Looking by Valerie (Valry) Drake

I will be attending Surtex in New York City this spring. Surtex is an art licensing trade show. The exhibitors will be artists who license their work and artist's agents. Surtex is held in conjunction with The National Stationery Show and my ticket to Surtex also gets me into NSS. NSS has exhibitors who are (predictably) stationery manufacturers - a large market for art licensing. There are also several seminars offered at the shows which sound extremely valuable.

If you are not familiar with the term, licensing is when artwork is used on manufactured products and the artist receives a percentage based on how many of those items sold. Think about how many things have artwork on them! Party plates, scrapbook stickers, tissue boxes, kitchen towels, school notebooks, t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, etc. I think the going rate for a license is 5% of the wholesale price.

Since this is my first time to attend Surtex I am not expecting to walk away with a licensing contract. Then again, I can always dream! The cost for an independent artist to attend Surtex is $150. As part of my preparation for the trip I am spending hours researching the individual exhibitors, going to each individual web site and seeing if the exhibitor is a possible match with my work. So far I have targeted one manufacturer and six agents.

As an attendee I am not allowed to carry my portfolio into the show, which I think is perfectly reasonable since other artists pay a lot of money to be exhibitors. I also need to be considerate of the paying customers that are talking to the exhibitors. However, I can carry "tear sheets" and I can set up appointments to discuss my work.

Question #1: What is a tear sheet?
The best I can figure out is that a tear sheet is basically a single page flyer about ONE of my "art collections" (see Question #2). It should show the components of the art collection, various combinations of those components, and some "mock-ups" (see Question #3).

Question #2: What is an art collection?
The art which is licensed is not what I would really refer to as fine art, more like illustrations. An art collection is a themed set of various components that can be combined in different ways. For example my set of dancing stick people has three stick people and various border elements. Here are some of the ways they combine.

Question #3: What are mock-ups? Mock-ups are where I go one step further on my samples and merge the art onto merchandise graphics. So I will take the round piece above and merge it onto a paper plate graphic, and the square one onto a napkin. Or I might take the round one and make a sheet of mock stickers. You get the idea.

I am planning to take four art collections with me to the show. Consequently, I am a busy artist right now.

More about my Surtex preparations next time.


Creativity Needs Peace and Quiet by Mike Rooney

I've had an epiphany sometime over the last few months. Slow down and do better paintings.
I thought you might like to see how I corrected a dangerous course of action so you'll have something to think about before you go down the same road or have to correct course like me.
Here's the skinny.

I've been a full-time painter selling in a dozen galleries up and down the eastern seaboard for almost five years now. All the wisdom of the day when I started said that you needed miles and miles of canvas behind you before you got any good. Well they were (and still are) right. But what I didn't hear was miles and miles of decent work.

Don't you look at your screen with that look on your face. If you paint, or draw, or sculpt, you haven't always sold your very best work 100% of the time, now have you. It's human nature to do what you can with what you've got on hand.

I ran from painting to painting, averaging three or four a day for years. Some call that prolific. I now call it stupid.
How can you find time to do your very best work if you hardly have time to each lunch or return a dealers phone call?

Note to self: Being frazzled is counterproductive. Seems like common sense, right? Not so much, when you're trying to pay bills, keep galleries happy, and stay ahead of the tax man. Being pushed also keeps you from thinking through the design, accepting little things you know aren't right in the painting (but getting onto the next one helps you conveniently forget), and can lead to professional burnout.

So my new mantra is not "how many can I do in a day," it's "how many really good ones can I do, no matter how long it takes."

If you're shaking your head up and down frantically, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Slow it down. Think through the design a little more than you do now. Don't let something go out to a gallery that you wouldn't want on the front page of your local newspaper with your photo next to it and your name in huge type. What an acid test that is huh?

Ouch.....After saying that.... if you'll excuse me I've got to quit typing and go work on a few paintings some more that I thought were good enough to show.

You can visit Mike's blog and can be contacted at


Bring out your dark side (to show more light) by Wilson Bickford

I love to paint the deep woods. There is mystery in the dark depth of the shadows. And the way the light filters through the trees is absolutely majestic! (At least to me.) What appeals to me above all, is the strong light and dark contrast, which is the entire basis of a good painting.
So many times, I see beginning painters who possess good intentions, but also ignorance of the importance of a strong light/dark balance in their work. It's been said that, "without the dark, there is no light." That is absolutely true!! The darks are what make the lights "pop" and without enough contrast, the end result will be bland.
This principle does not pertain only to wooded landscapes, but EVERY artistic theme and subject. Still life, florals, portraits, whatever the subject,.......all will benefit from a good balance of contrasts.
When thinking about the lights and darks in your next painting, also consider the color "temperatures." Although it's certainly not always the case, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is to use cooler colors in the shadows, warmer tones in the highlight areas. This will add a huge "kick" to your painting and yield a more refined, professional result.

Shown is "SUNLIT STREAM" - Oils on 12" x 12" Gallery Wrap canvas

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