When I first started painting, I wasn’t planning on selling my original works or prints. I just didn’t think my work would be “good enough.” I figured it was something I would do for my own enjoyment, as a side hobby. Well, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know I have a knack for weaving just about any creative endeavor into my business in some form or fashion. It is a trait that has allowed me to pursue things I’m curious about and include them as a productive part of my day. Painting has become another part of my business and I’m excited to share that some of my prints and products are hitting the market! I also wanted to share some tips on licensing for those who are curious about the process or interested in licensing their own artwork.
The tricky thing about licensing your work is that you’re not always 100% sure where it’s going to be sold, especially if it’s picked up by a wholesale company. Several of my still life and landscape paintings have been picked up by Creative Co-op and Deny Designs. Deny sells at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods and Creative Co-op sells to retailers all over the place, including small, local shops.
The painting that has made the biggest splash is the pair of pears…
It is available in a shadow box print in a metal frame, but it was also made into a lovely platter with a gold rim…
You can buy the platter HERE on Amazon, but it’s been featured on Antique Farmhouse and readers have shared it at some of their local antique and gift stores.
And, one of my readers found my paintings sold in TJMaxx and HomeGoods on their website! You can find this framed landscape HERE…
…and this one HERE…
That is the landscape I did for our first art class! You can find that class HERE if you’re interested in trying out some oil painting!
So, how does the licensing process work?
artwork tip no 1. | make sure it’s right for you
The most important thing is to determine if licensing your work is truly right for you. I know some artists feel very strongly about only offering originals and limited edition prints. Others are enthusiastically in favor of licensing and the extra income it can bring along with the exposure. For me, I saw licensing as a bonus. If people wanted to buy the originals, great! If some of my works were picked up and sold as prints or on products, that would just be gravy. I don’t make a living solely off of my art, though, and I don’t have any sort of reputation as a fine artist selling out of a gallery that needs to be considered.
licensing artwork tip no 2. | it’s a long process
My paintings that recently hit the market as products and prints were submitted well over a year ago. The process is long and slow and it’s not going bring in immediate income. It’s important to note that if you’re planning on licensing your work as a key part of your income as an artist. Until your work hits the market, plan on selling originals directly to your collectors and making prints available through a site like Society6.
licensing artwork tip no 3. | create from a place of authenticity
When selling anything to anyone, it’s easy to start creating with a mindset of what you think will sell or what’s being requested by your buyers. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve created that weren’t “me” at all but were what people asked me to create. And you know what? Those things never sell as well as the things I create out of an authentic place. This was true of furniture, hand-painted signs, and all of the other things I’ve created and sold over the years. Create what you love and what naturally flows from you, so that your unique voice is represented in the market.
licensing artwork tip no 4. | you do give up some control
It’s also important for me to note that when you license your work, you do relinquish some amount of control over how your work is presented. I do get to see samples, but it’s often after the work has been presented at a market for retailers or the item is already in production. I’m sure this isn’t always the case, but it’s been my experience. My paintings are on coasters, pillows, wood panels, shadow boxes, and platters to name a few! I never would’ve guessed they would end up in all of those forms! I can see that being a concern for some artists who are very particular about how they want their work to be represented. I would suggest just making your expectations clear upfront.
licensing artwork tip no 5. | work with a licensing agent
I was fortunate to already have a licensing agent for home decor product design, so when I started painting, she watched my progress and was ready to present my work to clients as soon as I felt ready. Well, ready-ish! I don’t know if I ever feel 100% ready to release something in the world! You do have to pay a percentage of the income from the licensed work to the licensing agent, but they offer so much. They have contacts and experience in the industry to know the best clients for your work. They negotiate contracts on your behalf and also protect your work from being produced without your permission. A home decor company copied one of my hand-painted dresser designs down to the smallest detail and she was able to negotiate a payment for my design. I love that I can just create and she can take care of all of the behind-the-scenes work.
If you’re interested in getting a licensing agent and you don’t know where to start, I would suggest two things. First, put your work out there! A licensing agent just might find you! They are always looking for artists who have marketable work and a fresh perspective. Having a public gallery and a loyal following, specifically on a social media platform like Instagram, shows that there is a market for your work and can be a compelling reason for someone to represent you and your art. Some of my pieces were even picked up because they were posted on Society6. Second, ask around. Ask artists you know who they work with and if they will introduce you to their licensing agent.
Make sure you work with someone who really believes in you and your work. They know the industry well and can encourage you to submit work that you might not have considered.
One more note about licensing your artwork… It is so fun to see your work in stores! It’s not the end-all, be-all, but there is some validation in it and it’s rewarding.
Now that some of my other projects are winding down, I have a bit more time for painting. I am starting a new series in order to focus my time in the studio – Nice View. It’s sort of a follow-up to the 100 meadows project that got me started in oil painting. I’m going to paint 100 8 x 10 paintings on nice views…mountains, fields, lakes, beaches, villages, etc. The painting above is actually no. 1 in the series. I asked for submissions on Instagram and have been flooded with all sorts of gorgeous photos! I’ve been so inspired and excited to dive into the project…