If your house burnt down and you lost all of your clothes, what would you buy first?  Would you buy an expensive and flashy cocktail dress that people would remember – and realize that you were wearing day after day – or would you go for the basics – jeans, basic shirts and of course, black pants.  (Assuming of course, that you are a woman.  I hope no men that read this blog are going to head right out and buy cocktail dresses!  But if you do, I won’t judge!)  Most people would get the basics and then build their wardrobe from there. So do you follow that approach when building your art licensing portfolio?

When I work with artists who are new to the industry and just starting to think and design in collections, they are often very stressed and need direction.  They have so many great ideas and concepts but don’t know what to do first. I find myself talking about black pants.

If you are just starting out, it’s a good idea to create some basics that will give you a good idea of how your art will fit in the industry before branching out into more niche topics.

If you paint holiday themed art for example, create Christmas and Halloween collections first since they are some of the most licensed holidays – don’t start with Grandparents Day because the need for that type of art is very limited.  Your “black pants” would be Christmas – which manufacturers are looking for year after year.

Now let’s say you like doing coastal art.  Your “black pants” might be generic beaches with palm trees and your “party dress” is a very specific and identifiable beach scene.  The generic beach will appeal to more manufacturers but there will be those looking for specific locations as well.

If you build your foundation of art to present to manufacturers when you are starting out, you will get better feedback.  Instead of “we don’t need art from that island” they many say, “We like the scene but the colors are a little off.”  Any feedback can then be used to strengthen the next collection you work on.

Of course even artists who have been in licensing for a while might check their portfolio and see if it could use another pair or two of black pants… sometimes it’s the basics that keep you in business.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed