, where are they? And usually that's going to stem from wherever the company is and then grow exponentially from there? And I think that that's doesn't matter where the artist is from or the artist from necessarily it's about what the contract says about where those rights can be used, and I don't I think in this day and age because we work so internationally like my agent represents artists from all over the world, asia, great britain, other places in europe, and I can't imagine that their contracts aren't look any different than mine for example it's about the contract and where the rights are sold for whatever product is being developed and just getting tio we might be getting into territory also territory that's kind of what I meant, yeah, so eh so often part of the the parameters the parameters of the rights of your granting are not just what the products are and how long the licenses but where the products can be sold on dh most typically you're going to find that a company's gonna want more want worldwide rights it's always worth asking whether they actually sell worldwide because they might actually only sell within the united states. It's fairly rare these days for that to happen, but it does happen and it's worth asking because if they're willing to just carve out worldwide or two car about us are sorry, teo, limit it to us if that's where they're primarily selling again, it leaves that same piece of artwork available for for other territories. Yeah, that's right, the other questions in here? Yeah, I'm donovan illustrator and graphic signer um earlier in the day we talked about when we're talking about advertising illustrations were talking about a resource called workbook that was like the bible to find that type of artist is there? Ah, one of those types of things for like, I mean, you know, is there a particular resource that people should get involved, you know, put their work out and if they're interested in that sort of thing, um, not a particular publication per se surtax the trade show is is definitely a big one for licensing, but I find art directors are looking all over the internet a a lot at etc ah lot on blog's like printing pattern you probably heard along I haven't mentioned printing pattern print pattern is a fantastic blawg um she's also the woman marie who writes that block has also published several books I'm in the next one and I think that's about geometric patterns um and she writes about trends she literally she's in the uk, but she she goes out scouting and she also collects images from people out in the world and if you've got new licensing stuff you can even submit and she'll write about it it's a fantastic resource to see what other people are doing in the world of licensing it's a fantastic place if you have a new product or a new collection that you want to share to send her stuff and maybe she'll write about you she doesn't write about stuff that's already necessarily been licensed sometimes she writes about new collections that artists she likes are producing but it's a great resource. I'm so glad you brought that up because I had completely forgotten to mention printing pattern. If you google printing pattern, you'll find her block wei have a few more online if we want to get way have one coming from julie reed and julie says I'm wondering how you're able to license with in their instance they're working in fabric with cloud nine rex and an additional fabric company I've heard that if you sign a license with one fabric company it's sort of an industry rule that you aren't allowed to license with another is that a hard and fast rule or is that something that's changed? It is a hard and fast rule the other company notice I didn't name them uh my fabric would just be in their general collection without my name on it okay, so especially in quilting fabric I think I'm not really sure exactly how it works, but that was surprising to me, right? So I I know that now, but when I when I was, um I had worked with cloud nine and then my agents I way had been contacted by another fabric company and my agent was like, you basically it's this it's this sort of rule that if you work with one fabric company unless you're completely done with the other fabric company and you move away from them and you're not selling with them anymore unless you have their permission you don't you can't sign with another fabric company so that person is absolutely right and you can if your name's not attached to it. I think it's just my art mark might go on something that goes in a general collection um of that fabric company, that sort of generic fabric that they sell but it's not lisa condon's fabric my name is not on the salvage where it is with this company that I have exclusivity with so that's a great question and I'm glad you brought that up and have you talked about that how bold fabric is actually one the on ly or one of the very few where that's typically have acquired so generally speaking it's a really important point to remember when you're evaluating a licensing deal is is to make sure that uh your the exclusive terms are really just about the art application to the particular product rather than about about you being an exclusive artist to them for that whole product category does that make sense there like with fabric? It is the one sort of like exception to that general rule out there in the wider world of licensing you're definitely you're generally going to be ableto license you know this one image for iphone cases and still be ableto license other art for iphone cases to other kinds of companies great now we have another one coming here from church based studio now we know that every agreement is going to be different but what's a fair percentage to expect with the licensing agreement is there anything that people should be looking out for any numbers that jump out you know it definitely varies again I think that pricing and ethical guidelines gives some indication of what the general range arranged in here that we quote I can't remember kind of like broadly speaking it tends to be somewhere between three and ten percent I know that's a pretty wide range it is important to keep in mind that usually it's three to ten percent of the net that net wholesale so it's not it's not a percentage of the retail price and left there selling directly teo the customer to the consumer through their own website but if it's wholesale business yeah which is fifty percent so it sounds like a small percentage but if the product as well that three to ten percent can really add up over time other questions anything from you guys here anything else on line see well we had a question come up earlier about seeing maybe about a possible niche to fill in a particular area for licensing and creating art to fill that kind of looking at it and then creating art to fill the niche rather than just creating your art and trying to put it out there any ideas rather have that enterprising that's your goal if you really want a license is it smart to use a strategy like that? I think that it's interesting I think that if you are excited to do that by all means go for it don't count on it you know really panning out for you I think that licensing is for companies that do it and are familiar with it and have products that their licensing artwork for all the time then being a licensing artist is great trying to kind of create new markets or new opportunities for licensing might be a bit of a difficulty what's the saying road to hoe but by gosh, if you're if you're curious about that I don't I don't see why not explore it a little bit I love that kind of experimentation that's right that's about yeah, I know and I also want to say to that I explained in one of the segment that we did in session one that I I had approached licensing a bit differently than a lot of people do I do and apply something my work but with few exceptions the fabric company I just mentioned earlier who will remain nameless and you know, some other opportunities I've gotten from stuff that just happens to be in my portfolio I've never created collections of repeats, but I've never created sort of holiday collections or floral collections I didn't create one kitchen collection, but it didn't necessarily have any standalone artwork it was all repeat patterns. Um I haven't really I've experimented with approaching my work through collections um but for the most part, every licensing deal I've gotten has been commissioned s o where somebody a company like land of nod or the fabric company that wallpaper company has worked with me to create something specially for them and um and that, as I mentioned what is also another way to approach it if you have a company that you're really interested in working with, so always possible to let them know that you're interested where they respond or even read your email, we can't guarantee, but it's always worth a try and that's sort of one way to approach it too is just create work that you like creating, and it will either inspire a commission, a licensing commission or they may end up buying some of that artwork you've already created. They might change it around a little bit. They might ask you if they can change the colors, they might move things around if it's in layers, but no it's not, you know it's not always necessary to create collections if that kind of work, um, feels fun and exciting to you, and you want to learn skills in that area there classes you can take, and my agent even has a book that's called make art that sells and it's got tons of information about creating work to sell, um, in the licensing market. But, you know, there are other ways to approach it, and and I think what what you keep saying over and over and what we've been saying over and over and all of these segments is the important thing is to stay true to yourself to your values around making and selling your work to your aesthetic, to your approach to making your work course. You want to work hard and push yourself out of your comfort zone and trying things. But for the most part, you want to stay true to what's, meaningful to you and what's authentic to you. Um, and I really do agree that the artist that I know that are the most successful are the ones who who do that. And then opportunities come with me. Come to them. They're not trying to force themselves into a knee short into a market, that or into a way of working that wouldn't come naturally to them anyway.

Class Description

"This is an incredibly helpful class for anyone who feels intimidated by all the "giants" in the land of art, and wonders if it's really worth keeping trying to make money from their talent. Lisa breaks everything down into manageable steps, while not dumbing things down. Her manner is very approachable, so that you can imagine yourself doing what she does. Her generous spirit means too that she is sharing really useful stuff - not just some fluff, and keeping all the good ideas for herself!"
 - Janet and Craig Mathewson (CreativeLive Students)

An enthusiastic audience that appreciates your art is waiting for you. Join Lisa Congdon, illustrator, artist, and author of Art, Inc. for Become a Working Artist and learn everything you need to know to make a living as a fine or commercial artist.

In this class, you will find out exactly what it takes to break into the art world and reach new, diverse audiences. Lisa will show you how to:

  • Identify the characteristics that make your style unique
  • Map out the vision and goals that will drive your artistic career 
  • Navigate the fine art market and break in to it
  • Land and negotiate art licensing deals
  • Develop effective techniques for promoting your work
Every artist faces rejection and setbacks on the road to finding an appreciative and paying audience. Become a Working Artist will teach you how to navigate the inevitable disappointments and push through to build a vibrant, rewarding career in art.

Making money as an artist doesn’t have to be far-fetched dream, Lisa Congdon will show you how to make it a reality.  



I was very happy and inspired to be able to attend to this class! It helped me so much to understand which are my goals as an artist and what I need to make to make them happen. Lisa is amazing and I cannot be happier to have been part of this, thank you so much!! I am now more than inspired to create beautiful things and make the tasks I need to make to become the professional artist I aim to be. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful generosity and Creative Live for hosting and creating such a wonderful event!


This course was fantastic! The format was great and Lisa was extremely helpful, knowledgable, and engaging. I was so inspired and loved that she gave very real information and great advice. I came away with a great new plan for my business and a renewed excitement for growth. I would highly recommend this class!

Simply Stated Architecture, PC

Professionally, I am an architect, but I also dabble in some watercolors as well as wood and metal work. When I started my own architectural office, I found good resources for business information were scarce. Most of what I found applied to retail or service businesses that really did not apply to a creative professional. One of the best resources I have found has been my local art guild - The Yellow Breeches Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I found that the painters, jewelers, potters, fiber artists, and other artists faced much more similar issues to what I was dealing with than the contractors, store owners, financial planners, insurance salesmen, and other business people that I was finding in business groups and classes. Lisa Congdon's class is the first CreativeLive course that I've taken. I had signed up for the CL email recently and Lisa's class just caught my eye. I'm glad that I took the time to sit through the sessions. A few of the segments - such as that on illustration and licensing or fine art - really did not have any practical application to my own situation. But there were items of value in pretty much all of the segments that I could take away to adapt in my own business. For someone just starting off in a creative profession, I'd highly recommend Lisa's course as a roadmap of items to keep in mind and plan for in their business. But by no means should you consider this to be a "beginner only" course. I started my business four years ago and I really wish that I had found something like this course in those first months or first year. But even after four years, I found great value in this course. The information on setting goals, actionable tasks, and the final segment on managing your success were extremely valuable and gave me many items to work into my own business in the coming weeks and months.