Friday, July 22, 2016

Agent Spotlight - Gelsinger Licensing Group


How long have you been in business and how did you come to be an agent?
My parents, Brian and Dona Gelsinger, started the business in 1994, at the time it was called Little Angel Publishing.  My mom had just barely started in the industry as a licensed artist with Lightpost Publishing, Thomas Kinkade’s company and they landed a deal to produce artwork for a line of collectible plates.  She also did a few deals with 2 terrific agents Elise Rosenthal and Suzanne Cruise, one of those deals is still in place today actually!  While Dona loved working with an experienced agent, my family wanted to take ownership of the entire process and create a larger business around Dona’s art, so we made the decision to start our own publishing and licensing company to promote and sell artwork.  Over 20 years later, much has changed in the industry, but the foundational vision remains the same, creative terrific art that inspires people.

Who are the manufacturers you work with & how did you establish those relationships?
If you have really good and industry relevant art, you can usually find someone who wants to license it.  The key is choosing the right partners and working together to build successful programs for everyone involved, retailer, manufacturer, agent and artist.  Our aim is to build deep and longstanding, collaborative relationships with our licensing partners.  Many of these relationships have spanned well over a decade and we’re honored to count many of our customers as also good friends.  Some of our longest standing relationships include: The Bradford Exchange, Precious Moments/Ne’Qwa. Leanin’ Tree, Manual Woodworkers and Weavers, Evergreen, Masterpieces Puzzles and many others.  We have some more recent licensing partners who are doing some exciting things as well including Burton +Burton, Timeless Treasures Fabrics, Stony Creek and Raz Imports.

Do you have employees/help?
We have 4 full time employees working on art creation, licensing and administration.  We also find it’s very important to have solid go to people to help in areas outside our area of expertise, these include a copyright attorney, CPA, insurance, etc.

How do you market artists?
We use conventional tools like an online image library, eblasts, email submissions, etc.  Exhibiting at Surtex is one of our best tools for finding new clients and fostering existing relationships.  We attend the Atlanta gift show to see product in showrooms and meet with manufacturers.  We also invest in social media marketing for both consumer awareness and as a communication tool with manufacturers.  Facebook has been our primary tool, but we’re working on expanding our presence on Pinterest and Instagram as well.  I can’t overstate the importance of social media, it’s here to stay and is a tremendous tool for artists.

What do you look for in an Artist?
Whether we are hiring for freelance work or partnering with a licensed artist, the first thing we need to see is a portfolio that shows a basic understanding of the industry.  In our industry, the manufacturer’s purpose for licensing art is to create something they couldn’t do on their own that will help them sell more product and make more money.   With that in mind, a portfolio should include themes, colors and styles that will sell in stores.  It should be unique and beautiful.  Finally there needs to be enough art in the portfolio to tell a story about who the artist is and demonstrate an ability to create many themes and collections.

How much work do you expect an artists to create?
There is no magic number for how many pieces an artist should create in a year, it depends on the artist’s style, what products they’re creating for and a whole host of other factors.  What’s more important is for artists to be self-driven, set goals for how many collections they will create in a year and stick to a schedule.   Not unlike any other career, your monetary goals should be in step with your work output.  If you want to be successful, be prepared to put the time in.  In addition to creating, they should also make time for studying industry trends, gathering reference materials, visiting retail stores for research, doing signing events and keeping up on social media.

Any great news you would like to share?
We’re really excited for our new product launch with Burton +Burton, they have created a whole line of gift items featuring Dona’s artwork for Christmas this year.
How has the Art Licensing business changed over the years?

Everything is much faster now in the industry.  Products are in stores for shorter cycles, artwork rotates in catalogs faster and with the adoption of digital tablets and software, art is also created and modified faster.  This creates opportunity because the need for new designs is growing.  At the same time if you are an already established artist, you must work fast and be prolific to keep up with these cycles, otherwise you’ll find yourself losing marketshare.

Any advice or information you would like to share?
Strive to make each piece you create better than your last.  Pay attention to what is selling and try to do more of that.  Spend time at your easel, drawing table, tablet, whatever it may be, put in the work.

You can find Gelsinger Licensing Group
Dona Gelsinger

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - Copyright and Derivative Use Rights


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!


Bo, can I license well known art works that I have morphed kaleidoscopically?

There is a short and long answer to this question.  The short answer is that if the artworks that you are using are in the public domain (“PD”), you can.  If they are not in the PD, you cannot without a license.

The long answer is that the issue raised is one that pertains to the fundamentals of copyright law, but at the same time has become a cutting edge issue. The fundamental right is that the Author of an original work of visual art is presumed to be the copyright holder with exclusive, theoretically inviolate, rights.  The cutting edge issue is the extent to which a second artist can so fundamentally change the original copyrighted work that it is literally and legally “transformed,” and therefore not deemed to infringe!

Exclusive Interest:

The copyright holder has the exclusive interest in the following basic rights:

1.  To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
2.  To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
3.  To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
4.  To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
5.  To display the copyrighted work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work; and
6.  In the case of sound recordings, to perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
(See 17 USC 106: )

The two of these that apply particularly to visual Art are numbers 2 and 5.  In addition, Artist/Authors of works of visual fine art have the rights of attribution and integrity as described in section 106A of the Copyright Act.

A “derivative work” is defined in Section 101 as: “A work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a ‘derivative work’.”  (emphasis added)
(See )

Clearly, your “kaleidoscopic” treatment of a copyrighted artwork would be derivative as a “transformation” of the original, a right that typically must be obtained from the copyright holder if you intend to license to third parties.

However, there are exceptions to this exclusive right.  The first, referenced above, is that the artwork you are altering is in the PD.  While you can presently adapt or transform any artwork published before 1923 and legally license it for use here in the US, use of the same adapted artwork in other countries will be subject to the copyright laws of that country – which could protect works created and/or published before 1923.

The second exception depends upon whether or not your derivative use “is so transformative” as to constitute a Fair Use.  I discussed Fair Use at length in my bLAWg this past March. 

The essence of Fair Use boils down to whether or not the derivative use is a free speech right under the First Amendment to the US Constitution. If the copyrighted work is being “copied” in conjunction with news and reporting about it or its author, or as part of a critical review, these uses are fundamentally “speech-based” and the copyright work may be used for these purposes as long as the amount of use does not significantly damage the market for the original work.

This is the essence of the first of the four Fair Use factor:  “The purpose and character of the use.”  The US Supreme Court in recent years has begun to expand upon the traditional ‘news and critical comment’ purpose to apply Fair Use due to the extent that the second work is “transformative” of the copyrighted original.  The seminal case was Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (1994), in which the Court deemed 2 Live Crew’s rap using a few lyrics and some music from the Roy Orbison song, “Pretty Woman” to be parody.  Even under a traditional Free Speech analysis, this makes sense.  Parody is a form of speech.  Since you need to use the original work to make fun of it, the use has been deemed Fair. Obviously, the 2 Live Crew recording did not damage the market for the Orbison original.

Since 2 Live Crew, there have been other cases expanding upon the scope of transformative use so that it can be applied to visual art as well as music.  The purpose of the transformation no longer is limited to “parody.”  The Court now examine whether or not the derivative work  “merely supersedes the objects of the original creation…or instead adds something new, with a further purpose or different character.”  (Campbell)   A work can be deemed transformative “if it adds value to the original; basically uses the original as a raw material which is then transformed “in the creation of new information, new aesthetics, new insights and understandings.”  (Castle Rock)   When considering whether a work is transformative, the courts are now evaluating factors such as changes in aesthetics and meaning.  (Cariou v. Prince).

Clearly, there is a legal argument to be made that your kaleidoscopic treatment of these copyrighted works is sufficiently transformative as to be deemed Fair Use.  However, this in no way prevents you from being sued for copyright infringement.  Fair Use is only a legal defense, not a bar to an infringement action.  And, because each Fair Use case has to be considered upon its own merits, there is a good chance that you will not learn whether or not you are entitled to use the copyrighted work in this fashion or if it will be deemed an illegal infringement  until the case is tried in court.  And then the decision of the trial court is subject to appeal!  Is this a risk you can afford?

I should also mention that a ‘creative’ litigation attorney could also make a Right of Publicity claim against you if you use the name of the artist of the underlying work in the promotion of your own transformative artworks.  As discussed at length in my bLAWg from this past February, the essence of the Right of Publicity is that under these state statutes, a person who knowingly uses the name or image of a person for commercial purposes without their permission is liable to that party. (See )

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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Monday, July 11, 2016

A bit about "2nd Thursdays" chat group on

Hi Everyone!
Quick post about my "2nd Thursdays" group on We meet the 2nd Thursday of each month in a text chat room. 6:30 PM US Central Time (Chicago). Everyone is welcome who is interested in any aspect of the Art Licensing business. You do need to be a paid member of to get access to the group. You can sign up for for free if you want to look around and see what it is like & get a free business directory listing.

If you are already a paid member of - I send out invitations to the "2nd Thursdays" group to everyone. If there is a glitch, just request to join :-D.

We usually keep the format open so that we can put our heads together. Cherish, Founder/CEO of attends almost all of the chats. She updates us on any new features on the site, exciting news and answers any questions you may have. The group came up with the very successful holiday coloring book idea, I believe it has had 6,000+ downloads. Recently we had Susan January, VP Leaning Tree, answer all of our questions around the greeting card industry.

Join us! we try to keep it to an hour long - always some great ideas and topics on everyone's minds.
Really looking forward to chatting with all of you!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Leslie Ann Clark

Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self-taught?  
I began drawing cartoons in college. I could not find a class to take so I worked with my professor and came up with an independent study. From there I ventured into the business on my own with some workshops and classes over the years. If I needed to learn something I figured out how to do it.

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I begin traditionally with a pencil!  From my pencil sketch I go to ink. When I get my lines inked, I scan my drawing and bring it into Illustrator.  I select my image and hit “Image trace”.  It gives me a nice clean line. I save it and bring it into Photoshop to color it.  I LOVE color!  My style is evolving a bit with the introduction of my Cintiq.  It’s a wonderful tool that I recommend to anyone who works in Photoshop.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
Inspiration!  Gotta have it!  It comes from so many sources.  I have a wonderful licensing group that meets monthly.  Being around my artist friends is very inspiring.  I love looking at their art to see what they are up to.  I think meeting with others in the industry is important.  We help each other and encourage each other.

I also look for inspiration in magazines.  Color combinations inspire me. I am forever ripping out pictures and taping them into my sketchbooks. I spend some time in the library too.  I love children’s books! .. but I don’t rip up children’s book.  Haha!

How did you start licensing your art?
In the late 90’s I discovered an Illustrators group on Yahoo.  I met a lot of people who were making money with their art and many of them were going to NY.  I took a leap of faith and flew to NY for the National Stationary Show/Surtex Show.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  There was art everywhere!  I saw all the possibilities.  I had worked hard on my portfolio and brought it to the show.  I was completely OUT of my comfort zone as I lugged around that portfolio searching for art directors.  I landed in a greeting card booth behind a line of other artists who were sharing their work with an AD. When she got to me, she looked through my cards quickly and said, “Do you have anything else?”  I went to the back of my portfolio and pulled out an image of a baby.  She loved it!  She asked if I had anymore and could I email them to her.  Of course I said,  “YES!”
I drew babies all the way home on the airplane and had a nice selection ready in a few days. After that first trip, my road has taken twists and turns.  It’s quite a journey!  I am still learning!

What are you working on now?
At present I am working on some juvenile fabric designs for licensing and some work on my books.  I have written a series of five children’s books featuring Burl the bear and Briley the beaver. I am looking for a publisher now so I have to put on my marketing hat.  I am also looking for a literary agent.

My next book features a young boy named Jack who goes on an adventure in his imagination. Its great fun!  I can almost feel what Jack feels as I write his story. All of my stories show the children that all things are possible if you believe!

I am also expanding many of my lines.  My Chicz make me laugh out loud. They remind me of my friends.  Haha!

Any great advice for our readers?
The best advice when getting started is to make a place in your home to work. I started in a small corner of my living room… my art supplies began taking over so I was moved to a back bedroom, then the front living room… finally, my husband saw the need and built me my little studio in my backyard.  It’s getting smaller by the day!  My next dream is for a second story studio above a garage.
Both need to be built! … But then again, all things are POSSIBLE!

Once you get a handle on your workspace, you need to keep working! It is easy to get distracted in a home surrounding but if you get your space settled, it’s easier.

Anything else you would like to share with us?

I was able to write and illustrate two board books with Christian Art Gifts and two picture books with Harper Collins.  The little ones LOVE him. Peepsqueak had quite an introduction.

I have recently fallen in love with a new character. I call her Babe.  She is a wee little hedgehog who lives in a garden. She is part of my Milo the fox collection. I learned that in England the hedgehogs are loved and that some folks make little holes in their fences so they can get them to come into their yards.  I loved that idea! So little Babe was born.  Take a peek.

Are you an early riser? or night owl?

People used to ask this question a lot.  My answer was always, YES!  I simply loved being AWAKE!  They say you get wiser as you get older… burning the candle at both ends quit working.  Now I am an official early bird!  I get up before the sun and go for a nice work out at the local Y, after that I am in the studio for the day.

What is your favorite food?

I would say chocolate… but then I love biscuits too… but since I was diagnosed with an extreme sensitivity to gluten my diet is radically different. I finally came up with a GF recipe for Pumpkin Cookies… with chocolate in them!  They are low in sugar and rich in all sorts of things good for you.  If you stay healthy, your brain can stay happy too and you can keep creating!


You can find Leslie
Feel free to visit me on my website!  You will find many more little characters awaiting your arrival!

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