I get a lot of emails from people asking me to review their art and tell them what to do.  Do I think their art would work for licensing? Who would be the best agent for them to contact?  What manufacturers should they work with?  Is their art a fit? If so, where? Is it good enough?  You get the idea.

Honestly, judging art makes me really uncomfortable.

If I worked for a manufacturer and knew what my product was, who my market was and what sells well, it would be easier.  I’d have some guidelines and experience to back up my decision.

From where I sit, I’m simply uncomfortable.  I create art and license it.  I blog, write and teach about art licensing – the business side, how to create collections, how to figure out who to contact, things like that.

I draw the line at telling any artist that their art is or isn’t good enough.

I can tell you if you need more to really get started in licensing.  I can tell you that manufacturers look for collections of art and what that means.  Can I say, with certainty, that your art will or won’t work in licensing?  Not always.  Sometimes I see art that I love and think would be great – but then I don’t see it on products.  Maybe the artist didn’t make the effort, maybe they went a different way in their desire to earn a living from their art, who knows.

Other times I will see art on products and scratch my head.  I’ve been in this business long enough to know just how much amazing art is out there – why didn’t this manufacturer choose what I would consider to be “better”?  The answer again is, who knows.

I believe that anyone that really wants to make a living with their art, who is willing to learn, adapt and be honest with themselves can do it.  Maybe not in art licensing, but somewhere.  I can assure you I’d be a big failure if I decided I wanted to make my living selling large canvas in art galleries.  I’m not a fit for that market.

What I do is offer information.

I teach about how the industry works, the mindsets and skill sets you need to be in the business.  Then it is up to you to decide where you fit, how you measure up, what products would be best for you, what agent might do well for you.

I know that you’d like to be able to send me, or anyone, your website link and get an email with a road map for success all drawn up for you.  I’d like that too!  But we each have different things we bring to the table and must chart our own course.  I can help you understand the waters, but I can’t steer your ship.

I can give you a general observation about art that works well for licensing – in relation to the full spectrum of art.

If you think about art as a long line – with ultra-abstract styles of art on one end and ultra-traditional and portrait art on the other – art that will do well for licensing will fall in the middle of the spectrum.  I’ve said this many times but art that will do well in licensing has to appeal to the masses.  While you need one buyer for an original piece of art, a manufacturer has to believe that hundreds or thousands of people will want to buy a product with the art they choose on it.  For that reason, you see less “risky” art on stuff.  (That’s how I tell people what I do – “I create art for stuff you buy in the store.” )

If your art falls a bit outside the mainstream does that mean you won’t make a dime in art licensing?

Not necessarily.  You might license your work for a few products but it will be harder to make licensing your art a full-time profession.  It might need to be a piece of your income pie and not the whole thing. (Watch my video – How Your Art Business is Like Pie – to learn more about this concept.)  The more your art is in the middle of the art style spectrum, the more success I believe you will have in licensing your art.

At the end of the day, there really is no way to know if your art is a fit until you try.  I look back at the art I was creating in the beginning and don’t think it is up to par – but if I’d been told it wasn’t good enough and didn’t keep trying, I wouldn’t be here today.  Far be it for me to judge!

So if you email me with links to your website, I will probably send you right back to this post.

While I chose not to make judgment calls about the quality or suitability of art, I will give you these bits of advice:

1.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If you want to make a living with your art, I believe you can.  I can give you information to help you decide if art licensing is that way.

2.  Look at the art you see on products in stores and honestly consider how your art stacks up to the competition.  Do you need to work on your technique, style or subject matter or do you simply need to learn to create in collections and start showing your work?

3.  Keep reading this and other blogs about art licensing, sign up for the bi-monthly newsletter, listen to the Ask Calls, watch the videos of artists just like you talking about how they got into licensing… learn, create and see what happens!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed