… there is no right answer. (sorry!)

I recently got a question from an artist who purchased my eBook, How to Find an Art Licensing Agent.  She was confused by what I meant by a collection and she wasn’t clear about how many of these “collections” she should have before approaching an agent.

Here are some of the things that confuse her about collections:

  • I am trying to brand myself as a floral painter.  I’m working on my 12th painting in the floral collection(s) and thought I am almost ready to pitch to agents especially for May’s Surtex until I reread about how much art I need before pitching. My question follows, are my 12 paintings a collection or collections?
  • Or is one collection four paintings in the same theme and I need 12 to 15 more collections, so I would have a total of (if I did 12 collections) 48 paintings?
  • If that is so, how do I differentiate 12 collections (48 paintings) into the floral theme, but have them in different collections?

This is a question that has come up time and time again.  We’ve covered it on Ask Calls and in eBooks and on the blog.

Here are some basic guidelines about how many collections you need to really get started – but again, they are basic guidelines and there are always exceptions to the rule.

First, Paul Brent has always recommended that any artist who is considering exhibiting at a trade show like SURTEX or the Licensing Expo have AT LEAST 15-20 collections.  Booths are a big investment of time and money – you want to have enough art to attract manufacturers and hopefully get licensing deals to recoup your costs.  I whole-heartedly agree so I usually give the same answer.  (See, I’m all for learning from those who are ahead of us in this “game” of licensing – and since Paul Brent’s business isn’t half-bad (understatement of the year!) – I hang on his every word.)

In the eBook, I recommend having at least 12 collections.  I came up with this number from two sources – first, Paul’s recommendation for artists wanting to exhibit. (I just dialed the number back a little.)  I also draw on my personal experience when I was first learning about art licensing and thought I would try to find an agent.  I was told “You don’t have enough of a portfolio” enough times to realize, you need to have a good body of work for agents to seriously consider representing you.

I decided to also ask Alicia Dauber – the owner and agent at Licensing Liaison – what her opinion was.  Her response:

Generally I agree that having around 4-6 images for a  theme within a collection is helpful and a good way to showcase an artist….HOWEVER…sometimes a style of art can be so convincing that it will stand on it’s own regardless of the 4/6 images thing.   I had this happen with one of my artists this year; her style was so unique that I had several offers and a lot of interest just based on a very few images…forget about collections.  It sounds like this artist has one collection (of florals) in 12 images.    Unless her florals are just drop dead stunning, it may behoove her to have additional collections…hard to say with out seeing the art.

So what advice did I give this artist?

In the end, I shared all of the above.  I also added some suggestions about how to make collections when you are focused on one theme – in her case, florals.  She could create groups of art that share common colors, the same types of flowers, seasonal florals and more.  There are many ways to organize a portfolio into collections and if it is hard to see the forest because you painted the trees, have a friend come over and see what he or she thinks.  Put the art in front of them and say “How would you put these into groups of 4-6 images that go together and explain why you chose to group the ones you did.”  That can be incredibly helpful.

You may also find you have a few collections of 4-6 and others where only 2 make sense together.  Then your next order of business would be to create 2 more to fill out the collection.

I hope that helps anyone else that has been wondering about this!  Read the FAQ post: What Do you Mean by an “Art Collection”? for even more details.

Be sure to join Alicia Dauber and I on November 7, 2012 for the next Ask Call.

We hope to answer lots of questions about how to find an agent, work with an agent, what to expect from an agent and more.  But we want to know exactly what questions YOU HAVE so please head to www.AskAboutArtLicensing.com and submit your questions for us today!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed