Friday, April 29, 2016

Behind the Scenes of Shake a Tail Feather Collection - answering a few art licensing questions

Click images to view larger

Answering a few of your questions


Happy Friday Creative Souls!
One of the most popular emails I get from all of you is how do you create art for licensing. I have done a couple of posts so you can get a peek behind the scenes of how I do it. (links at the end of this post). Here we are taking a peek behind the scenes of my "Shake a Tail Feather" collection. Please realize, there is no one way to do this! There are as many ways as their are artists. I know artist who paint complete paintings and do not set up mock ups or patterns. They may pull icons out of the finished painting.  I personally like having a lot of icons (a single rooster is an 'icon') to create different image combinations with. So I will paint in steps, then scan in the art after each step. Example: Paint the rooster first, scan in the computer, paint the background, scan in the finished painting. Sometimes I just paint a background to use.

Another question is how much work do I need to have before I get into licensing?
Gosh, there isn't a magic number. You could be a stunning floral painter and only need just a couple of paintings that catches a manufacturer's eye. I lean towards having several images and/or collections. That to me says you are serious, have more than one image to sell/make money on. Everyone including you wants to make money from your art. I think I had around 12 art collections before I started approaching agents. I also set up an art licensing website. It was my personal comfort level.
Finishing touches in Photoshop

Do I worry about not having just one style?
No :-) I primarily work in watercolor and acrylic. They dry fast! Some say I have a couple of styles. Some say that they can tell that all of it is my work. I like the idea of being able to offer a manufacturer a wider variety of art for their products. 

Watercolor sample image

What programs do you use?
I am a Photoshop girl!, since I create my art by hand (not on the computer). I scan it in to the computer at high resolution, so that the image can be around 36 or more inches at 300 dpi. I may work in Illustrator down the road, right now I use Illustrator for logo design, some t-shirt design etc. depending on what my client needs. I use InDesign for magazine layout, newsletters and it works great for billboards etc.

Sprinkled through this post I am showing you some in progress photos of how I paint the "icons" first. Above, I lightened the dark brown background to get a different feel/color to the painting.
• Find more painting steps in this post here
• Find out about building a portfolio and what a collections means to me here
• More behind the scenes photos, Patriotic collection here

One of the Shake a Tail Feather portfolio pages.

Thank you all for your social media shares and emails. The art licensing community is fabulous! Looking forward to hearing your comments about how you create art and licensing experiences.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Phyllis Dobbs


Did you go to school for Art? Are you self taught? 
I’m both self-taught and attended school. I’ve always loved creating and have been drawing and creating from a very early age. The women in my family taught me the needle arts - needlework, sewing, and quilting. My father was also creative and taught me drawing. I attended the University of Alabama for a degree in Interior Design and focused on color theory and painting while there. I love taking classes and love to learn. As a result, I have since taken many classes in painting, various crafts and needle arts as well as digital art. Dangle a creative class in front of me and I will take it. But I also learn simply by working everyday in my business and stretching myself to try something new or different.

Do you work in just one medium? Several? 
I use several methods to create. I usually paint with acrylics and some gouache. But I also turn my art into digital art to format for product design and fabric design with Photoshop and Illustrator. I love textiles and use fabrics to create quilt and sewing patterns. I guess the two creative paths are from the Gemini in me although both markets overlap heavily.

What inspires you/ where do you get your inspiration from? 
I see inspiration all around me, especially with animals and the florals and greens all around in nature. Combining this with my love of humor, I put a lot of whimsy and vibrant color in my art.

How did you start licensing your art?  
I began my career using my art and drawings for counted cross stitch designs which I self-published. I’ve always loved textiles and dreamed of designing fabrics, so I turned my art focus on creating patterns for fabric design. I showed the these pattern collections to a major fabric company, and that started my career in licensing as a fabric designer. I then pursued other product companies outside of fabrics for licensing and signed with an agency Jewel Branding and Licensing.

What are you working on now.   
I am working with a client on new bedding lines as well as working on new art for licensing for fabrics and other products in the gift and home markets. I’m also excited to be working on a new quilt book with a slant on modern quilting.

Anything else you would like to share with us? 
Loving art and classes, I started ArtBizJam, an art-business retreat, 4 years ago with a couple of other creative souls. The focus is to help other artists expand their art business in several directions, such as product design and licensing plus more, and to rejuvenate their creativeness. Our guest speaker this year is Susan January, art director and VP of Product Management at Leanin’ Tree. Susan will be joining Lori Siebert, Cherish Flieder and myself in presenting classes on all aspects of an art business. ArtBizJam has been a wonderful success! This year will be the 4th annual retreat and will be held in October in the Smoky Mountains of Gatlinburg, TN.

I am also working on another retreat SewBizJam to help start or expand a sewing or quilting business. SewBizJam will be held in September in the beautiful and relaxed atmosphere of the beach in Destin, FL.

I love working with these retreats that help others with their creative businesses. Other perks from these retreats are the great friendships formed among all the attendees plus lots of fun and laughter, great networking and just spending time with fellow creatives.

Along with helping artists, I created a product template package, Create Product Mockups that allows an artist to show clients or potential clients how their art looks on products. Find it here

Any great advise for our readers? 
I learned early after starting a creative career not to put all of your “eggs in one basket” with what you do. It is a definite advantage to be versatile and willing to adapt as it is to be able to work in multiple mediums. But at the same time, you need to be true to yourself. Allow yourself to expand and experiment. Find your “creative pot”, put what you love to do in it, stir and let it work together.

Are you an early riser or a night owl? 
I prefer to get an early start so I tend to rise early. However there are also a lot of late nights when you are your own boss and when there are deadlines.

What is your favorite food?   
I have given up sugar and artificial sweeteners. This is a bummer as my favorite food is dessert - Flan, chocolate, cheesecake, key lime pie and wine (horrors). So I am focusing on my 2nd favorite food.  Hummm, haven’t found it yet, unless its pasta of some kind.

Phyllis’ website and blog, social media links - 

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - Indemnification Provisions


MJ Bogatin (“Bo”) of Bogatin, Corman & Gold, is an Arts and Entertainment Attorney in San Francisco.  He is also Co-President of California Lawyers for the Arts.  Bo is available to answer some of your questions surrounding the business of Art Licensing. - THANKS BO!


Lisa asks:  Why would a manufacturer to whom I have licensed designs for toys expect me to indemnify it?  Shouldn’t the manufacturer indemnify me?

Thanks for your question, Lisa.  Indemnification is an important legal consideration in every Agreement, and particularly in conjunction with licensing illustrations for use with manufactured goods.  In short, indemnification means that if an “innocent” party to the License is sued by a third party because the other did something wrong, the party who did something wrong should be responsible for any potential liability of the innocent party.  It would be appropriate for each party to a manufactured goods illustration License to indemnify the other in conjunction with their particular contributions to the goods being manufactured.

When you look more closely at your License you will note that the manufacturer has likely asked you to warrant certain things.  Typically, the Illustrator Licensor will be asked to warrant:

1.  That the illustrations you are licensing are yours alone – meaning that there is no one else who will claim a joint copyright interest and claim that the manufacturer must pay them, too;

2.  That the illustrations are original to you – meaning that you have not infringed any copyrights held by someone else;

3.  That you have not violated any other person’s right with respect to your licensing these images – meaning that you have not included any trademark or recognizable face (without a signed Release)  See my February 2016 bLAWg on the Right of Publicity: click here , and,

4.  If the License is exclusive, that you have not otherwise licensed the same illustrations to other manufacturers of competing goods.

If the manufacturer is sued by a third party for a violation of any of these rights, then the manufacturer has a reasonable expectation that the Artist indemnify (be responsible for) the damages for which the manufacturer might be liable for copyright infringement or other warranted use right.

While a comprehensive License will include an Express Indemnification provision, you should know that there is also a legal doctrine called “Equitable Indemnification.”  In short, in the absence of Express Indemnification, most courts will “in fairness” allow an innocent party to invoke indemnification rights anyway.  However, in some states, only Express Indemnification, not Equitable Indemnification, will cover the innocent party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.  Since attorneys’ fees (including mine even though they are so reasonable!) can total even more than actual damages on claims like these, Express Indemnification provisions are favored by manufacturers.

However, I do have pro-active advice to limit the scope of the Artist’s indemnification obligation.  Many of these provisions are drafted so as to make the Artist Licensor responsible for damages and attorneys’ fees and costs arising out of a claim of infringement.  Heck, anyone can claim their illustration has been infringed by you!  However, there are two requirements to prove infringement, both “substantial similarity” and “access” to the copyright holder’s artwork so as to have provided the opportunity for copying.  See Bo’s bLAWg from last June: click here

If your illustration is only substantially similar by coincidence, and there was no access, hence no copying, why should you still have to indemnify the manufacturer?  I don’t think you should have to. As a large corporate entity, the manufacturer is in a much better position to afford to defend a meritless claim than the Artist.

To that end, I recommend looking to edit the standard Express Indemnification provision to make sure that the manufacturer (with its own ample insurance) should be required to defend itself, if not also the Artist, unless there is a “substantiated” breach of warranty on the part of the Artist.  Most manufacturer business reps and/or counsel will recognize the reasonableness of such an edit request.  In addition, I look to limit the attorney’s fees and costs obligation to “reasonable” attorneys’ fees and costs.  It is not only possible that an outside counsel will overcharge for defense services, but that they will assign too many attorneys to a small case.  A judge (or arbitrator) can assess whether or not the fees due are in fact “reasonable” or not.

One issue related to the manufacturer’s handling of unsubstantiated claims is that the manufacturer may try to make the Artist responsible for its insurance deductible, to be paid out of current and future Artist royalties.  That might be a risk that the Artist is willing to take if the manufacturer is not obligated to make any payments on its insurance deductible unless there is a settlement or a Judgment that implicates the Artist.  If your manufacturer offers a compromise on the “claim” indemnification language making you responsible for any part of its deductible, make sure that you have a right to pre-approve unconditionally any settlement into which it might want to enter, and that your share of responsibility for the deductible is reasonably limited.  Some of these policies have deductibles of $50,000 or more!

The flip side to the Indemnification issue is that an Artist can reasonably expect the manufacturer to indemnify them in the event an action (or claim!) is made against the Artist occurring through no fault on the Artist’s part.  Express Indemnification can and often should be reciprocal.  The Artist can be exposed to a legal action on their illustration contribution when the manufacturer requires the Artist to include content it provides in her illustration, like its logo in the packaging that the Artist is illustrating.  If it turns out that the manufacturer’s new logo infringes upon someone else’s trademark the Artist might be sued for trademark infringement along with the manufacturer.  Or, if the toys your illustrations decorate are defectively made and a child ends up getting hurt playing with them, a Plaintiff attorney could name as Defendants both the Artist and the manufacturer!  

While it is not common, it is not unheard of for the Artist to be sued along with the manufacturer.  In which case, you absolutely want to be sure that the manufacturer not only is providing indemnification on any damage claim, but that there is legal defense coverage available to you as the innocent Artist.  Most manufacturers have Product Liability insurance, and will agree to include the Artist as “an Additional Insured” on their policy for these purposes.  Then you should have no worries.  You will have the same coverage the manufacturer has, including legal defense and associated legal defense costs.  However, once again, make sure that the manufacturer is responsible for any deductible that the coverage might otherwise impose on the Artist as an insured under the Policy.

Probably a lot more than you wanted to hear, Lisa, but you asked a good question!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is not intended as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation may differ from the next, we cannot assume responsibility for any actions taken based on information contained herein. Also, be aware that the law may vary from state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold,

© 2015 mjbogatin

Have a legal question? email it to I will forward it to Bo. It might be a blog post! You can search "Bo's bLAWg" to read more posts. I am looking forward to your comments and thanks for sharing this great information on social media.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Agent Spotlight - TSB & Co., Karen Hacker


How long have you been in business and how did you come to be an agent?
My business partner, Lisa Alhanati, and I were introduced to the Art Licensing world in 2000 when a cousin and successful licensed artist in Australia asked Lisa if she would be interested in promoting her artwork in the United States. At the time, Lisa and I had put our careers on hold to raise our families, but had both talked about wanting to do something where we could contribute monetarily to the family, yet enjoy the flexibility of working our own hours from home. Lisa contacted me to see if I might be interested in working together to represent  her cousin and we both thought something like this could be the perfect answer.  We could work “part time” from home promoting this Australian artist…it sounded intriguing and very glamorous! I have a degree in Art and Business and Lisa has degrees in Political Science and History. I had been involved in marketing and sales in the telecommunication and real estate industries and Lisa was a National Marketing Manager for a Marketing Firm in Australia. Very quickly, we found the licensing world to be one we absolutely loved! We researched what was involved in art licensing, went to local trade shows, contacted manufactures and trade publications to learn as much as we possibly could about the licensing industry. People in the licensing community were extremely willing to help, and we were on our way! What we thought we would do “part time” quickly turned into “full time” and more. We put together 25 license agreements that first year and landed a large order through one of our licensees for a ceramic tabletop collection at Target.  It was our first large deal, a million dollar sale! Various trade magazines began to feature our story in a variety of publications and we began to gain attention by other artists seeking representation. As a result, Lisa and I decided to create our own agency in 2005 called T.S.B. & Co., which actually stands for Two Smart Blondes.  As a “Boutique” agency, we are tremendously selective with the artists we represent, which currently includes 6 extremely talented artists; Sapna, Denise Sullivan, Jennifer Van Pelt, Janet White, Pam Layton York and newly signed artist, Jessica Mundo, along with publishing house, GS Gallery.  This past year, we also signed renowned photographer, William Carr.  We work very closely with our artists and licensees…they become like family and we feel a very strong responsibility to put the best deals together for them as possible. We prefer to keep our agency small and personal, and would choose to put 20+ deals together for each artist in a year rather than only 2 or 3 deals per year if we had 40 - 50 artists to represent.  

Who are the manufacturers you work with - how did you establish those relationships?
We work with a wide variety of manufactures who produce products that range from flags, to bath and home accessories, to cards and giftware. When we first started out, Lisa and I would go to local retailers and look at the back of products to find out who the manufacturer was, and we would contact them. At that time, it was very easy to find who the manufacturers were, but now with so many private label products it is harder to find out who the actual manufacturer is for certain products. Entering the licensing world in the early 2000’s enabled us to learn who the “players” were in the industry and we have kept those contacts over the years. There are however new companies that come on the scene each year, which we discover mainly through trade publications and trade shows. 

Do you have employees/help?
We don’t have any additional full time help, but have used interns in the past to update our website, contact lists and social media. Lisa and I work very well together as a team…I handle working daily with the “front end” things such as marketing and sales, working with the artists and their artwork, contacting and working with manufactures, attending shows, putting deals together and contract negotiations and Lisa handles the back end of things…accounting, royalty reports, invoices, royalty check disbursement, developing marketing materials, and general administrative duties.    

How do you market artists? 
With being in the industry for so many years, we have been able to compile a substantial customer and contact list which we use continuously. Our artists send in new art collections regularly, which we immediately send out to our contacts depending if the artwork makes sense for their products. We also attend many of the major shows throughout the year, send out mass e-mails about our new collections, as well as use social media to share news about new artwork, products, upcoming events, etc.


What do you look for in an Artist?
We tend to work with licensees who market to the mass market, so we look for artists whose artwork has mass market appeal. Our ideal artist is one with an extensive library of artwork, is trend forward and has the ability to adapt and change styles as the trends change. Artists with the ability to reinvent themselves and adapt to current trends are the ones who sustain longevity in the licensing industry.  Since we work very closely with our licensees, we know what type of artwork they would be most interested in to license for their products. This industry has evolved to where there are expectations of artists to be able to manipulate their artwork in various shapes and sizes very quickly and if an artist doesn’t have the computer skills to work this way, it becomes very limiting for the artist as well as the artist’s agent to be successful.  It is essential for artists to have strong computer skills in the licensing world today. This industry works on very quick turn-around times, so flexibility and availability is very important. More and more, our licensing partners are requesting artwork to be modified to fit their customer needs, so the ability to have the computer skills to make those changes quickly is something our artists must be able to do. It is also nice for an artist to have a unique style that will differentiate themselves from other artists. They need to be able to keep up with the trends but keep to a style that is uniquely their own.  

How much work do you expect an artists to create?
Thankfully our artists are quite prolific, so besides working on the various submission requests we receive each week, our artists tend to send us at least 1 to 2 new collections each month with a collection being 4 to 10 images along with patterns, borders and mock ups.  We have all learned that the more artwork we receive and send out, the more chance of getting artwork placed and the more successful the artist becomes.

Any advice or information you would like to share?
The licensing world is one of a “hurry up and wait” mentality. Patience is definitely a virtue in this industry.  Often times we receive calls for artwork to be sent and/or modified within 24 hours, which thankfully most of the time our artists can do, but once the artwork is sent, it can take months to find out if a design is picked up. This is not an industry where monetary success is seen quickly. Once a new collection of artwork is created, it can take 1, 2 or sometimes 3 years for an artist to see royalties start coming in and see their artwork on products in stores because of the long lead times necessary for decisions to be made, product development, the sampling process, shipping and delivery. It can sometimes take 5 to 10 years for an artist to truly be able to say they are “making a living” in this business. Since entering the licensing business in 2000, there have been a lot of changes in the industry, but we feel we have adapted well.  The art licensing industry was hit hard and is still feeling effects of the 2008 recession. Long gone are the days of nice advances and guarantees being the standard when entering into an agreement.  With the way things have changed in the industry and constant requests for “new” artwork, we have had to make changes in the way we do things. A life lesson we have learned and have put into practice is that we all learn and grow the most through the most difficult times.  Thankfully we have seen a comeback in the economy over the past couple of years and we anticipate things to continue moving in a positive direction for the art licensing world.

Although there are some drawbacks to the licensing world with quick deadlines, a constant need for coming up with new trend forward artwork and long lead times before seeing monetary results, it is always worth it when we walk into a retailer and see our artist’s artwork on products being sold. We have found the licensing industry to be a community of professional artists, agents and manufactures who are willing to work together and share with one another. Besides being able to work in this exciting and rewarding industry, we have been able to create many friendships along the way.  We love what we do and look forward to being a part of the licensing world for many years to come!

TSB & Co. will be in New York in May and showing new artwork by appointment only, so call or email to schedule a meeting as soon as possible.

You can find TSB & Co:
Karen Hacker
(949) 215-2840

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Louise De Masi


Thank you so much Annie for the opportunity to introduce myself to your readers. (You bet! MY PLEASURE ~Annie)

Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?
I like to introduce myself as a wildlife artist from Australia with a weakness for tea and fine chocolate. I am a mum to three grown children, a retired school teacher and an animal lover. Art has always been a huge part of my life. It was my favorite subject at school and it is something that has always bought me great personal satisfaction. I have been painting on and off for 18 years. When I first started painting I used acrylic paint but after ten years or so I grew tired of using it. I no longer found any pleasure in painting. So I put my brushes down and took myself off to university for four years and became a school teacher.

When I completed my degree, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to secure a permanent teaching position. I had to make do with relief teaching for a few years. I gave my details to different schools and I’d sit at home and wait for the phone to ring. To avoid boredom and to take my mind off not working I taught myself to paint in watercolor. I started painting on small pieces of watercolor paper until I was confident to move onto slightly larger pieces. Because I adore birds and animals they were my chosen subject matter.

Eventually the phone for relief teaching rang quite regularly and I juggled teaching with painting. Anyone who is a teacher knows the amount of time that goes into planning and preparing lessons so it wasn’t long before I had little time to paint. I missed it so much. I remember another teacher who, after seeing my work online, said to me one day, “Louise, if you can paint like that what an earth are you teaching for?”

I now paint full time and although I miss the regular pay cheque I have to say I don’t miss teaching at all.

Did I go to art school? Yes I did but only for one year. We needed money at the time so I had to cut the course short.

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I work primarily in watercolor. It is such a beautiful medium to use. I love its translucency and vibrancy and I love how it has a mind of its own. You never really know how a painting is going to turn out. There are a lot of happy accidents and some not so happy accidents when you paint with watercolor. I do occasionally pull my acrylic paints out but I never enjoy painting with them as much as I do watercolor. I’d like to start introducing pencil, ink and charcoal into my work. I need two or three lifetimes to do everything I want to do.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
I gather my inspiration from the things I am most passionate about. I have a deep respect for all living things and the natural world. I find inspiration in the ruffled feathers of a bird, the soft and delicate folds of rose petals and the zig-zag track that the larvae of a moth makes on the bark of a Scribbly Gum tree. I am drawn to the shadows and highlights that the sun makes on different things. Our property adjoins a State Forest and in the past I would take my camera with me when I walked my dog. I’d take photos of the bark peeling off a gum tree, the dew on a cobweb and the leaf matter on the floor of the forest. There is beauty everywhere and I try to convey that in my paintings. I want to make people smile or move them in some way when they look at my art.

What are you working on now?
I recently finished co-authoring a watercolor instruction book called ‘The Art of Painting Sea Life in Watercolor.’ That was a good experience and I really enjoyed working with Walter Foster Publishing.

Last September I signed with Painted Planet Licensing Group. They introduced me to design, branding and licensing expert Liz Wain, who’s been working with me on prioritizing my existing art to develop it into collections. I am new to art licensing and my knowledge about this side of the art world is limited, so Liz has been guiding me and offering me pearls of wisdom. All of what I have been painting over the past 5 years has been wall art. I need to learn how to turn that wall art into art that can be used on products. With lots of patience, Liz is helping me do that. She is also helping me to plan a Christmas collection for 2018. Fellow Painted Planet artist Jackie Decker has also been a great support to me as I delve deeper into the art licensing world. She has shared a lot of information and ideas with me.

I am teaching myself how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and it is opening up a whole new world to me. Although I am enjoying this new learning, I have to say, give me a paint brush over a computer any day!

My agent, Jan Draheim, is in the process of negotiation my first licensing contracts, which has been really exciting!

Any great advice for our readers?
One thing that really irritates me is seeing a beautiful watercolor painting painted on cockled paper, so because I work fairly large, I always stretch my paper. I used to tape my wet paper to sealed MDF board but on occasions the paper would stick to the board when it was dry and when I tried to remove it, would tear.  I recently discovered a product called Gatorboard. It is fabulous for supporting watercolor paper. It’s lightweight and very strong and my paper never sticks to it.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
Painting is my passion and I try to do it everyday. It is what gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up late at night. If I go a few days without painting I start to feel agitated and grumpy. I told my kids many times as they were growing up to find their passion and to pursue it with everything they had. If they can turn that passion into a career then they will never work a day in their life. I am so grateful to do what I love for my living.

I am also very grateful to be working with Jan Draheim and her team. As I mentioned earlier, I am new to art licensing and I realise that to be successful in this business not only do I need to work hard but I also need to have a lot of patience. I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own so having Jan as my guide is a necessity for me.

Are you an early riser? or night owl?
I am both. I am usually up before the sun and I am often still at my computer after 10.00 at night.  This sometimes causes me to have a little nanna nap in the afternoon.

What is your favorite food?
Hmm… that’s a tough one. I’d have to say the one thing that is always in my pantry is chocolate. I eat way too much chocolate. You know in the past, I have scoured the internet trying to find some information or research that paints chocolate in a negative way. I have looked for something to tell me to stop eating it. Something like: ‘it clogs your arteries and increases your risk of heart disease’ or ‘if you eat it too much you have a higher risk of developing dementia.’ I thought if I read something like that it might make me stop eating it. But no! I could find nothing negative except for its high calorie content. In fact, I kept reading about the health benefits of eating chocolate. So I guess I’ll just keep on munching it.

You can find Louise:
My blog:
Painted Planet:

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