Understand Illustration & Licensing


Become a Working Artist


Lesson Info

Understand Illustration & Licensing

The world of illustration and license saying this is a topic that's near and dear to my heart it is something that I fell into after had already started making our and um it was sort of on this path to being a fine artist or what I perceived to be the fine art world. I didn't necessarily have big gallery dreams, but I just wanted to make art and the only way that I had any clue to do that was to make original work, potentially reproductions and sell them and that's what I was doing a lot of in the beginning of my career, my a lot of what I was doing was having shows in small venues and then increasingly larger venues, and in about two thousand seven I was hanging out with my friend lorena simonovic, who has this who's an illustrator and also has this wonderful company called collage. She makes children's dick or modern children's decor, and she said she's from argentina and she said, lisa, you need an agent, I think you'd be a great illustrator it's a great way to make money you want t...

o be a full time artist, you might want to check this out, check this world out of illustration and I had sort of started to get some illustration jobs my first jobs with chronicle books who I've worked with now for years and have had many collaborations with another company called poquito, which is the los angeles beast, a company that has grown exponentially. When I first started working with them, they were just making wallets and prince and a few other small accessories using artists, artwork and I had a couple of small jobs. One front for the national poetry foundation. I illustrated the award winning a poem of the year from the poet laureate that year, and that was a really fun job but that's kind of how it started and that all those connections were made because people found me on the internet and had a little bit of fun with illustration in licensing, but I wanted to expand, and so my friend lorena recommended that I get an illustration agent, which even six years ago was a lot easier a process than it has become today. So I didn't end up signing with an agent and have been illustrating ever since, and it has become a big part of what I do. Equally important to me is to keep my personal practice in my fine art practice, but I also really love being an illustrator, and I also really love licensing my work so near and dear to me, um, again, just her reference back to this graphic were in the research. Um section here you're gonna get a lot of information just like in the last segment this time around being an illustrator if that's not something that you're familiar with, you might want to learn more about what it's all about and also but about art licensing and again the information you learn it can be used inform your goals and your actionable tasks. You may learn some things that you realize you need to do and add to your list next segment and I've also got an amazing special gas her name is betsy court is and she's a licensing expert eye I interviewed her for our ink, so you may have read that interview already and she's a wealth of information I think between the two of us we can probably answer a lot of your questions, so I'm looking forward to that. But first let's talk about illustration and the first thing I want to talk about is the distinction between illustration and licensing and fine art. So the first thing to know about illustration of licensing is that it's commercial that means you're creating work to go on something else usually something that's going to be sold a book, a magazine, a product and advertisement the difference between this kind of work and it's an important distinction and fine art which we discussed in segment three is that fine art is not commercial you may make an original piece of work that goes in a building and to a certain extent that's amore commercial form of fine art. But it's still fine art, they're still making original work to sell. That doesn't mean that illustrators and fine artist don't work in the same mediums or make work that falls into the same genres. If you look at the work of an illustrator or a fine artist, she might not even be able to tell the difference by looking at it. So it's illustration is really defined by its context, not by its medium. Okay, um, it also doesn't mean that artists and fine artists and illustrators don't promote their work in the same ways or like me, do a little bit of both, uh, doesn't mean that they don't use the same methods to promote and publicize their work. Um, just means that they're sold for different purposes. Okay, um so illustration. What is illustration again defined by its medium not by its medium but by its contact sorry, any art form even and abstracted art khun b illustration or be licensed. The difference is the artwork is used to illustrator decorate something again, a book, a magazine, a product, an advertisement. Okay, an illustration you typically work within our director or an editor who harder exceptions to this but for the most part you're working with an art director creative director editor who hires you to create something specific typically illustration and even licensing in some cases comes with art direction and this is ah whole different experience if you are used to making work based on your own ideas and inspiration your job is to make work for a client similar to a fine art commission but even more strictly so the other thing to know is that there are several illustration markets and this is great because you get to find your niche or knishes that suit you best so let's talk about those now all right they're five main illustration markets personal clients book illustration editorial illustration which we touched on briefly yesterday advertising illustration and greeting card novelty retail product illustration which I like to call surface design and that's typically where you get the overlap with licensing um sometimes uh illustrations that are commissioned for surfaces I end up being licensing contracts which are slightly different we can talk about that leader when betty comes up so personal clients typically personal clients do things like invitation illustrations and lettering block headers logos for small businesses that kind of thing you're doing work for an individual and not a big company in this case or even a small companies or maybe a small company or an individual okay, so your client isn't necessarily corporate but it's still illustration if you've done fine art commissions and you like working with personal clients, this might be a good path it's also a great way to build your illustration portfolio because you can work with individuals and friends and, um on sort of smaller projects um if you enjoy making things that are sort of festive or you enjoy doing logo design if you're a graphic designer or an illustrator who likes doing identity design or design elements for other people wedding announcements, birth announcements block headers, that kind of thing this could be a great niche for you. So if you're interested in getting personal clients, I recommend just either advertising or advertising yourself through social media and your blood that's what you d'oh and you might wantto put examples of course in your portfolio you need to fill your portfolio with the kind of work you want to get that you're interested in an illustration that's really important and that's how you get the work is that somebody finds that you are doing the kind of work that fits in a certain market and again even if you haven't been hired to do a job and you're really interested in being an editorial illustrator make a set of maps maps are really popular things in editorial market or make some illustrate some some make some editorial like illustrations or illustrations that narrate something um we'll get more to that a second book illustration so this includes book interiors, typically that others right it's always possible to write and illustrate your own book in the children's market. That's very common that the same person writes and illustrates a book. Also justice common for somebody to write a children's book and for somebody else illustrated also includes book covers. Sometimes illustrations are the focus of the entire book on dh. Sometimes they're just spot illustrations, so a good example of a book where the illustrations would be the focus would be a children's book, because children's book are always until you get to sort of middle readers are always the focus there more illustrate their more illustrations and pictures than there are writing adult books in some cases that's, the case or illustrations. Are there a lot of spot illustrations, like in a cookbook? So it depends and spot illustrations are those sort of illustrations that you see there are a lot of them in my book party, which I did not illustrate was illustrated by caroline. Sure he's, a british illustrator, and you'll notice that you go through my book there, you know there's not a lot of illustrations, but then every now and again, you hit a page where, like on this page there's a little spot illustration. Um, in the chapter about social media that has to do with social media, and no matter what kind of illustration you're doing, you're always going to get art direction from the person that hires you about what those spot should be and look like. Book illustration requires patients can anyone guess why? Rachel, I see you picking up the microphone. Um, usually the book takes a while to come out publicly. Yeah, so there's a few reasons, and that is a big one, so books often take a long time to write, and you sometimes are hired to illustrate something that isn't even finished yet, right? So there's this whole process, the publishing process takes a long time. Once the book is finished and your illustrations are inserted into it, which sometimes is like the eleventh step out of twelve, it happens at the end. Sometimes you go through the whole process with the author, but for the most part it happens at the end, and then the book goes to print, and a lot of printing happens overseas, and so the printing process takes a long time. Publishers often have very sort of long publication schedules, so you're waiting for the book to be published you're waiting for the book to print and come back on the ship from china or wherever it was printed. So be patient there's not this immediate satisfaction I was actually talking to susie garamendi, who is a fantastic illustrator who illustrated for art in cannes. She had just finished illustrating this children's book when I interviewed her and we were laughing that she had kind of for gotten about the book because it was like nine months later are a year later, something after she had finished illustrating it that it came out and a lot of times with illustration jobs there's a lag time but it's not a year and you can't sometimes the publisher doesn't want to talk about it until it comes out and stuff, so we're requires a lot of patients, but book illustration can also be really satisfying and fun if you love books and you love print matter and you love illustrating other people's ideas and stories. So if you're interested and getting into book illustration, I highly recommend going onto the web sites of publishers who you admire and the way to find the list of publishers you admire is by looking in your local bookstore for books that you think are beautiful or interesting on this is the same for licensing and we'll talk about this you know, look for products that that resonate for you and feel like your style would fit in and then you see if those publishers have any submission guidelines and you can submit your work I think we talked about that a little bit yesterday at similar to a gallery you're contacting your sending samples of your work if they have specifications about how they'd like your torque submitted, they'll let you know. And then oftentimes when you submit to a book publisher like I know chronicle looks that chronicle books who's my main publisher, they look att every submission of artwork or book proposal that comes in, but sometimes it doesn't happen right away, so you might submit and then not hear anything for a long time. But that doesn't mean that they haven't put you on their list of people they're interested in or that they won't eventually look, so be patient. Editorial illustration, magazines, newspapers and blog's you've ever dreamed of seeing your art in the new york times or the washington post, the new york er, which is creme de la creme all actually, all three of those illustration our editorial astray shin is it is an exciting market, and it requires both critical thinking, and that is because often times you're illustrating somebody else's, essay or story and thie art director might give you a few ideas, but often editorial illustrators are hired to come up with the idea for the illustration. A lot of times an illustration in any of the markets they might say we want you to draw a picture in your style or paint a picture in your style of a man in a red suit wearing uh I'm sorry writing a red bicycle that's pretty concrete art direction that happens sometimes they tell you what they want you to do and it's sometimes very simple but sometimes an illustration most often in book illustration that editorial illustration they'll say here's the story read it and send us five ideas or sketches about how you would illustrate the story and please make sure it's not literal you know um they want to peak the reader's interest through some amazing visual representation without giving away the story so they want you to concept as well. So editorial illustration often requires critical thinking reading a story thinking outside the box concept ng I'm working on an editorial job right now that I have to finish tomorrow um where I have to draw something that can be interpreted in a variety of ways and I still haven't figured out but it's kind of fun it often unlike book illustration where sometimes you have a lot of time to work on something requires a quick turnaround and that's because newspapers come out when every day uh magazines not as often but even though sometimes you're getting last minute request for things so um a few months ago, I was really excited because I got my first email from the washington post, I had never done an editorial illustration for that big of a publication before, and I was so excited, however, I was speaking at a conference in southern california, away from my art supplies away from my scanner, and I was going to be there for two more days, and the illustration was due in three days, and I had to say, so I want to work on it all night, the night I get home or don't want to say no, because I don't have time. It was really quick turnaround, even if I was at home, that would have felt like quick turnaround to me. You think you can do something all night, and sometimes they need something the next day, but really concept ing and going back and forth with an art director takes at least two days, and I decided to turn down the job because I was not gonna be home, and I didn't want to stress myself out, but again, quick turnaround. So you have to be available when they need you. Um, find potential clients by going to the mastheads and websites of your favorite publications, finding out who the art director is or the senior designers seeing that they have submission guidelines, were just emailing them, calling the publication in finding out who to send your portfolio to I also recommend, no matter what genre or market of illustration you're interested in that you begin, um making work that might fit into that genre even if it's protect put I'm calling pretend work if you're interested in book illustration or book cover illustration will make pretend covers for some books in the public domain that you, um you know that that you think might be fun or, um, make some if you're interested in the children's market and making we'll talk about that soon. But this sort of novelty illustration make a pretend set of children's products with your designs on them it's also helpful when you're getting into interested in getting into licensing advertising illustration typically advertising illustration you working with large companies or marketing firms hired by corporate clients? Sometimes the corporate client has an in house advertising or marketing um office um, so sometimes you work directly with that company but often it's an outside marketing firm um advertising illustration because advertising budgets and big companies are large often pays well or better than um uh book published languages sadly one that often doesn't pay quite as well it can and it can feel prestigious tohave these clients in your portfolio but unlike a think unlike books and some other products, your name doesn't always appear on you know, nobody would know that that beautiful illustration on that billboard is yours unless you told them because your name is not going to be it's not like it's his artwork by you know lisa calling general so you have to be okay with that you may have less input than in other markets oftentimes, um, you know, campaigns are fully concept id by the time they bring you in. So it's really different than editorial illustration where you're really being asked to be involved in the process oftentimes they want you to access execute an idea that's already been concept id and they'll give you very specific art direction and then finally, um there's this book that used to be the way that most art directors found illustrators and graphic designers who did illustration it's called the workbook you've seen it before, you know it's like this thick and it's very expensive to take out an advertisement, especially a full page advertisement, but it is still how many art directors who worked for marketing big marketing firms or you know, our on our folks or art directors who work for big print publications or even publishers find illustrators more often than not. Now the art directors and editors use the internet, but they still often use the workbook and so sometimes it's beneficial to take an ad out there if you're interested in being an illustrator, you can also send promotional put postcards to our buyers and, um, larger advertising agencies, too, if you're interested in getting into advertising illustration. Ok, last but not least, and I'm not gonna spend a ton of time on this because there's a lot of overlap here with our licensing, but if you enjoy less conceptual and more decorative illustration work and you dream of having your artwork on journals and wallpaper and greeting cards and, um, pillows this kind of surface design and might be for you, those air typical products some illustrator spend their entire careers creating surface and pattern designs to adorn apparel and fabric. They make the majority of their living doing licensing work, but that's rare? Um, you really have to devote a lot of time and work very hard over a number of years to build your portfolio, to make her entire living from licensing your designs, even if they're commissioned. So it's good to also supplement with other illustration markets, and most often, if you're an illustrator, you don't just work in one market you work in several markets you're often paid in licensing royalties will warn that shortly, sometimes you get a flat fee, but more often you you want to royalty because if the product does really well, you make a percentage of the sales and if you are serious about breaking into this market, we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but you can exhibit it prints source or sir tex, which are trade shows, surface designed trade shows where folks who are in the market to buy prince and artwork that will adorn things or decorate things or go on products rome the floors of those trade shows looking teo license work um, and we had talked teo gabby yesterday about, um, how she had a booth at one of them, so that is one way another way is to check the website of companies that you're interested in working with for contact information to submit your work and also continually fill your portfolio with good stuff. Alright, I recommend keeping an inspiration board if you are drawn to one particular kind of illustration find illustrations in that niche that speak to you keepin inspiration board, you can also do this on pinterest online. Make a list of dream projects and clients we sort of started doing that yesterday I didn't really talk about the dream clients, but keep keep a list of things that, um, that you feel inspired to do and people and companies that you would feel inspired to work for and with a make and I mentioned this a minute ago make pretend work in different categories based on your dream jobs the more work you make, the more work you get um and even if that means you're making work that you haven't been hired by somebody else to do your making work for your portfolio to show what you're capable of and what you're interested in and what your style is because of an art director comes to your website falls on your web site and they see you have a robust portfolio they may or may not care whether it's attached to a client they just want to see that you make the kind of work that they're interested in using on their product or in their book or on their advertisement. Okay, all right, so you get an illustration job, somebody contacts you, you're gonna get a brief it's not always called a brief, but they're basically going to tell you what they want to hire you to dio and you always want to ask a lot of questions because, um you're going to be executing work for somebody else. They probably have something in mind already that they'd like you to dio and you want to make sure that you get is close to that thing as quickly as possible so that you're not wasting a lot of your time and that requires asking a lot of questions upfront to even know if you are able to take the job at all, do you? What is the deadline what kind of work are you interested in having me make now they may have already answered these questions in the brief some briefs are very thorough some are not so asked these questions how big does it I mean what are the dimensions you need this to be in vector for example if they assume that you work an illustrator and you don't need to find that out before rather than later because sometimes our directors will require that work is delivered in a certain format and you got to make sure you can do that how quickly do they want you know what the deadline's how many rounds of changes do they expect that kind of thing you're also going to get into negotiating fees and and a contract if you have an agent your agent does this for you but if you don't have an agent and I've written about it in our kink and I also uh highly recommend this book if you are going to get into any kind of commercial illustration or licensing it's called the graphic artist guild handbook pricing an ethical guidelines and it comes out a fresh copy every couple of years and it's your go to guide for fees, contracts and billing so their sample illustration in licensing contracts they're our sample examples of what you should charge for certain kinds of jobs there are, um examples of invoices for building and things like that so again, a great resource. We're not going to go into pricing today, but I highly recommend that guide, and betsy and I can also answer some of your questions when it comes to licensing contracts as well. Okay, you got the assignment, you've got all the information you need. You've said yes to it, you've negotiated the fi, you know how much you're gonna be paid, you know, much time you have, you know, pretty much what they're looking for. You two d'oh, you're going to get, um, another brief that's even more detailed usually than the email that you got where you accepted the job and hopefully there weren't too many more surprises, innit? And you can expect several rounds of changes, so making those changes is sometimes going to hurt because you may be so attached to the drawing or painting that you made for them based on their art direction. And you may think it is the best thing since sliced bread, the thing you've most proud of in your entire career and they may say, you know, this isn't exactly what we had in mind. We'd like you to make these changes and that's often gonna hurt now, hopefully this all happens in the rough phase, which we'll talk about in a second. But it's part of being an illustrator and its it's also part of in some cases licensing your work when you get commissioned licensing jobs where they ask you to create something special, it is your job to please the client. This is commercial work you may be very attached to what you d'oh, but ultimately your job is to do the work that the art director hires you to do once you've accepted it and your inclination maybe to fight them and at some point down the road if you've been through too many rounds of changes you may need teo, but your job is really to execute the assignment and give the client what they wanted. I would say say yes more than you say no, so make sure you understand this simon clearly wants you execute it, you're going to be sometimes they love what you turn in in the first round and there's no changes but that's pretty rare even for the most accomplished illustrators and usually it's not about the quality of your work it's about something in the illustration that needs to change or be adjusted. So again separating the professional from the personal because there's a lot of feedback that happens in the illustration market that doesn't happen in other art markets, so as I mentioned in the world of illustration, we have these things called russ and this is they're really sketches and most of the time they're in pencil or pen and they're pretty simple this is one I did for a book I illustrated where had to illustrate some maps and obviously not to scale maps. This is a map I did a cinema county everything starts with a rough for a sketch you want to make sure that your rough for your sketches approved before you move on to final artwork? The idea is that you're getting as close to the final illustration without detail, color permanence especially if you're somebody's working by hand. This is really important cause you don't want to get through all of the struggle of painting something just tohave to change it so you want to make sure you get us close to the final and that your final gets closer is close to the final in your rough or your sketch is possible usually, as I said, there's two to three rounds of changes, sometimes fewer if you get lucky. Then once that final sketches approved, you move to the final artwork and you can see how similar they are except this one is inked line work colored who happen to be just a one color book, so not a ton of color and occasionally you have to make changes after final, but hopefully they're really minimal and it's that that's especially important if you worked by hand we're making digital changes can be sometimes a little bit more challenging, so make sure you meet a deadline if you can't when's the best time to ask for an extension before it's dio way okay, don't wait till the day of all right, I'm gonna move on to licensing, but I want to answer any questions about illustration in that sort of quick and dirty overview that I gave you that I may not have addressed. Well, I was talking questions in the room. Rachel, um, this might be kind of a difficult question to answer, but I was wondering how, if you've ever encountered the issue, where a client takes a while to respond and how you deal with that? Yes, um, sometimes you're gonna work with clients who and art directors who are so prompt on email that, um, that it's it's, almost unbelievable, like you feel like they're only working with you like there, but sometimes the opposite is true and no more often than not it's because they're really busy working on a lot of different jobs, and you are just one out of twenty five illustrators or graphic designers that there that they're working with, um and it's tricky, so the way that it matters the most is when you need enough time for their feedback to integrated in order to meet a deadline or you have another job that's due and you need to make sure you finish this one in a timely manner so you can finish that other one too, and I think the best way to handle that is politely and professionally writing to them when you've given it an ample time and they still haven't responded to a question you have or haven't given you the feedback you need to finish something and you feel like it's getting down to the wire um is to write them an email and say any chance you could answer my question or get me this feedback by x I um I know it's going to take me at least two days to finish this illustration once I get your feedback and I know that it's due on this date and I want to make sure that I have enough time to finish it or I've also and hopefully you've mentioned this to them. I've also accepted another illustration dub that I'm working on simultaneously it's also doing the same day, and I want to make sure that I have enough time for both. Can you get me this feedback? Um any chance you could get me this feedback and ultimately there are times when you don't get enough time and you either ask for an extension or you just do your best, but yes, it happens and um and usually when you push the person and ask again they'll get you what you need sometimes people just need some probably they literally have forgot about you and it's not intentional it's just that they're busy, so I hope that helps any other questions. We have some online that are coming in here one from area illustration in a couple of other people voted on this one just outta curiosity, they want to know why you didn't do the illustrations in your book. Is that that's a great question? Just carry on, okay there's two reasons first of all, writing this book alone, the words took over my life for about nine months and that was really where I was putting all of my time and energy. Also our ink is part of a siri's and there are four other books in the siri's and they all have this very similar look and feel the illustrations they're all done by different illustrators, but they're all vector illustrations, so they're all sort of computer generated they all very clean lines, they all have a similar look and feel this is very different than my illustration style, which is a little bit more hand drawn look king on dh they wanted to make sure that the illustrations fit in with the look and feel of the whole siri's the ink serious there's crafting er mom, ink blogging, creative ink and so and all the same size and the same sort of rounded corners. So part of it was that and I, quite frankly, at the point at which I would have started the illustrations for this book, I was really kind of burned out and fried from all the energy that I put into writing it. So we hired somebody else, and I'm really please with illustrations, and it was actually kind of fun toe for me to work with my editors, to give our direction to an illustrator, something I'd never done before. I was usually on the other end of it. So okay, we have five users submitting this question about what do you want to know? A little bit more about stock illustration. Do you know of illustrators that find success and creating illustrations for istock getty? Any best practices for that again? I think that, um, there are probably illustrators and photographers and graphic designers out there who a small percentage make a good portion of their income doing stock imagery, but I hazard to guess that they are very if they existed, all there are small percentage. Most of the time when you are in this field, you have to do lots of different things to make a full time living, and so you might create stock imagery as one way to generate some income around your artwork. But you're also going to need toe license, some of it. You're also going to need to do some illustration work. You're also probably going to need to sell your work in an online shop at some point in your career. You maybe so successful that you can you decide you can just focus on one thing, the thing that's, your favorite or the thing that's making you the most money or the thing that leaves you the most flexibility in your schedule, or whatever is a priority for you. But when you're starting out, it's important to diversify and do lots of different things so well, I think that's, maybe one income stream that could work for some people who make more generic illustrations. I wouldn't bank on it as the thing that you do.

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.