31 Days of Marketing Tips for All Art Licensors- Tip #24

24 10 2016

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Six Tips for Creating a Trade Show Ready Portfolio

11 05 2016

Portfolio development and trade show planning is one of the most asked about topics in my business. Understanding how to trade show test one’s portfolio is important for artists and designers to know if their portfolio has what it takes to cut through the clutter.

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

Kitty Ice Cream by Joan Marie

There are many types of portfolios—enough to mirror the creative minds we have in this amazing licensing industry. And while everyone’s work is unique, putting together a compelling portfolio presentation to grab attention while distracted prospects are running the gamut of brain aerobics required at trade shows, is certainly a challenge.

Here are some solid techniques to maximize the effectiveness of your portfolios while attending trade shows:
1) Portfolio Size
The size of your portfolio for a show will depend greatly on how long you have been in the art licensing business, and whether the artist is participating as an exhibitor or attendee. An artist who has been in the business for 10 years with a consistent art style—who might add 5 to 10 collections a year—will probably have 100 or more collections to choose from.
Manufacturers want to see a body of work, enough to keep them interested and know the artist is committed to the business. If artists are exhibiting at a major trade event, then think in terms of presenting 20 to 30 collections in a variety of themes and developing a system to access most of any viable work. If you are walking a show, keep it light and bring your newest items and a few solid collections which you want to exploit further.

2) Portfolio Organization
Artists must make sure to organize their portfolios for a trade event by theme, since that is how manufacturers buy collections. They seek out art to fit their product line needs for everyday (including seasonal-fall, winter, spring, and summer), holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, and Easter), occasions (Birthday, Graduation, and Baby Shower) and niche themes/lifestyles (cooking, flowers, spa, sports, country chic, lodge, beach). Organizing collections in other ways will just make it more difficult for the manufacturer and is likely to frustrate them and turn them off.

3) Portfolio Review
Licensees want to see what artists have that’s new. So while an art style may interest them, new art keeps them coming back to ‘see what you’ve got.’
Creating new art for key trade shows is vital, as is sharing new collections throughout the year. Think about how many collections you will create (approximately) for the year, and plan out the releases based on trade shows you will attend. Artists should launch new collections at trade shows and plan on having other new releases following major events to keep the conversations going with potential.

4) Portfolio Flow
Portfolios should ebb and flow. Artists should add new items and take out old items regularly—that’s the way to keep it fresh! Also, they should make sure to keep their newest art at the beginning of the themed sections in their portfolio.
Artists can absolutely continue to use images and collections that were shown last year, or even from years before. However, take out designs that no longer fit the artist’s style, or are no longer ‘in style’ or ‘on trend.’ Think realistically about how long the art will be relevant in the marketplace, and, therefore, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers. If artists are trend driven, it may be one to three years. If artists are very traditional in their themes and style, then eight to 10 years would not be an unusual length of time to keep some art in their portfolios.

5) Portfolios Technology
If an artist has a booth at an upcoming show, it’s best to have duplicate copies of your portfolio for multiple viewers. In addition, make sure there are hard copies and digital versions available. It is important to put the portfolio in a tablet, phone or computer which does not require the Internet to access the images. The last thing artists want is to be dependent on the Wi-Fi in a large convention hall, hotel or conference center with spotty reception. Keep images at an appropriately high resolution for how they will be shown: 300 dpi for print portfolios and look books, and 72 dpi for electronic images.
Use touch-screen computers or tablets to make it easy for anyone to glance through a portfolio at his or her own pace (without having to learn your technology). Keep it simple. I don’t recommend attending a meeting with so much high-tech equipment and business paraphernalia—artist’s phone, tablet, computer, briefcase, and hardcopy portfolio—that they are utterly incapacitated by trying to juggle them all. Think light; think efficient (less is more).

6) Website Portfolios
While physical trade show portfolios are important, just because artists are exhibiting in a booth or attending a show, doesn’t mean that someone an artist meets with won’t quickly check-out the artist’s website. In fact, isn’t that what every artist is hoping for?
For this and many other reasons, it is important that an artist’s website be up-to-date before he or she attend a trade show. The online portfolio should include enough of the art to show a breadth of themes and the depth of an artist’s capabilities. But I don’t recommend that artists show your entire portfolio. It’s not wise or necessary to have every collection out on your site. Of course, artists should take as many precautions as possible by using a watermark on the art and copyright on each piece and/or collection. Some artists do prefer a password-protected portfolio area, especially if they have extensive work to keep organized.

Reprise: My article was written for and originally published by ‘The Licensing Book,” Spring 2015. I am happy to share it again after so many requests for information about portfolio development.  And my sincere thanks to Joan Marie for allowing me to share some of her amazing art images.





Developing A Trade Show-Tested Portfolio

14 05 2015

I’m off to Surtex just as the Spring edition of The Licensing Book hits the stands and airwaves.  I’m sharing a link here to my article, “Developing a Trade Show-Tested Portfolio.” Article

Portfolio Page - Pear Party by Debbie Tomassi

Portfolio Page – Pear Party by Debbie Tomassi





AmericasMart Showcases Licensed Art Themes on 2014 Product Lines

16 01 2014

AmericasMart is so big I never really feel like I’ve seen the whole thing, even though I walked and talked until my feet AND throat were so sore I couldn’t do any more. Don’t tell me I’m getting older; I am always reminded since my birthday regularly arrives during the Mart each January.

The hallways definitely didn’t seem overcrowded this year, but the show was plenty busy. I am also happy to say the manufacturers that I met with seemed pretty optimistic.

My formal take-away from this year’s show was that there were ‘no new themes.’  Really.  Every showroom had variations on the same themes, some of the same themes, or a different cross-section of the same themes on different products.

The following are the thematic trends seen EVERYWHERE:

  • Recycled – Refurbished – Rustic Chic (with loads of Burlap!)
  • French – Paris
  • Pets – Cats and Dogs
  • Ephemera
  • Vintage/Retro
  • Coastal
  • Wine
  • Flowers
  • Patterns – With chevrons, fleur de leis and paisleys
  • Birds – While this theme saw owls coming on strong the last two years, now it’s a full-fledged Hitchcock level parade of seagulls, ravens, flamingos, peacocks, penguins, chickadees, and of course, the proverbial roosters!Dayspring72dpi (1)PrimitivesByKathy72dpi
  • Words — Both humorous and inspirational words were on all types of product. Some utilized type only, and others mixed the words with images. And there was still lots of chalk boards. I picked up two chalk-board inspired catalogs, from totally different companies. You’d have thought their art directors sat next to each other in catalog-making class.  Chalkboards are now, in my estimation, too much of a good thing. Of course, well designed type and handcrafted writing is awesome, but with new, fresh content—it’s much better!

So, if there is nothing new, what is inspiring manufacturers and consumers?  I think the themes tend to stay the same in a conservative marketplace because consumers are purchasing with purpose.  They buy to fit their collections, to match their existing décor, or to give to someone who loves a certain theme. And manufacturers still aren’t willing to take many financial chances.

The freshness, then, is coming from the new ways in which artists, graphic designers, illustrators, painters, cartoonists and all creators are approaching these themes in really unique ways:

  • Juxtaposing unique art styles and varied themes
  • Mixing colors in different ways (the higher-end manufacturers were using muted version of intense colors; the lower-end was using bold, bright and neon colors)
  • Utilizing textures (lace, paint, rust, wire mesh, clay, hammered metal, fabrics, etc.)
  • Creating silhouettes
  • Designing the product itself

In the end, it’s about moving forward and trying new ideas and elements.  Yet, still creating enough great work that appeals to the manufacturers who will fund production and distribution.  I say out with ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’ and in with something more original, such as, ‘Don’t Panic’ by Simply Eartha. Simply Eartha Soy Candle Line with Quotes from Eartha Kitt





5 Top Portfolio Tips for Art Licensors

21 11 2013

Recently I was asked: “Would you say that it is or isn’t appropriate to show work that was included in portfolios shown last year, and how could one do this successfully? Thanks! Sean, Victoria, BC Canada”

This question, plus the fact that I just completed teaching a beginner’s course on ‘Art Licensing Essentials-Creating Collections, Presentations and Websites,’ and hosting an intermediate level course taught by Sheila Meehan called ‘Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell!’ got me thinking about sharing some key points about art licensing portfolios that will help you clean up, freshen up and build your portfolio for 2014.

1) Portfolio Size

The size of your portfolio will depend greatly on how long you have been in the art licensing business, specifically creating collections designed for manufacturers and retailers.  An artist who has been in the business for 10 years with a consistent art style, who might add 5-10 collections a year, will probably have 100 or more collections to choose from.  I have seen some pretty large and amazingly hefty portfolios at trade shows in the past years.

Manufacturers want to see a body of work; enough to keep them interested AND know you are committed to the business.  If you are heading to a major trade event, then think in terms of presenting 20-30 collections in a variety of themes.

2) Portfolio Flow

When building your portfolio it should definitely ebb and flow.  You should add to your portfolio. And take things out. That’s the only way to keep it fresh!

You can absolutely continue to use images and collections that you have shown last year, or even from years before.  However, take out designs that no longer fit your art style, or are no longer ‘in style’ or ‘on trend.’  And mix new ones in with the older ones.

Think realistically about how long YOUR ART will be relevant in the marketplace, and therefore, to manufacturers, retailers and consumers.  If you are trend driven, it may be one to three years. If you are very traditional in your themes and style, then 8-10 years would not be an unusual length of time to keep some art in your portfolio.

3) Portfolio Re-View

Licensees ALWAYS want to see what you have that’s new.  So while your art style may interest them, new art keeps them coming back to ‘see what you’ve got.’

Creating new art for key trade shows is vitally important, as well as sharing new collections throughout the year.  So think about how many collections you will create (approximately) in 2014, and plan out their releases based on trade shows you will attend and key mailings to potential licensees.

Portfolio Piece: Game Nite (c)  Becky Denny

Portfolio Piece: Game Nite (c) Becky Denny

4) Portfolio Organization

Make sure you organize your portfolio for a trade event, direct mail campaigns (‘e’ or snail mail) or on your website, by theme.  It is done this way for a very specific reason.  This is how manufacturers buy collections. They seek out art to fit their product line needs for: everyday (including seasonal-fall, winter, spring, summer), holidays (Christmas, Halloween, Valentines, Easter), occasions (Birthday, Graduation, Baby Shower) and niche themes/lifestyles (cooking, flowers, spa, sports, country chic, lodge, beach).  Organizing your collections in other ways will just make it more difficult for the manufacturer and is likely to frustrate them and lose you business.

5) Website Portfolios

So how much art should you display on your website? Well the answer is, just enough. That may seem like a silly and vague answer, but it’s true. You want to display enough that you show a breadth of themes, and the depth of your capabilities.

But you don’t want to show your entire portfolio.  It’s not wise or necessary to have every collection out on your site.  (Of course, also take as many precautions as you can by using a watermark on your art and © on each piece and/or collection.)

You want to show your best work, some new work, and keep it flowing, as discussed here—by taking things out and adding them back in on a continual basis.  Make sure readers of your website know you have more than this, and send out more collections when requested, or THEN send them to a password protected area to view your complete portfolio online.  I believe, and have had this confirmed by many manufacturers, that having EVERYTHING password protected is too much, but the majority of your work can be prudent.  So share enough that folks can get the essence of your work and ask for more.  Whether you use an online solution to organize, display and protect your art, or you don’t yet have enough collections to warrant that, keep the process simple!

There is always something new to share about building a significant portfolio that will land you deals.  If you are interested in learning more, both of these new classes, ‘Art Licensing Essentials-Creating Collections, Presentations and Websites’ and ‘Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell!’ are now available to purchase as downloads. Each course includes a full audio + more than 70 slides, with details and samples, in a PowerPoint presentation (PDF format)—click here for more information.








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