It’s CRUNCH TIME!  SURTEX is right around the corner – I always freak out a little on April 1st when I can say “SURTEX is next month…” it comes out more like “SURTEX is next MONTH???????” and panic and second guessing ensues…

SURTEX - distinctive design for sale & license

All kidding aside, SURTEX is a HUGE part of my marketing so I take it really seriously.  (Hence the fear sneaking in, second guessing, etc – it’s part of my process I guess.)  But here are 5 reasons why I keep going back:


SURTEX is one of two big shows in the art licensing industry where artists and brands have a booth and manufacturers and retailers come looking for art.  SURTEX is the only show that is all about art and artists. We aren’t competing with Warner Brothers, Sponge Bob Square Pants, the NFL and other entertainment brands with big budgets.  So SURTEX has been a great way for me to control my space (my booth) and connect with a lot of qualified leads in a three day period of time.


Let’s talk more about qualified leads… yes, it is possible to do research on the internet, attend industry trade shows (which I also do) and network your way into some art licensing deals.  But when you exhibit at a show, you get a lot of leads in a short period of time. (3 days)  LEADS lead to CHOICE.

If you only have one client or one person interested in your art, you don’t have a lot of choice.  You either do what they need or you don’t make any money.  Your interest in the project becomes much less relevant.  Your negotiating leverage is also diminished…

BUT if you have a lot of leads, a variety of companies interested in working with you, you get to decide what projects you do or don’t want to work on.  You also have some leverage in negotiating the deal and will be more willing to walk away from a deal you don’t like, because you know there are other options out there.


I inevitably meet someone from a company I didn’t even know existed.  While you can, as previously mentioned, search for contact and submission guidelines online, you need to know about the company in the first place.  Every year I meet someone from a company I didn’t know about.  Maybe they do private label products – meaning they are the manufacturer but they make products that carry the store brand name on them.  Or maybe I just hadn’t heard about them – might be from a market or industry I didn’t research before…


In this very online world, the value of talking face to face is being overlooked by many.  I heard a speaker the other day who said this, “You know what’s better than being on social media? BEING SOCIAL.  Like, talking to people, in person, face to face!”  We all laughed but it is so true.

Talking with someone in person is different than chatting on Facebook or communicating back and forth by email.  You can see their reaction to your art, they can suggest something: “That dog would be really cute with a hot-pink plaid sweater, don’t you think?”

Then you can get inspired and respond, “No! I think it would be even better in a purple tutu on a unicycle!”

They get excited and say, “Oh that would be awesome! Can it hold an umbrella with a pirate parrot on top too?” and BOOM!  You are co-creating the next hit design.

Had you not been together brainstorming it might have gone more like this:  email: new pet art.  email response: not quite what we are looking for.  done.


There are a lot of people talking about, blogging about and learning about art licensing.  There is a lot of competition in the marketplace and a lot of people dreaming about it.  I even had someone submit a question to an Ask Call that said, “I’ve been researching how to get started for several years now…” – to which I wanted to reply, “When will you start?”

By exhibiting at a show, you are putting your flag in the sand and saying “I’m serious about this.  This isn’t a dream or a hobby.  I’m here, here is my work, let’s do business.”

When I was trying to decide if I wanted to exhibit at my first show, the show had an agent call and talk to me to help me decide.  I still remember what he said (but sadly not who it was…) “If you are going to spend the money to do a show, commit to doing it for at least 2-3 years.  There are manufacturers who want to see that you are serious and not exhibiting once never to be heard from again, before they will work with you.”

Thankfully not all manufacturers wait for 2-3 years before working with an artist but at about year 4 someone truly walked up to my booth and said, “OK, I see you’ve been here a few years.  I’m willing to talk to you and see what you have now.”

Stay tuned for my next blog post to help you decide if you are ready to exhibit.  Because while I’m a huge fan of the show, I also know that it is an investment and you need to be ready before you put your flag in the sand.

You can learn more about the show at

Here’s to your creative success –

– Tara Reed