Couldn't resist this blog entry.
More Artist interviews & Book Reviews next week!
I recently discovered the book Mary Engelbreit: The Art And The Artist, that was first published in 1996. It is about her path into art licensing and greeting card design. She is now a successful licensor, her career spans over decades, and she was awarded "best art license of the year" by LIMA.
Mary's book is one of the more encouraging and practical books I've read in awhile. She confirmed my inherent belief that if someone tries to impose rules and prerequisites on entering this career, someone else will come along, break all the rules, and become successful. Here are some things I learned from reading her book:
1. Don't believe everything you hear.
While I'd seen her cards over the years and admired her work, after reading her book I realized I had been completely misinformed about her personal journey. I'd heard that she first got into greeting card design because she had extensive financial resources to experiment with. Boy was that wrong! In fact, it was quite the opposite.
2. Rock stars are people too.
Mary did not have resources for college, she didn't attend art school, and her husband worked as a social worker, all the while she struggled with the financial risks of trying to be an artist. In a lot of ways, she was no different than most people. She couldn't take expensive business risks. She doubted herself. She was even discouraged from being an artist by high school teachers. And she did not have thousands of dollars to lay down for a print run, just to see if something would sell.
3. Create your own show
Some stories she shared were painful, like when she bought a booth at the New York Stationery show and only had 12 cards to display. She was mortified to see all the other vendors, who had hundreds of cards. She also toted her portfolio all around New York only to be rejected by everyone she met. Other stories were heartwarming, like the day she felt sad because couldn't go to art school and have a "real" art show, so she decided on a whim to just to make her own art show happen at her job, in a retail store. All her work sold out.
4. Forgive yourself for mistakes
She had many hard knocks. She got into a bad business partnership, lost some of her art, and had emotional challenges of deciding whether being an artist was realistic.
5. You don't need to go to art school.
It was amazing for me to learn that she doesn't know how to paint, and she learned to draw simply by recopying old children's books and using colored pencils and markers. Later she developed her own imaginary characters. This made me wonder if the reason she became one of the top illustrators in the country, is because she "didn't" go to art school.
6. Draw what you like, not what you think will sell.
She emphasized how incredibly important it is for her to draw things she likes. Only later will she think about adapting the drawing to a product. She said if she instead tried to develop a design based around a product as the starting point, it was always a failure. Instead, she decided to hire other people to adapt her drawings to products, and she focused on drawing what she really loved, often things in her daily life.
7. Make new rules.
She breaks rules I'd come to accept as gospel from the licensing world. In fact, what I learned is that while it's important to trust your heart, you also need to trust your own intelligence. There are people who may try to impose their own rules on you about the "way things are" in the market place, with stores, with agents, with manufacturers, with your credentials, with demands, etc. But Mary made her own rules, not out of protest, but out of a gentle kindness towards herself.
See Also 32-page Booklet
See Also 18-page booklet