I got an email last week from a person looking for information about licensing their mother’s artwork. Before taking their money for a coaching session, I wanted to see if I thought I could help them.
When I went to the website I found two things:
1. Gorgeous watercolors that took my breath away.
2. I discovered that the mother was no longer with us.
Well… that changes things a bit. I didn’t think it would be easy to license work from an artist who can’t make changes, additions, etc. but decided to get a second opinion from Suzanne Cruise before replying.
Her reply confirmed my initial reaction:
Representing the work of a popular artist who died in 2000, I can vouch for the fact that this is a difficult situation. While there are several deceased artists whose work continues to be popular (Andy Warhol comes to mind) these situations are often the exception, not the rule. For many artists who are gone from our midst, the manufacturers know there will be no new art unless the Licensing agency has a top notch designer who can endlessly rework the art, a costly endeavor. Manufacturers tend to pass on a license like this.
Reworking art to make it appear current takes a lot more creative thinking than people realize, which means a ton of money spent w/ no guarantee it will be repaid, much less realizing a profit from the artwork and the work needed to refresh it.
The problem w/ deceased artists’ art is that manufacturers spend so much time, money and effort getting the art/product out there and selling, if the art/product becomes popular, the returns on the investment from someone who has died are finite. Manufacturers need to invest in something that will hopefully build over a long period of time, making them boatloads of money for a long period of time. This is just the first hurdle.
The second one is that this particular artists’ style and technique is very gallery/fine art looking, which has a fairly limited appeal to product manufacturers. I am not saying that gallery/fine art cannot be licensed but my experience with gallery art is that there are only so many places to go with it. It is too much of a niche look to hope to make enough money to justify all the efforts put forth to get the work licensed.
As you know, I often talk about how there are many, many ways to earn income with art, licensing being just one. So I emailed the person back and said that he would be better served to look into other avenues. My goal and the goal of all the experts on the Art Licensing Info team is to help you decide if licensing is a good fit and in this case, it would be a hard fit for small returns.
I wanted to write about this for two reasons:
1. If one person has a question, there are usually others who are wondering as well.
2. I wanted to remind you of what a great source of knowledge Suzanne Cruise is and encourage you to sign up and listen in to her call on December 16th.
SO… to learn more about art licensing, finding and working with agents and more, go to www.AskSuzanneCruise.com and register today. The call is on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 5:30 pm PST / 8:30 pm EST and is free if you listen live.
Here’s to your creative success!
– Tara (& Suzanne)