Monday, June 27, 2016

3 years into Art Licensing - Things are starting to grab hold.

Hey Everyone!

Can you believe I started blogging 3 years ago last March?! Time flies when you are having fun ;-)

I thought I would chat a bit about where I am 3 years in. This isn't a gauge of where you should be, but from what I have heard and read, I look to be about 'average' ;-) Some say it takes 3-5 years to get going in this business.



My art and patterns are SO MUCH better than 3 years ago thanks to the input of my agent and manufacturers. Art Licensing really is a wonderful community of support! Creating art almost every day really has done the trick too ;-) Practice makes perfect.


I will rattle off a few licenses. Halloween figurines coming out this fall, Patriotic Notepads and note cards on Amazon and other sites. Flags and soft goods (to be announced soon) through a manufacturer that also sells through Wayfair, Amazon and Walmart. Thankful for a handful of manufacturers shopping some of my art around. - Things are starting to grab hold! :-D I need to take a minute and give a shout out to - 3 exciting opportunities have come my way through this site - Cool Beans! Thankful for all the hard work my agent has done and continues to do <3

Blogging/Social Media 

Social media and blogging has been great for me and hopefully good information for all of you too. I get a front row seat and learn new things with each post. Nothing is better than when a manufacturer recognizes you at a trade show and raves about you & the blog! I am really blessed. It has been a fabulous way to connect with you. I appreciate all of you who have sent money to support the blog & newsletter. I could use more support. (Tip jar and PayPal link, top of right-hand column).

My "2nd Thursdays" group on is a monthly text chat group. We put our heads together and great ideas and information come from it! Recently Susan January, VP Leanin' Tree was in the hot seat while the group asked her questions. If you are a paid member of, you can get the PDF of the chat on the 2nd Thursdays group wall.

I recently decided to put the Pattern Parade on hold. I hope to pick it back up when I can afford an intern. Over the last 3 years I have added more to my social media plate and it was time to trim back a bit.

If you haven't already, I would LOVE to connect with you on social media sites. I enjoy seeing what all of you are up to :-D Go to my website and scroll to the bottom for the list/links of social media sites I am on If you like, sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss any of the action here on the blog.


While I haven't been in the licensing business that many years AND this is what I have to remind myself of once in awhile –– If you want it, you will get there. Stick to it, and one step at a time works beautifully. It won't be a straight path. Go where the opportunities pop up.

Any of you have advice you would like to share in the comments below? That would be great! Looking forward to hearing about your journey. Hugs!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - Licensing Agents


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!


Recently I was asked to sign a non-compete for an image broker who wanted to help me license my work. Is it standard to ask for this sort of exclusive? In what scenario would a non-compete be necessary? Thank you, in advance, for your guidance!

The short answer is that people in business as ‘image brokers” or professionally as Licensing Agents may reasonably expect to represent the Artist exclusively.  Whether or not the exclusive representation will apply to specific illustrations or specific goods is subject to negotiation.  However, once the scope of exclusivity is mutually agreed upon, it would reasonably be expected that the Artist would not compete with the Agent of licensing opportunities within that scope.

I should mention, there is a legal difference between licensing exclusively through an Agent, and giving an Agent an exclusive right to license your works.  With the former the Agent would expect that the Artist would use the Agent for all licensing deals.  The Artist would be expected to accept a non-compete provision in the Representation Agreement.  The Agent does not want her pursuing licensing opportunities that might interfere with the Agent’s own efforts.

Sometimes, it is possible for an Artist to obtain express permission from her exclusive Agent to pursue a lead or contact a person with a given company whose name has been given to her for possible interest in her work.  However, I would recommend that it is simply good professional manners to get the express permission of the Agent before she does make such a call.  To pursue such a lead without the knowledge of the exclusive Agent could have various negative ramifications.  It may be that the Agent has a planned pitch meeting with the same company, or knows who really has the power to license at that entity.  To pursue such a lead without the intent to pay the Agent her expected commission would be directly adverse to the Agent’s interest in representing the Artist in the first place.

Taking your own initiative to pursue licensing can also ‘muddy the water’ as to whether the Artist is or is not represented by a given Agent, this damaging the reputations of one or both.

However, the main reason I suspect that an Agent would not want her represented Artist to pursue such leads with or without her permission, even if the Artist were prepared to pay her Agent’s commission anyway, is that such initiatives undermine the Artist’s interests as well.  It is the Agent’s job to know what the particular company is looking for by way of new imagery.  S/he should know what trends are hot and which of her clients’ illustrations might best fill the needs of  one or another company given the strengths (and weaknesses) of their existing product lines.  S/he has likely spent years building up a professional relationship with that company that she expects to lead to greater confidence in her recommendations to those clients.  

Were the Artist to pursue her own licensing with such a company, she may very well undercut or destroy the Agent’s business plan to sell that Artist’s line with a more profitable competing company and at better royalty rates than the Artist might be willing to settle for! 

Even where an Agent is the Artist’s exclusive representative only for a particular line of illustrations or for a specific limited line of Licensed Products (i.e. greeting cards and paper products as distinguished from magnets, plastics and fabrics), the Artist can cause an Agent havoc by pursuing the same corporate Licensees for their interest in a different group of her illustrations or for use of her illustrations in ‘other’ product lines also handled by the company. 

Just last week I had a client call who had been ‘balled out’ by her Agent who took exception to her independent efforts to license her imagery for product lines not handled by the Agent.  It was clear to me that per her Agency contract, she had a legal right to pursue personally such licensing opportunities, but I could well understand the Agent’s resentment.  How was he supposed to pitch her illustrations as fresh, new and particularly appropriate to this regular company client of his, if his own Artist has already pitched them for other products.  It was very clear that the Agent would sooner pitch another Artist’s imagery than risk that scenario.

Accordingly, it is simply good business politics to be clear on the front end of an Agency relationship what if any independent marketing the Artist can look to do on her own behalf  -- if any.  One solution is for the parties to give each other a list of prospective licensees they would like to pitch, and for what illustrations and product lines, and determine if it is in the best interest of the Artist to make any such marketing forays on her own account.  If it is, she should not do anything to undercut her Agent’s expectations as to Licensee royalty rates payable, and may offer to pay the Agent a discounted commission on Licenses she obtains – at least from company clients of the Agent if not from others.

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,

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.

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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Barbara O'Brien


Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?  
I guess I would say that I am self taught but that is really a misnomer as I have been blessed with wonderful mentors who taught me how to use my camera and other kind folks, like my agent, Joanne Olds of the Buffalo Works and her in house designer, Nicole Fadden, who took a chance on me and have guided me in turning my photos into art to make them more  appealing to manufactures.   I used to do watercolor, sketches and pastels but took 20+ years off to raise a family of four sons and a daughter while running an animal actors agency. I did not start shooting until around 2008 when my advertising clients took a big hit like everyone else and I needed to expand my income base. With the help of some excellent photographers  who were gracious enough to show me the ropes I was able to start shooting professionally right off the bat. I still work with ad agencies and editorial clients but am now focused on creating more imagery that I can turn into licensable art.
Do you work in just one medium? Several? 

I principally work in digital photography. I like to use my own images to create my art as I never have to worry about copyright or attribution issues. I do license photographs but am now mostly working in digital art.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
As you can see from my work, I tend to be pretty animal focused. To be inspired I need to look no farther than out my window as I live on a small farm in rural Wisconsin and am surrounded by beauty everywhere.

How did you start licensing your art?
My oldest son was watching me edit a photo shoot of a really sweet puppy and he said “Why isn’t this on the cover of every fourth grade girl’s notebook?” That was a lightbulb moment for me. Yeah why isn’t it? Those pictures get there somehow and so began my journey learning about this world. I was also lucky enough to have a good friend who managed to get my work in front of an editor at Penguin Random House and am proud to say that my little photo book DOGFACE has done quite well.

What are you working on now?
I have created 10+ new collections in the past few months  ranging from farm animals to humorous themes and strive to create new art every week. I shoot almost continuously adding to my library of assets. For example, I shot a series of farmer’s markets last year to give me the vegetables images I needed to create my farm to table series.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
I am blessed to be working in the digital age, where photography and digital art is even possible. Thank goodness for all the kind people on YouTube and the like who take the time to create tutorials. I learn something new about pattern making and Photoshop everyday.
Any great advice for our readers? 
Create what you love. It’s true as a writer, a photographer, a composer, - for anyone in the arts. I am much happier shooting a field of lambs then I am shooting a pile of towels for advertising. Try to develop your own look. Nothing pleases me more than when someone recognizes my work before they see my name with it.

Are you an early riser? or night owl?
Both, ask my poor husband, I love to work and will work on projects for hours on end if I can. I still run my animals actor agency and my commercial photography business so creating art from my images is my happy place where I get to decide how things look and how they go together.

What is your favorite food?
I eat fresh pineapple almost every morning and I make the best triple chocolate, real Wisconsin butter, and eggs from my very own hens, brownies. Usually when a photographer tries to get a portfolio showing with a new client, they will send a photo of their work.  I send a photo of my brownies with the promise to bring them if they agree to meet with me. No one has turned me down yet.

You can find Barbara
Represented by The Buffalo Works

Make my day! and Buy me a cup of coffee (PayPal Link in right side bar, you don't need a PayPal acct.), follow this blog, and/or click an ad (you don't need to buy ;-)

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