Advice on how to have an Illustration Career

I ran across this website by lettering artist Nate Williams who had some great advice marketing your art, brainstorming and creating your own artistic and recognizable brand. He has done his homework.

Here's an excerpt:Nate Williams Art and Illustration
The first step to a successful illustration career is to find your voice – a unique consistent style. A lot of artists have trouble committing to one style at first because it kind of goes against an artist’s nature of exploring and not limiting their expression, but as an illustrator, art directors hire you because they want to give a project a specific tone, feeling and they need to be able to count on your work being a certain way for their project, campaign, etc. Imagine if you bought a Metallica CD and it was full of acoustic Bolivian folk music .. you would be kind of confused??? Art directors usually don’t want to play style roulette.Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t do other styles.. it just means when you present them to art directors have consistency between the body of work. A number of illustrators, writers, and musicians work under various names for this particular reason. For example, my alter ego is Alexander Blue. This is a wackier, colorful style I do.Here is a really good book to read regarding this subject:

see more on his website...

And here are some insightful Q&A on illustration careers answered by different designers.

New Book on Being an Art Director

I just ran across this new book announcement Art Direction Explained, At Last.

I always wondered how an art director learns to be one, and these are the people you are most likely going to encounter when licensing your art to companies. It's release date is September 9, 2009.

Here's the description:

This book is a highly informative, highly entertaining introduction to what art direction is and what art directors do. Co-written by one of the world's leading art directors, it covers the role of art director in numerous environments, including magazines and newspapers, advertising, corporate identity, museums and publishing. It also provides an insight into what makes a successful art director, what an art director actually does all day, what makes things go right, and what makes things go wrong. Alongside perspectives on typography, illustration and photography, there are case studies of successful art direction in different spheres, from McSweeney's to the Vier5 website. The authors have also invited preeminent international art directors to discuss their roles in special sections of the book which they have art directed themselves. The result is an impressive, enlightening and often very funny diversity of perspectives and approaches. Clearly written, including a glossary of handy art director sayings, an 'art director test' and more, "Art Direction Explained" will provide students with insights into the world of art direction and professionals with a bible to the profession.

Getting Started in Art Licensing

Copyright 2010 © Kate Harper

Because I get so many emails from artists who want to learn how to sell their designs to card publishers, I wrote this article. While every artist has a completely different story about how they got into this career, I can only conclude there is no one "right way" to do it. I can only share my experiences and make recommendations of what to do if I did it all over again. This is an excerpt from my 40 page Kindle ebook "20 Steps to Art Licensing".

~ Getting Started in Art Licensing ~

Take an art licensing class. You can check out Joan Beiriger's Blog on a list of Licensing Teachers. Bring your art to the class for feedback. If you are serious about this career, then fly to wherever the teacher is for a workshop and make it into a vacation.

Read the following Books: Licensing Art 101, Third Edition: Publishing and Licensing Your Artwork for Profit and Licensing Art and Design: A Professional's Guide to Licensing and Royalty Agreements

Learn Photoshop. Take a class at a local adult school or community college.

-Jane Mayday Getting Started in Art Licensing
-Maria Brophy How to License Your Art
-Deb Trotter How Blogging Led me to Art Licensing
-BJ Lantz Talks About Art Licensing
-Becky Schultea When Religious Faith Meets Licensing
-Art Licensing: Can You Make a Living at It?
-Joan Beiriger How to License Art to Manufacturers
-Feeling isolated? Watch these videos of artists telling their "Art Licensing Stories."
-Sign up to listen to live interviews with licensing artists, or listen to archives at Tara Reed's site which has a wealth of free information.

Subscribe to or familiarize yourself with gift trade magazines. Review what product "collections" look like.

Subscribe to Joan Beiriger's Art Licensing Blog and read how-to technical skills for artists. Also check out Art Licensing Blog, and Maria Brophy's blog on the licensing industry.

Sign up for the following news groups, and spend at least a day reading all the discussions and news: Yahoo Art of Licensing and Linkedin Art of Licensing

Spend 3-6 months compiling your own art style and collections.

Visit Surtex show in New York as a guest. If you can't go there, try to visit another show in the gift industry. Take notes and collect names of companies and agents.

Take classes at the tradeshows. The two best shows for classes are the Surtex show conference program and Licensing Show conference program. Many of the licensing consultants attend these and you can make appointments with them to evaluate your work.

Make 6-12 tear sheets of your collections.
A tear sheet is an 8 1/2 x 11 printout of samples of your work. For example, one sheet might be a series of Christmas designs made into products such as magnets, coasters or greeting cards. Another sheet might be spring tabletop items such as paper plates, napkins and paper cups. Here are some examples of a variety of kinds of tearsheets by other artists. Try to show your art on an actual product.

Joan Beiriger's Blog
Aurora Fox Design
Heaven and Earthworks
Behtek Designs
Stanley Furniture
Douglas Truth

Getting an attorney is the most important thing you can do when you start licensing art. You need someone who does artist contracts. I currently work with MJ Bogatin in Oakland, CA. I've worked with him for 20 years and now we do almost everything by email, which saves me time.

Also don't let the fear of having your artwork stolen stop you from showing it. Read Joan's article on "Don't Be a Legend in Your Own Mind."

Get a website and post your art with contact information. I recommend godaddy because they are cheap and they always answer the phone when you need help. Here are some tips on how to make a good art licensing site.

Once you've finished your collections, or while you are doing them, consult with a licensing expert for professional advice. Either hire a licensing Coach or offer to pay an Agent for a consultation session. Ask them what you should drop and what you should expand. Try to get as many opinions as possible. Always remember, no matter what anyone says, keep the designs that you would buy if you walked into a store today and saw them on a shelf.

Decide if you want to work with an agent. If so, do reseach on the subject and collect their names. Read "Questions to ask before Choosing an Agent" and "Do I need an artist's agent?" You can also refer to Joan's list of agents in the U.S. and in other Countries.

If you don't plan on working with an agent, make a plan to spend half your time doing research. Do the footwork, go to each company website and see if it's the right fit for you.
-Go to the Art Licensing Directory Project and get free access to company submission guidelines.
-Read guidelines for card company submissions.
-Find out what companies already do licensing.
-Research other resources explore which companies match your style.

Visit local stores and find products that your art style fits with. Find the label on the product and see who manufacturers it. Get that company's contact info and find out if they do art licensing. Look at aprons, tableware, shower curtains, potholders, greeting cards, magnets, stamps, bedding, paper plates, giftbags, rugs and coasters.

Submit your designs to companies. If they don't accept digital submissions by email, here are some things you might send them, but always check their submission guidelines.

If you get rejected by a company, that is normal process. Don't fret. Try to contact about 50-100 companies and develop a new design mailing list. Send new stuff out once a month. Also see Joan Beiriger's post on 6 steps to write a query letter to a manufacturer.

Articles on submitting to specific industries:
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Scrapbook Companies
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Tabletop Companies
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Quilting Companies
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Jigsaw Puzzle Companies
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Flag Companies
-Joan Beiriger's Blog Licensing to Greeting Card Companies

Learn how to write your own press releases and become familiar with the ways artists market their work online.

Most Important: Get a planning buddy if you really want to accomplish all these goals. Also consider starting an art licensing support group.

Kate's Design Booklets on Amazon

You can support this blog by ordering e-Booklets that are a compilation of different articles on this blog starting at only .99 cents! They can be read on your kindle, ipad, ipod, cellphone, or your computer. Free samples and lending options available.


If you already make your own greeting cards, Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores is a book that explains how to get them into stores and sell them sell nationwide. Included are guidelines on: how to price your cards for a profit, how to get professional feedback, where to find a sales representative and and what industry standards you should follow. All the information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc.


Booklet on Unusual Ways To Market Greeting Cards, and 22 places to get your designs featured. A 20 page booklet on how to get your cards noticed in non-traditional ways. Everything from why you should send cards to your dentist, to how to get special features in national publications. Great tips for designers who are starting out and want to get their cards into the hands of people beyond friends and family. Special Section: Submissions guidelines and contacts for 22 Gift Industry publications and professional gift industry blogs that seek out new greeting card designs to feature for free. (5,000 Words and 17 greeting card images included)


Booklet on 7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers Make A list of 7 things to avoid when submitting greeting card verse to publishers.

Includes a list of card publishers and their guidelines, links to writer interviews, articles, card samples and other current resources. 20-page booklet and 2,300 words and 8 Pages of Card Samples.


Booklet on 20 Steps to Art Licensing that is a list of suggested steps to to take for getting into art licensing. How to license your art to companies that publish greeting cards, and manufacture coffee mugs, magnets, wall hangings, kitchen items, and dozens of other gift items. This booklet covers 20 basic steps from how to prepare your art, to what companies to contact. It includes topics on: How to find agents, classes and what trade shows to attend. There are extensive resources on social media, licensing community groups, and lists of interviews with professional designers (5,200 words).

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For Art Licensing

These are books I own and recommend. Some may be out of print, but used copies may be available. Check link.

Licensing Art and Design

Good for learning about how licensing works.

2011 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market

Annual listings of greeting card publishers and agents who license art.

Start with a Scan

One of a kind book that tells you how to transform your art into a scan and what to do with it from there.

You Can Write Your Own Greeting Cards

Clear guidelines on how to write card sentiments professionally.

Design Your Own Repeat Patterns

Simple book on learning repeats.

Twentieth-Century Pattern Design

Great book for inspiration and creative approaches to designing patterns.

How to Design a "Wow!" Trade Show Booth Without Spending a Fortune

Simple tips for your first tradeshow booth.

How to Break into Product Design

Overview of product design in all industries.

Licensing Art 101

Good beginners guide on the art licensing business.

Complete Guide to Greeting Card Design and Illustration

Great Book on understanding the greeting card profession and how to develop a style.

Build a Better Trade Show Image

Professional recommendations for doing a tradeshow. Advice to take before you attempt one.

Mary Engelbreit: The Art And The Artist

Amazing story of how Mary ended up doing licensing.

Principles of Pattern Design

Good info on pattern design


Imagery on Fabric

Basic info on putting images onto fabric.

Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook of Pricing

Yearly updated guidelines for pricing for people in art careers.

Finding the Right Words

One of many basic books of this series that tells you how to add words products, cards, etc.

Designing a Digital Portfolio

Shows you how to put a digital portfolio together for the modern era.

Ebooks by Kate Harper

You can support this blog by ordering Kate's e-Booklets starting at only .99 cents! They can be read on your kindle, ipad, ipod, cellphone, or your computer. Free samples and lending options available. You can also view the list of all recommended greeting card books by a variety of authors.


Get Your Greeting Cards into Stores explains how to sell cards nationwide. Included are detailed guidelines on: How to price cards for a profit, get professional feedback, find sales representatives and follow industry standards. Information is also applicable to gift items, magnets, journals, calendars, collectibles, etc.

20 Steps to Art Licensing is a book about how to license your art to companies that publish greeting cards, or manufacture coffee mugs, magnets, wall hangings, kitchen items, and dozens of other gift items. Learn how to prepare your art, what companies to contact, how to find agents, and what trade shows to attend. Includes extensive resources on social media, copyrights, licensing community groups, and lists of interviews with professional designers.

7 Mistakes Greeting Card Writers is a booklet that explains what to avoid when submitting greeting card verse to publishers. Learn how to create a trendy card that reflects the contemporary world we live in, and how to use your own personal experience to create card verse. Topics include: how to avoid limiting your market, when to use adjectives, not creating card for enemies, write like people talk and a list of why card sentiment submissions are often rejected. You can increase your odds of success by 60% just by doing a few simple things. Includes a list of card publishers and their guidelines, links to writer interviews, and writing exercises for how to create good verse.

Unusual Ways To Market Greeting Cards, and 22 places to get your designs featured is a booklet on how to get your cards noticed in non-traditional ways. Everything from why you should send cards to your dentist, to how to get a special feature in national publication. Great tips for designers who are starting out and want to get their cards into the hands of people beyond friends and family. Special Section: 22 Gift Industry Trade Publications who seek out new greeting card designs and feature artists for free.

How to Make an EBook Cover for Non-Designers is an illustrated book will show you how to make your own e-book cover, even if you are not a designer. It is intended to help the indie writer who is on a budget and wants to publish and sell their own book in online stores such and the Apple ibookstore. Selling your book in these stores will allow readers to purchase your book and read it on multiple devices such as the Kindle, iPad, iPhone and many other electronic devices.

List of Trade Shows for Greeting Card & Gift Designers

New York, NY

National Stationery Show
New York, NY

The Supply Side
New York, NY

Licensing International Expo
New York, NY

Dallas Total Home & Gift Market
Dallas, TX

Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Show
Atlanta, GA

The Craft and Hobby Show
Rosemont, IL

California Gift Show
Los Angeles, CA.

San Francisco International Gift Fair
San Francisco, CA

New York International Gift Fair
New York, NY.

Free Stock Photography Sites

Smashing Magazine has a great article on free commercial stock photo sites. These particulary come in handy when you need a quick, copyright safe image for your website and blog.

Branding 101 for Artists

Really great article on why it's important to create a brand, if only to clarify what you are trying to communicate through your art.

Here's an excerpt:

An artist’s “brand” is not just a label, a logo, or a signature—instead, it is one of the most powerful marketing tools you can have. What do I mean? Read on.

What is branding, exactly?

Your brand is what you’re known for. Good branding is the act of becoming known for something that you do, above any other competitor. As an individual artist it is very likely that you don’t have an established brand like large companies do—which means if you want to gain customers, you must create a brand of your own.

Your brand, however, should not be focused on you. It should be focused on attracting customers. My brand is “Artwork that Begs to Be Touched” which immediately says something unique, and connects with potential buyers more than just a logo.

Some brand phrases are too generic, too vague to set you apart. You can call yourself the “Best western artist in America” but so what? Who compared you to whom? Does that even connect with potential buyers?

On the other hand, if you guarantee your western art by saying, “My brand is burned onto every painting,” then that’s something tangible for people to remember. You’re the artist who uses a branding iron to sign your work. Now that would certainly set you apart from the herd!

Here’s another stand-out brand: “The artist who provides a lifetime guarantee.” Also, “Art made from 100% recycled materials.” Both of these brands speak directly to the customers’ interests while setting you up as different from the norm.

Article Continued...

(photo: My "Kid Quotes" card line in Target)