Licensing Artist goes "high tech" in Surtex Booth

When a product director told me he'd seen Surtex artists using iPads in their booths for the buyers to use, I wanted to learn more.

I tracked down one such artist, Dona Gelsinger, whose son Jesse Gelsinger (right) put his skills to work to create a high tech booth, so I asked Jesse if I could interview him on the ways he uses technology in Art Licensing. Here is what he had to say:

How did you decide to use the iPad at Surtex, to promote Dona's art?

In the art licensing industry we’re all painfully familiar with the unwieldy, expanding binders that we lug around to trade shows across the country. They’re a pain to update, heavy to ship and tedious to browse through. When I first read of Apple’s rumored development of an iPad tablet, I was giddy just thinking about holding our entire library in the palm of my hand.

I was not without concern, however. What if the display quality wasn’t good enough sell art? Would the battery life last all day at a show? Above all else, would my customers approve of and benefit from this new method of viewing art?

When I finally received the iPad, one by one, my worries melted away. The display is bright and absolutely gorgeous. Artwork looks as if it were sitting on a lightbox. The battery life is fantastic at around 10 hours of use. Finally, when my two year old son picked it up and casually flipped through pages of Toy Story as if it were any other book, I was totally sold.

Can you give examples of what kind of response you got at Surtex?

My customers were excited to play with the new technology, but more importantly, it allowed them to review artwork quickly and efficiently. The ability to zoom in on artwork and show potential cropping layouts also proved beneficial.

The overwhelming response was “good riddance to the big binders”.

What other technologies did you use in your booth?

In addition to its uses as a digital binder, we displayed slide shows of art, as you would with a digital picture frame. Licensees used the web browser to show us their catalogs and websites. It was perfect for staying on top of emails and taking notes.

What did you do, to make potential art buyers more comfortable with your technology?

Most professionals nowadays have experience with a blackberry, Iphone, laptop and so forth. Using an iPad is naturally intuitive for even the most novice of computer users. Those without smartphone and computer expertise caught on very quickly with the natural interface of using a finger to flip through images.

Can you describe other ways you think technology has changed art licensing?

Technology, once a luxury in our business, now plays a vital role in nearly every aspect, from the creation of art, right down to the final delivery to the client.

Software & Hardware
While some artists are very traditional in their creation on canvas and paper, others are gravitating towards digitally creation with a tablet, stylus and drawing software like Photoshop and Illustrator. Digital creation provides a whole new level of flexibility that you would never have with physical medium.

Editing & Fast Turn Around
Frequently clients will review art and ask for changes that would have been impossible without computers.

Enlarging the size of a figure or animal on canvas for example would mean painting over the figure, on the computer we select the figure, resize and clean up the edges.

The end result is a much faster turnaround. Of course it can be a double-edged sword as well. With the ability comes demand for more frequent changes and art direction.

Transparencies are a Thing of the Past
Aside from art creation, there are dozens of other impacts new technology has had on our business.

Anyone in the business just 10 years ago is familiar with the costs and headaches associated with photographing and making transparencies of original artwork. For us, that’s now a thing of the past.

Making Banners & Marketing Materials
Where we once hired large print shops to handle all of our jobs, we now have our own wide format printer to print our 8’ tradeshow banners, huge client presentations, color proofs, marketing materials and so forth.

Digital File Libraries and Remote Servers
We now use digital file delivery services to send high resolution artwork from our image library to our customers, thereby meeting our deadlines earlier while avoiding costly overnight shipping.

We host a secure, password protected, online library of artwork for our customers to browse. This protects the art from the public domain while still providing our customers with convenience. There are a multitude of web solutions for securing and cataloging images online, we are using an open source solution called Gallery.

The image library, which is our collection of digital assets, is backed up daily to redundant remote servers at Carbonite. This creates an offsite copy of your files every night. They allow you to download any backed up file from any computer. Knowing that your entire art collection won’t be wiped out by a single fire is nice peace of mind.

Also, let’s say you are on vacation and a client needs a high res file ASAP. You can use your laptop or the hotel lobby computer to access your carbonite account, download the necessary file, then use yousendit to send to the client.

Yousendit allows us to digitally transfer high resolution files up to 2 Gigs in size. FTP can do the same thing, but this is much easier for clients. I upload the art and my customer receives an email with a link to download the file. You can track to see how many times your file has been downloaded. This tool has saved us thousands of dollars in overnight shipping costs.

Just-in-time Marketing
Our marketing toolbox has grown exponentially as well. In a matter of days we were able to shoot a digital film of Dona in her studio, edit, mix it and have it digitally transferred to a client for a live television spot. It’s just amazing what we can now accomplish.

What new idea do you want to try at your next show, that you haven't tried yet?

I would like to bring multiple iPads so a team of people can review multiple categories simultaneously. Time is a precious commodity at the shows and if you can speed up the process, you’ll have a shot at more business. I’m also looking forward to using the ipad for shows like AmericasMart where I’ll now be able to carry all of our art in a rolling briefcase!

iPad-Displaying Art in hand held device
Cabonite-Offsite Backup Storage
Yousendit-(ftp) digital transfers for large files
Adobe Suite-Digital image production
Gallery-Create a password-protected online digital Library

After over 15 years of licensing Dona Gelsinger’s artwork exclusively, just last year they expanded the business by offering our services to outside artists. They recognized that having a world class artist as a principle owner of your agency is a tremendously valuable asset. They now represent a small, select group of exceptionally talented artists, designers and cartoonists. Their philosophy is to promote and build the brand of our artists, just as they did with for Dona Gelsinger.

From the day she was able to grasp a pencil, Dona has had a love for art. Inspired by her Grandfather at an early age, she would sit for hours watching him paint. After graduating from Cal State, Long Beach, with a Bachelor's Degree in Art, Gelsinger's first major commission was to paint the Stations of the Cross for St. Denis Church in Diamond Bar, Calif. This project, the creation of 14 near life-size paintings, consumed her artistic energies for nearly two years and won her widespread acclaim.

Demand for Dona's artwork grew at a rapid pace and in 1994, Dona, her husband, Brian and son, Jesse, began publishing and licensing artwork full time. Not long after, Dona created her first collection of inspirational little angels which became an international sensation. Dona's artwork is now branded with top names in entertainment, sports, retail and charity. Her art can be found on prints, greeting cards, gift bags, fabric, home decor and more. Dona is represented by family owned and operated agency, Gelsinger Licensing Group, Inc. www.gelsingerlicensing.com

As the son of an artist and an entrepreneur, he was surrounded by business and art from the day he was born. As a small child he remembers going to work with his dad to the family owned business, learning sales, customer service and work ethic and return home to see what the fruits of mom’s labors were after a day at the easel. She treated art as a full time job, a serious business, and it grew to become just that.

After graduating from Southern Oregon University with a degree in Computer Science, Jesse joined the company officially and made the decision to grow beyond a print publisher to license artwork full time. His background is technology has paid dividends in keeping the business ahead of the curve in many areas, being one of the fastest in the industry to deliver artwork, contracts, mockups, and staying ahead deadlines, delivering quality commercial art.

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