Thursday, October 27, 2016

4th Annual Mother Daughter Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Happy Halloween!
I have moved the contest this year over to my new "an artist's life" blog.

Please head over there to vote for either "Nemo or Snoopy"...I have lost 3 years in a row! Hoping this might be my year.  click here to go to my new blog, see previous years' photos, & what the winner gets.

Or you can leave a vote in the comments below :-)

You all are the best - SO FUN to connect with you, thanks,

Friday, October 21, 2016

Agent Spotlight - Donna Westman, DSW Licensing, LLC.

 click images to view larger

How long have you been in business and how did you come to be an agent? 
Next year I will celebrate my 15th year in the art licensing field. In 2002 I was approached by an artist to partner with her to market her illustrations to acquire licensing deals with manufacturers. At that time I had limited knowledge of what art licensing was, however I did know an extensive amount about sales and marketing. My career for 15 years prior to meeting her was with a motivational speaker and writer helping build that business into a successful, lucrative career. The same skills that I learned in that business, I have applied to running DSW Licensing. Since that initial meeting in 2002 with the one artist, I have grown my business to include five highly talented, experienced artists that I am proud to partner with.  

Who are the manufacturers you work with - how did you establish those relationships?  How do you market artists?
I have partnered with over 85 different manufacturers of every imaginable product in the marketplace. With a collaborative effort between our agency, the artist and the manufacturer, strong partnerships have been developed over a wide spectrum of reputable companies within the home décor, paper products and giftware industries. One of the most exciting things about this business is to walk into a store and see DSW licensed products on the shelves and selling! It puts a smile on my face to see our flags displayed at Lowes, paper tableware at the local grocery store, or spot our wall décor and pillows at Target! We have had products in mass retailers as well as smaller, independent retail stores throughout the country.

Establishing these partnerships with manufacturers has been accomplished in various ways, but mainly through good old fashioned hard work and constant, consistent marketing and follow-through! I have exhibited at both Surtex and the Licensing Show, which have been beneficial, however I have found that it’s the daily work in my office of continual contact and communication through emails, my quarterly DSW E-News, utilizing social media (Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter), and picking up the phone to talk to a client to hear what their needs are. (You can get a lot of information just by listening!)  And, a prompt response time when a request comes in, is always appreciated by clients.

 I also have attended for the past 15 years trade shows annually including the America’s Mart, Dallas Trade Show, Las Vegas Market, San Francisco Gift Show and the New York Stationery Show meeting one-on-one with clients at these shows as well as at their company headquarters. I have established terrific relationships over the years with some of the top manufacturers in this industry and am always looking for companies to align with. There are always new companies to research and present my artists designs to and very important that I stay on top of whom is the correct person to be sending the art to, as company contacts change often.

Do you have employees? 

I am a one woman show!  However, since I work so closely with the artists that I represent, they are, in some ways, considered my business partners. I think what differentiates my company from many other art agencies is that I keep the number of artists that I represent to a select smaller number, where many agents have a long roster of artists. I am very familiar with my artists’ portfolios because I work alongside each of them on an intimate basis. Knowing their portfolios’ enables me to curate and tailor proposals to manufacturers. And, what I have found is companies prefer to be sent artwork that is tailored to their specific needs and product formats, and not just a laundry list of images that they then have to weed through. They don’t have the time to do this, it is up to me as an agent to listen to their needs and then send a tailored, targeted submission. 

What do you look for in an Artist? 
There are several things I look for in an artist, but mainly art that is licensable!  I receive on a weekly basis submissions from artists and designers that are eager to get their designs licensed.  The vast majority are not images that I would present to my clients.  The art may be great for galleries or advertising campaigns, but not art that can be applied to a variety of product formats.  I always tell an artist to actually go walk retail stores and look at what is on the shelves. Buyers are very rarely looking for the neon unicorn on a plate. But, most likely you’ll see a more traditional Santa, beautiful floral, or fun and trendy word art. I also prefer an artist that has a wide portfolio to pull from, with all seasons. I license a lot of seasonal artwork, including, spring holidays, and fall holidays, especially the two big selling holidays, Harvest/Halloween and Christmas. I also partner with artists that are flexible and understand that the buyers make the final decision on the art. Buyers and creative directors are looking for what their customers’ needs are and what sells. It’s all about making the numbers work for manufacturers and it’s about what we can do to help them accomplish that! My artists are always “in the loop” on what requests I am receiving from potential licensees and art trends that they are looking for in their next product release. Many times my artists have taken these art “call-outs” and created new art collections based on the client’s specific requests. As a result, we have had quite a lot of success with securing licensing deals because of the time put in to listen and review what their needs are and create art accordingly.   I also look for artists that understand how to work in Photoshop, or some similar software so their designs can be applied to multiple product formats, and completed in an expeditious manner. The industry works on a quick turnaround these days, so having these necessary computer skills is critical for success.   

I also look for integrity and mutual respect when partnering with artists. It’s a close working relationship between me and the artists, and so these two qualities are important. My company statement is “At DSW Licensing you will find the distinctive art you need to have a successful product line, and at the same time, make each project an enjoyable experience with the highest level of excellence and integrity.” The five artists that I currently represent, I have worked with for many years.  I am grateful that I have such fabulous artists that are on my team.

How much work do you expect an artist to create?  
As I tell my artists, the more new art collections you send me, the more opportunities you have to get licensing deals! Of course, I would love to receive a new collection every week from my talented team, however that is the ideal. Some are more prolific than others, and some art requires more detail than others, therefore I may not receive as much from them. With that being said, if I find that I am not receiving new art on a pretty consistent basis, than I may need to look for a new artist to fill that void. Artists that are serious about this business know how important it is to stay on top of the trends and create new art on a regular basis. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby, not a business. 

Any great news you would like to share? 

I am pleased that we have had one of the best years in art licensing this past year.   I had many new manufacturers come on board, as well as licensees that we have worked with for many years expand their collections with new products. One of my artists has had her beautiful Christmas collection expanded by Demdaco after a very successful launch of her initial collection last January. It is rewarding to have a company do so well with their sales figures that they come to you to add more product sku’s for a future collection.        

How has the Art Licensing business changed over the years?
So much has changed and evolved in the art licensing industry! I would say the most significant changes are due to the digital age. My arms are not as in shape as they used to be since I don’t have to cart around 15 pounds of binders at shows! Now I present art from a SURFACE or iPad. When I began this career, all the art was printed out, put into folders with cover letters, post cards used as marketing tools, contracts were all mailed. Today it is predominantly digital marketing, including art submissions, email introductions, and E-contracts. And, there are all the Internet marketing tools such as websites, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. It’s completely transformed how I do business. One question that I get asked often is why I don’t have all of the artist’s designs on my DSW Licensing website. I only keep a small sampling from each artist to showcase their style and various themes.   We prefer not to put their entire portfolio online for a couple reasons. One, I prefer to hear from clients so I can tailor the art specifically for their product formats. And, secondly, unfortunately, we have found that there are online “opportunists” that may copy or infringe on the copyrights of artists therefore, I find it is best that I send out the artwork.

Any advice or information you would like to share?
This is a very unique business and takes a lot of the 3 P’s- patience, persistence, and perseverance.    There have been some companies that I have marketed to for ten years that I finally ink a contract with because I didn’t give up and kept consistently communicating with them. Sometimes the timing may not have been right, or the art just wasn’t what they were looking for during that season. The slogan that patience pays off, well, in this industry, that rings true! Not only can it take a long time to finally get the license agreement, but then there is the long process from the time I send a contract to when we will actually see any revenue, unless an advance was negotiated.  In between that is pre-production, sampling, getting to the market, shipping, and then you’ll see returns on the royalty reports.  This timeframe can be anywhere from 1-2 years. As in any business, there are days when you may feel discouraged, but I always try to focus on the successes and opportunities in this business.  All industry’s have their ups and downs. You just have to keep your head up and the art flowing! I like to think that the work we do is putting a smile on someone’s face as they enjoy one of our licensed products in their home.   

You can find DSW
Company website:

Connect with DSW through:

@dswlicensing or @donnawestman

Donna Westman

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Bo's bLAWg - Copyright Small Claims Court

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!

Dear Readers,
Since July I have had a number of inquiries on my opinion of the proposal that the Copyright Office set up Small Claims Court. I’ve been mulling it over.  Here are my thoughts:

On July 14th, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York introduced to the United States House of Representatives a bill, known as the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016.

CASE is for the most part based on a Copyright Office Report released in 2013 speaking to the question of whether or not such a forum would be in the public’s best interest.  There is certainly good reason to consider the prospect.  Under the existing Copyright Act, the only forum for infringement claims, large or small, is Federal Court.  This is truly a situation where a wronged party whose original work has been copied, plagiarized or distributed without their permission has no choice but to “make a Federal case of it,” unless the matter can be resolved informally.  CASE would set up an alternative forum intended to be more accessible and efficient than your local Federal District Court.   Would it be?  That is yet to be seen.

In my practice, I have had no real problem resolving infringement claims on behalf of my plaintiff clients and avoiding drawn out litigation.  The reason for this is that my clients have been advised to register their copyrights within three months of first publication.  Having done so, I can leverage the two key benefits of registration into quick and (usually) substantial settlements. 

As mentioned in previous January 2015 bLAWg, registration benefits include the right to claim statutory damages of up to $150,000 and obtain prevailing party attorneys’ fees and costs against the infringing party – instead of being limited to “actual damages (the infringer’s profits if any), and being out-of-pocket for attorneys’ fees and cast. 

Even the most obstinate infringer will capitulate when their own attorney tells them they will have put up a large retainer to defend the claim and, when they lose, they will also have to pay my substantial fees.  When faced with this reality, I rarely have to file an action.  When I have to file, as soon as the defendant looks to retain counsel, I get a decent settlement offer.

However, I also get calls quite often from prospective clients whose works have been infringed, but who have not previously registered their copyright.  If the infringer does not have ‘deep pockets’ (assets) and there is no viable ‘downstream’ wholesale distributor or retailer with substantial profits from the infringement, it is clear that despite being harmed, such claimants have no viable remedy.  That is where I can see a Copyright Small Claims Court play an important role.

CASE describes the establishment of a reasonably well-conceived Copyright Claims Board with qualified copyright attorneys serving as “Claims Officers” empowered to hear infringement matters.  They would assure parties proper use of procedural due process, oversee basic discovery, conduct hearings and issue findings that would be published, and subject to filing as Judgments in the District Courts for collection purposes.  Unlike most State Small Claims Courts, parties can use attorneys or certified law student counsel.  All well and good.

Like the 1976 Act, claimants would be entitled to elect either Actual Damages (including the infringing parties’ profits), or Statutory Damages.  However, statutory damages would be capped at $15,000 instead of $150,000 – but only in the event of a registration prior to infringement (or within three months of original publication). In the absence of such registration, the statutory damages limit would be $7,500.

Since it is easy to leverage settlements with pre-existing registrations, it is hard for me to imagine anyone electing to pursue the Small Claims alternative unless they did not have a registration before the infringement.  In that regard, and given the prevalence of infringements where there are little or no actual damages or profits, the $7,500 statutory damage prospect would be a keen advantage – one that may pave the way for settlement early in the Small Claims process if the Defendant is at risk of that.

HOWEVER, what I believe to be the fatal flaw in the CASE legislation, is that participation by the parties is voluntary. (See Section 1403(a).)  The defendant may “opt out!”  (See 1405(h).)  Facing a potential statutory liability of $7,500, why wouldn’t they opt out knowing that the Claimant will be out-of-pocket to bring an action in Federal Court, and no statutory damages are available.

Nor is the Copyright Claims Board empowered to grant injunctions against ongoing infringements.  That limitation in itself would rule out Small Claims as a reasonable forum for many situations where what is critical is not present damage, but the long-term damage if the infringing activity is not stopped immediately.

While I can understand the basis for not affording the Copyright Claims Board the authority to consider and grant injunctive relief, until the opt out provision is fixed, I fear that the CASE court will end up being the forum that is used by ‘copyright trolls.’  There are many entities that search the internet for copied illustrations, photographs, music and/or film clips and make unreasonable demand$ upon the website owners who have innocently or mistakenly allowed uploading of infringing material. 

Taking down the offending image or material is not enough for these outfits.  Once they have identified what they believe to be an unlicensed use, they continue to send demand letters and threaten legal action.  Rarely, however, do the actual copyright holders take the initiative to go after such infringing use if the offending item has been removed from the website.  In the case of ‘innocent’ infringement, it is likely the damages awarded in Federal Court will be as low as $200.  Nor will the Court necessarily award them prevailing party fees since the damage was minimal and the defendant complied promptly with the ‘cease and desist’ letter.

I know a number of artist organizations are supporting the legislation.  The Graphic Artists Guild appears to endorse the supporting efforts of the Coalition of Artists which includes the American Photographic Artists (APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Digital Media Licensing Association (DMLA), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

Perhaps they do not share my concern over potential misuse of the Small Claims Courts or that their members will not be able to make meaningful use of it due to the Opt Out provision.  Or, perhaps they are pursuing changes in the CASE provisions to address those matters.  If you are a member, I recommend that you share your own view with them.

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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Friday, October 7, 2016

Artist Spotlight - Mitzie Testani


Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught? 
I worked in web design in the dot-com era before returning to school to earn my BFA in graphic and interactive design from Tyler School of Art, Temple University. I graduated with three portfolios: one for print-based design, one for interactive design and one for illustration. I worked mostly in interactive design after graduating, but when I freelanced, it was always the illustration projects that made my heart race. When I was illustrating in school, though, I didn’t really feel like I had hit on my style, so my illustration education has really been a mix of on-going online illustration classes and self-teaching.

Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I have been using pencil, pen and ink since I began to illustrate, and, although I’ve been experimenting with paint for a very long time, I’ve only been using paint for illustration projects for about a year. I use both water colors and gouache. I have a professional set of water colors (Mission Gold) but I’m still using whatever gouache I find on sale (from Reeves to Winsor & Newton). I also love Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White. It can be mixed with any water based paint and it is great for editing and brightening areas.

What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
I am hugely influenced by nature because I hike almost every week with my family. I bring a sketch book along so I can draw while my husband and son veer off trail. I also really love vintage lettering. Probably because way back when I was first working professionally I started out as a typesetter/typographer. I was always so fascinated with designers who could spec type accurately on their mockups. I also have a secret love for children’s picture books. I had quite a collection before my son was born. Now, we go to the library a lot and buy quite a few second-hand books, which gives me a chance to rummage through thrift stores.

How did you start licensing your art?
I haven’t done this yet. But I’ve been told so many times that art licensing is a marathon, not a sprint. That said, I’ve only started to send my work out to companies this year. Up until now, I have just posted my work on social media and on my websites. I have been contacted by manufacturers from China (twice) and India about licensing, but I think I am someone who needs an agent in the mix. From the copyright aspects and the language barriers to the ability to have more time to make art, I would love to have good representation. I was approached by an agent this year, and began working with them in good faith while I checked references. Unfortunately, the feedback was not great at all, so I passed on the opportunity before I got locked in to a two-year relationship.

What are you working on now?
I am getting my original paintings and open edition prints ready for an exhibition at the Natur-Tyme gallery in Dewitt, NY, near where I live. My work will be for sale there from October through December. Also, I have an illustration coming out in the winter issue of The Coloring Studio by Stampington & Co., I am working on a couple of children’s books that I hope to submit to publishers and I am loading up my Etsy store for the upcoming holiday season. I also have portfolios to update on Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators ( and The Art Licensing Show ( I plan to start marketing my work a lot more this year. I have some additional opportunities to teach art workshops as well, if I can fit it into my schedule.

Any great advice for our readers? 
The house we live in now has enough room for me to have my own art space, but my studio is currently a mess since I’m getting ready for a show. My painting area is in a closet that my husband has removed the doors from. I use the rest of the room for my library, art supplies, computer area and framing work, etc. If I didn’t have a separate space, I guess I would have a tool box or something that would allow me to work wherever I could. Also, I’ve heard repeatedly that it’s rare for illustrators to earn a full time living from their illustration work, so regular, part-time work is a good idea and probably something else I will pursue this year.

Anything else you would like to share with us?
I send out a newsletter every couple of weeks with what I’m working on. You can subscribe here to see what I’m up to (and I never share subscriber information!)

Are you an early riser? or night owl? 
Mostly, I’m an early bird. I start anywhere from 2-4 am and work until my son wakes up around 7:30 am. It’s a schedule I started when he was just a baby and I’ve stuck with it because I’ve found that it’s my most productive time. Now that he’s in school, I get a little more time during the day when I’m not committed to other things.

What is your favorite food? 
Coffee with real half-n-half and good music to go along with what I’m painting. This week it’s been King Britt Presents: Sister Gertrude Morgan, Moby’s Play, some Fatboy Slim, and almost my entire David Bowie library. I probably need to update my play lists, but I’m becoming a creature of habit, I think.

You can find Mitzie:

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