Sean Kane: Fun Designs from Bikes to Teapots


A designer recently told me, "I don't try to keep up with trends, I just create designs that I have an emotional response to."

That's exactly what happened to me when I saw Sean Kane's bicycle surface design pattern. I had an emotional response. A smile spread across my face and then I thought: "Bicycles never get their due attention on stationery products." I knew that all the bicycle lovers in my life would be eager to see this type of design in stores.

When I accidentally ran across his bike design, I then went directly to his website. Not only did he have more bike images, but he even had a decorated helmet. I realized then, how powerful one image can be, and if artists just choose one piece of their art that gives people an emotional response, they can post it anywhere, and people will be drawn go to their website to look for more.

Seeing Sean's art also made me want to learn more about him as an artist, and he was kind enough to let me ask him some questions. The images represented here are from his Reverie Line. His other lines can be found on his website.


Podcast: TED Talks
Blog: For the art of marketing & business, Seth Godin's blog.
Twitterer: DesignObserver
Design book: Currently "Light of India: A Conflagration of Indian Matchbox Art"
Artist: Tony Fitzpatrick
Company you wish you could work with: SWATCH
Fantasy Art Vacation Location: Istanbul

-How did you get to where you are today?
I've been an illustrator for 16 years, handling a range of commissioned projects for clients while exploring various creative and entrepreneurial urges along the way. Over the past few years my sketchbooks, personal work, and interests were telling a different visual story than my commercial work, so I began to embrace the more decorative direction that was bubbling up. Now, my focus is on creating personally-driven designs with product licensing uses in mind. It's a blast and the latest body of work has been well received, which is gratifying.

-In your art life, what inspires you?
Traveling and experiencing new cultures, even ones close to home (plus looking at books about worlds new to me) is a big inspiration. From seeing unknown landscapes and grocery items to street signage and traditional clothing, there is child-like excitement with these discoveries. Any time I go for a good walk I usually pick up or see something that captures my attention.

-What is a major message you want to communicate with your designs?
If my designs convey an overall positive, playful feeling, are "embraceable" and perhaps a little unexpected, I'm quite pleased.

-What was the best experience you've had marketing your designs?
Not counting successes I've had with commercial illustration, licensing my designs for a line of winter holiday gift tins and ornament for a Canadian chocolate company has been the best experience. I did my research, made an unsolicited pitch to the company, and they ended up choosing not one but two of my designs. It was great knowing that my work was part of holiday gift giving for thousands of people and a treat having tasty samples to send to those on my own gift list. The dozens of tins of chocolate in my studio smelled so good, but were a bit distracting!

-What was the worst experience you've had marketing your designs?
Probably seeking a licensing agent before being ready for one would rank as the worst, least productive experience. I'm sure there'll be other not so good moves down the road, but trying and failing can be a good way to learn!

-What's a tip you can offer other artists on how to avoid wasting time or money when marketing their designs?
I might suggest, when presenting designs to prospective manufacturers and designers, to include mock ups of how the designs could look on that company's products. Without such a visualization, the company may not see the full potential of the designs for their products, so make it easy for the busy designers and the non-creative decision makers involved in the selection process. This should help make the most of the time and money invested when marketing designs.

-If money were no object, what is the next step you'd take to live your artistic dreams?
A three month live/work period in another culture; a time and place where I could get a good grasp of the everyday art & design taking place there, where I could meet local artists/designers and connect on a project, and where I could work like mad with a whole host of new influences, all of which resulting in a body of work fit for publishing and exhibiting.

SEAN'S STUDIO photos of his workspace
QUESTIONS about illustration or licensing? You can email Sean at

MORE ART by Sean:

Great Info on How to License your Art

Information on this website is priceless. It's one of the first sites I read when I first started out in licensing and it gave me just as much information as books I'd read on the subject. Check it out. It has about 10 different topics (see below) all about licensing art. The site has white text on the dark patterned background, and it might be hard for some to read--but it's well worth the time and effort.

Here is just a sample from one of his articles, Ten Secrets to Success in Art Licensing

Secret #1 - The Winning Format

By survey, the most acceptable format for artwork is a ratio of 3:4 in overall rectangular dimensions. That means working on a flat surface (canvas, board, paper) that is 9" x 12" or 18" x 24" or some other multiple of the basic 3:4 ratio.

Yes, collector plates are round and there are lots of tall, skinny prints on the market. But most round uses of art (plates, coasters, and the like) are cropped out of square or rectangular pieces of art. And for every set of tall, skinny prints there are 50 sets of prints in standard dimensions. Remember that if you paint it round or in some specialized shape, you're limiting the uses of the art and also limiting the possibility of licensing your art.

Paint it in standard format and it can cropped for specific uses. Paint in the round or in odd shapes and there's no way it can be expanded by the licensee to fit other uses. You can pretty much assume that using a standard 3:4 ratio will increase your chances of licensing art by a factor of 10.

Secret #2 - Keep It Flat

You may like to sculpt or to create mixed-media three-dimensional pieces of art but if you do so, don't expect them to be licensable. The vast majority of businesses that make their living by selling products with appealing art want two-dimensional images. That means oil, acrylic, gouache or watercolor on canvas, paper or board, and increasingly it means digital art as well.

Secret #3 - Keep It In Color

I'm regularly approached by artists who have created superb pen and ink or pencil drawings. While these may have been popular back in the days of fine art prints and etchings a hundred years ago, they are almost impossible to license nowadays. People want color, the more the better. They want density of color, good color saturation, pleasing color, rich color. Not black and white, no matter what your art instructor may have told you.

Secret #4 - Paint to the Edges

Yes, there are a ton of specialized uses for free-floating art that have no backgrounds. These include heat transfers for T-shirts and clothing, stickers, mugs, decorative borders on dinnerware, even jigsaw puzzles, but stand-alone images with no backgrounds are definitely in the minority and such design work is often handled by in-house design teams or by hired design studios.

What can be most appealing about a piece of art is its overall composition, how everything fits together into a compelling artistic statement. You may be the world's best painter of dogs but if you paint them without backgrounds, you're seriously limiting the potential uses of your art.

Some good examples of the use of overall design are obvious: Thomas Kinkade, who specializes in creating a mood all the way to the edges of an image, and Mary Engelbreit, who creates each piece of art as a total design unit. Each artist is fantastically successful, and one of the most basic reasons for their success is their ability to design an overall and complete setting for the focus of their art. So remember, plan out your composition and take it all the way out to the edges of that 3:4 rectangle.

....Article continued... Ten Secrets to Success in Art Licensing


How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes Artists Make when Licensing Their Art

How to License Your Art and Protect Your Rights at the Same Time

Who Pays What and to Whom?

How an Artist can Avoid Disaster in Today's Print Market

Hot Words to Look For in Licensing Agreements - and What to Do About Them

A Simple Beginner's Guide: How You Can Use the Internet to Promote Your Art

Crossover Companies: The New Phenomenon in Art Licensing

The Runaway License

The Future of Art Licensing in a Changing Market

Porterfield's Fine Art Licensing

4 Tips on Organizing Graphic Design Files

Found this article from Outlaw Design blog:

I think it is safe to say that every designer out there has a huge amount of files on their computer. It just comes with the territory. From stock files to client files, our computers are over run with files both big and small. Not having some sort of organized system in place can quickly lead to lost files, headaches, and even the occasional accidental delete. While every one has their own method of doing this, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and practices on organizing graphic design files.

The methods below are documents from a Mac perspective. That said, many of the below methods can still be applied in Windows. To do some of these things in Windows however, you may need to download some additional applications.

I would also appreciate it if you shared how your organized your designs files. If you have a organization method that has proved to be exceptionally useful, tell us about it in the comments section below.

Read the rest of this article ..........

Designer makes great art from my Stamps

Roberta of the blog Creative Unblock made some great cards out of my rubber stamps!

Here's a sample. To see more go to her blog.

How to buy my stamps.

Great Images from Italian Publisher & Artist

I ran across a great book publisher and artist from Italy who does a series of books on patterns and surface design described as "Visual Research for Artists."

I have two books and absolutely love them. Junior Pop Textures: 200 Modular Patterns and Character Styling, and they come with CD's and image use is free.

These books have wonderful color and pattern inspiration, and I must admit, the cats on the cover of Junior Pop is what grabbed my attention and made me want to explore them.

They are all done by Vincenzo Sguera, who has an extensive art background in product design: He was the Architecture Faculty of Florence, Creative Director, and developed product lines with characters such as Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Simpsons, Product Managing Director for the Italian firm in school products, Cartiere Pigna, independent consultation with several firms in product, design and marketing.

Each book deals with a single theme, and his Arkivia Project is planned for 3 main lines: Thematic textures, Graphics or symbols on a single theme, and Styling books dedicated to new and original characters free and ready for use.

I had the privilege of reaching the author and designer and asked him to do a short interview. What inspires me the most about him, is he wants to help and support other artists.


-How did you decide to make these books?
I love books of images, every year my main investment is in these, and after learning so much from others I want to add my contribution, too. I believe that creativity is a shared knowledge.

-Where do you get your artistic ideas from?
By not setting limits to the fountains of inspiration since everything can lead to a creative idea. Research is essential, further than the strictly necessary, when you love discovering the work of others, especially if different from your own.

-What is your training and background?
I have multifaceted experience in the artistic field and an idea in one sector can be new lymph for another sector. Test yourself to your limit and risk every time with something new: these concepts were my teachers.

-Do you sell your artwork in galleries or to stores?
Only in the early '70s when I painted as an artist.

-What advice would you give to new surface designers if they want to sell their designs?
Any texture or graphic design should not be seen as a picture to be hung on a wall but as a product to be worn or used. Conceiving products with their own decorum leads to developing designs that are better appreciated by the market and publishing clients.

-Where can these books be purchased? They aren't available most places I've looked. How would I purchase them in the U.S.?

I do not cover the whole of the U.S. For the moment I have 3 distributors in New York and 1 in Nevada.

OPR 252 West 38th Street - 4th Floor New York, NY 10018


MAGAZINE CAFE 15C West 37th Street NY NY 10018

DIAMOND PUBBLICATIONS 1450 W. Horizon Ridge Pkwy Suite B-304 Henderson NV 89012

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