Monthly Archives: April 2013

Scary scary words to hear from a manufacturer…

Woman Hitting the Panic ButtonOne of my clients was in Portland this week and we got together to catch up, do a little business and enjoy a great meal.  We were talking about business, the art licensing industry and how everything has been changing so much in the past years.

The company owner looks at me and says, “The internet has really changed things too.  We can go to Google, type in GOOD DESIGN and get tons of choices.  Or we search CATS and just pick from there.”

This artist PANICKED!  I said, “Are you serious?  You can’t tell me that working with an artist who gets licensing, understands how to put together a collection of images and patterns to create a product line, etc. doesn’t have any value to you.”

He smiled and said, “I’m kidding.  We love you.”

PHEW…. :)

YES – the internet gives anyone more options and more competition.  But there is no substitute for experience, dependability and an understanding of what your clients need to set you apart.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Kathy Davis – spreading joy through art and licensing

Kathy DavisLast weekend as I was working, I decided to tune into another Smart Creative Women episode featuring artist Kathy Davis. I’ve always been a fan of her work and if memory serves, she had a big, inspiring booth at the first trade show I ever did.

I loved listening to her story – and I must say, her accent! I didn’t realize she was from my neck of the woods but I recognized that Philly accent. :) I think she even mentioned getting her undergraduate degree at West Chester – I’m assuming she means West Chester State College or University – depending on when she went there. Wonder if she ever took Astronomy with my dad – George Reed – wouldn’t that be a small world story? (Kathy if you read this and if you did – let me know!)

I felt very connected to her story of starting her art career in the midst of a divorce and having to decide what to do… oh yes! Been there done that!

Enough about my impressions – I recommend you head over to Monica Lee’s site, Smart Creative Women and check it out yourself. When you are done – see all the other amazing interviews she has done while you are at it!


Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  One other thing Kathy, if you are reading this, I’d LOVE to have a short video of how you got your start in art licensing to add to the blog.  Please let me know!  Click here to see others…  (oh yes – ANY artist at any level of this business is invited and encouraged to create a video too!)

Are you doing it your way?

You can read, listen, watch and learn till the cows come home… but in the end, each and every artist, as well as each and every agent, retailer and manufacturer gets to do it THEIR WAY!

Most people will agree that “doing it my way” sounds like a fabulous way to live – when looking at their own business.

You get to decide what you work on, when you work and when you take a break. you have more flexibility with your time than someone with a traditional job that gives them 2 weeks vacation and a handful of sick days.

Of course there is a different sort of pressure from doing your own thing. You are in charge of everything.  If you don’t get motivated and get some work done, your income will likely suffer…

Many people don’t like the theory as much when it applies to others – especially if their ways of doing business aren’t aligned.

Every so often I get emails from artists or talk to artists who get very, very frustrated with how some other people choose to run their businesses.   They get very upset, hurt, angry etc when their art submissions or emails seem to go into the void – probably having a dance party with those odd socks that have gone missing from the laundry for as long as socks have been around.

One artist told me how the went to the AGENTS page of this blog and contacted each and every one of them.  Of the 28 they contacted, 11 responded.    The comments the artist received from those not interested ranged from a generic “thanks. but no thanks” to some very warm and thoughtful responses. The artist thanked them all for their time and consideration.  The artist was very frustrated by the lack of response, the questions asked that could have been found if the agent took the time to read their entire website, etc.

I get it.  I understand that when you take the time to contact someone, you would like a response.  As my mother often says, “How long does it take to respond to an email? There is no common courtesy anymore.”  To which I say – try getting 100+ emails a day mom and see how you feel.  You could spend your entire day responding and no time working on your business.

I’ve said it many times before – in this business, you don’t always get a response.  If that raises your blood pressure or causes you to lose sleep at night, find another business. Everyone gets to do it their way.  They decide if they respond to everyone or if they only respond to the people they think would be a fit for their business.

I’ve talked to many agents and manufacturers who tell the same tale – there are SO MANY PEOPLE trying to license their art that they can’t respond to everyone.  In a perfect world they would but this world isn’t perfect.  And don’t forget – it’s their business so they make the rules.

You can decide who you work with and how you communicate.  They can too.

I once had a friend who whole-heartedly disapproved of how I communicated with my clients.  “You are too casual – you can’t joke around with clients! You are unprofessional!”  To which I would reply, “This is who I am and I have a good barometer of how to communicate with each person. ”  I’m not sharing intimate details of my life with everyone, but some clients and I have become friends and we’ve had some amazing heart-to-hearts.  It’s how I choose to do business.  I want to work with people who I like and who are fun to work with and for the most part I do. (As I write what comes to mind in this post I realize she wouldn’t like the conversational way I blog either… oh well – it’s my way! :) )

I have had the occasional issue with wasting time and energy being irritated when someone doesn’t behave the way I think they should.  This is especially true when I go out of my way to help an artist looking for free advice or send them links to find the information they are looking for and I don’t even get a “thank you” reply.  To me, if someone helps you, you thank them.  Apparently not everyone thinks that way.

I also struggle with frustration when I KNOW all of the information someone wants is easy to find on the FAQ page of this blog but they prefer to email me and expect a reply.  In my perfect world, I’d answer every email.  In my real world, some fall through the cracks and I have a new policy that is in place to keep me sane.  It is:

Individual Question Policy

I regret that due to the sheer volume of email I receive, I can’t directly answer questions concerning individual situations from artists who are not coaching clients. I am happy, however, to consider your question for a topic for a future blog post or for the next Art Licensing Info Ask Call. By answering your question in public discourse, my hope is that it will also benefit many other artists.

I will add your question to the possible questions to be answered on the next Art Licensing Info Ask Call – find out the date, time and expert at

Need information sooner? Many answers might already be available to you on the Art Licensing Blog. The FAQ tab is a great place to start or use the search box to look for a topic. I’ve been blogging since 2008 so there is a lot of information to be found there!

Also look at the multitude of questions that have been answered since December 2004 on the Art Licensing Info Ask Call Series. Some replays are available for a fee – see all the guests and what we discussed at

I’ll consider all legitimate questions, but I can’t promise anything. (Hey! It’s free!)

Well, I think I’ve meandered around enough for today and hope this gives you some food for thought.  You get to do it your way, they do it theirs.  Find the people that mesh with your business and try not to lose precious time and energy being irritated with the rest.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed


The “Secret Sauce” for success in art licensing

There was an interesting thread going through Facebook about what it takes to succeed in anything… and in art licensing in particular.  It started with this image from Ira Glass…

Ira Glass - Work Through ItVery wise words just left on their own.  But the discussion that ensued from some veterans in the industry made me want to explore this further…

First I must tell you – there is no SECRET SAUCE for success in art licensing.  That title was a big old marketing ploy to have you read this post. :)

Art Licensing has been around for a while… when people started using the term?  I’m not sure.  The SURTEX show in 1986 and the Licensing Expo – originally just entertainment properties – added art and design to their show in the early 90’s.

The artists I have talked to who have been there since the beginning tell crazy tales of sending original art around the country, having to paint on actual products that are then sent over seas and having to paint large patterns – in repeat – right on paper or a canvas.  I can tell you I am glad I wasn’t in this game then… I love the power of Photoshop.

Deb Grogan agreed to let me post some thoughts she put on Facebook about “Paying your dues”…

The “Secret Sauce” (I like that Ronnie Walter, I hope its okay I borrowed it!) that is no secret is, HARD WORK! Those of us who have enjoyed various degrees of success in this business, have done so because we put our blood, sweat and tears into it. We have walked the shows, even done the shows even when we weren’t really ready, but we learned something from everything we did. We paid our dues so to speak. 

When many of us started in this biz, there was no internet, social media, blog this, blog that, how to, do this, do that approach to what we did, we learned the good old fashioned way, by seeking out the information and going with it, we asked manu’s questions, we talked to everyone in the biz we could, who would actually share information, we went out to stores and picked up product to find companies, I still find I do that today….lol…we learned along the very long path. Along the way, some stumbled and fell, and stayed there, others got up and dusted themselves off and got back at it. We spent thousands of hours doing paintings, HAND MAKING product for our manu’s and shipping them off, hand painting product blanks they sent us, printing art and mailing out portfolios by the hundreds………the cost of ink, paper, postage etc. Some of us started with Photoshop way back when (5.5 for me) and have paid for every upgrade since. Paid for continuing education classes, no Googling for us back then……Newer, better faster computers, more equipment. There was no opportunity to get noticed on ETSY, we had to find our way to the Manu’s. No one offered us $1000 seminars guaranteeing us all the secrets to be a success in this business, we figured it out on our own, paid our dues in countless ways, and for that , we will always be humble and grateful for the success we have, we EARNED it………..

For all the new folks reading this, there is a path to success, its paved with all the hard work from those of us who went before you, it stays paved with your hard work for those who will follow. While opportunities are different and a bit easier to find or get in front of in this global, internet age, so is the increase in competition. So how do you get ahead……Learn, learn, learn, and then learn some more…….those of us who have been here still learn new things everyday. Be willing to take chances, risks, some will pay off, others won’t, but you’ll get back up and try again and the experience will be an unexpected education. You will learn to appreciate what you have, the struggle you’ve made to get where you end up. Take advantage of the copious amounts of free information out there, read everything you can find, then read it again, learn what you can from it, then jump in with both feet. Some may not agree with this method but how will you ever know how ready you actually are unless you give things a try?

Many of us can look back at what we did when we all thought we were ready to and see how far we’ve grown since then……its a never ending growing and learning process……I’ll end with one of my favorite sayings…….Anything worth having, is worth working for……..

I firmly believe that anyone who has any level of success in art licensing has “paid their dues” but the form of payment is ever changing.

In 1986, artists at SURTEX had to educate everyone on the process of licensing.  Now, 99% of people on the show floor understand licensing so we don’t have that piece of the puzzle.

When I started in 2004, there wasn’t much online about what art licensing was or how to do it.  Let’s just say I pretty much went into my first show blind.  I do wonder, however, if I would have dared try the show if I had all the information and blogs to look at that are out there now… I was intimidated enough without fully understanding what I was getting in to!

Today  artists in licensing have to be a lot more computer savvy than ever before.  Learning Photoshop and Illustrator and having a website and how to transfer digital files… those are all “new dues” that weren’t around in ’86.

There are many resources to learn the business of art licensing – from trade show conference classes to online classes, eBooks, coaching and more.  But without the artist changing that knowledge into action (that’s the HARD WORK part) – nothing is going to happen.  You can’t buy success – you have to earn it one creation at a time.

With more information can come more competition and also more analysis paralysis.  Information overload can stop some people and spur others on…

As Deb said – art licensing is a constantly changing, ever evolving way to earn a living and to succeed one thing was, is and will always be true:

It takes hard work, dedication and a willingness to learn, adapt and evolve.

Here’s to your creative success – as a result of your hard work!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  Want to learn more about how to license your art?  Join us – and even ask a question before hand – for the next Art Licensing Info Ask Call with Paul Brent.  Wednesday, May 29, 2013 – go to for all the details.

One month till I’m on a plane to SURTEX…

Today my butt is in my comfy studio chair… a month from today my butt will be in an airplane seat headed to New York – BUCKLE UP – only a month to go!

This month-mark always makes it very, very real for me.  The clock is ticking, the tasks can’t be put off too much longer.  I have all but one banner printed… I was thinking I’d get another collection done for the last banner but now I’m not sure… better figure out how to get my client work done and that collection done… but I’m also going to come up with a back up banner plan, just in case.  It isn’t worth stressing myself out over a theme I would like to get done… honestly, I have many other things that could go on that banner.

I also need to finish making my press kits, adjust my table skirt, check my box of supplies and make sure it is full of everything I just might need…

The name of the game at this point, in my opinion, is to keep on top of your mental game.

SURTEX show floor 2012
Attitude is more than half the battle my friends.  This is my 10th show season and I’ve been through some crazy ones.  I remember the show in 2009 – right after the stock market crashed – one poor artist about fainted she was so worked up.  “The economy is in the toilet!  NO ONE is going to show up!  WHY did I spend all this money???”  She didn’t have the best attitude to have a fun and successful show!  (Not sure how she did but I really hope she found a way to shift her focus and calm down.  I felt really bad for her!)

If you are exhibiting, stay calm.  Stay focused.  Plan on having a great experience. I always tell myself “I will have the art I am meant to have at the show and I will meet the people I am meant to meet!”  Calms me down when I feel my gitters coming on…

Want to read my 10 Thoughts About the Surtex Experience?  Jump on over to Alex Colombo’s blog – The Moon from my Attic.

Here’s to your creative success!  I need to get back to work because… only 1 month to go!

– Tara Reed

Submit your questions for the next Art Licensing Ask Call with Paul Brent!

The next call is the Wednesday after SURTEX so I really need your help – can you PLEASE submit your questions asap and not the day before?  (The day before is always too late – just so you know.)  Since Paul and I will both be exhibiting at SURTEX and he will be working on his always-fabulous SURTEX trend review as well, we’d love to get the other questions organized as soon as possible.

Ask Paul Brent about art licensingSO… what do you want to ask the very successful, insightful and friendly Paul Brent about art licensing?

Got your question?  Don’t pre-judge or over think it, just head to and send it in today so we can get a jump on this during this busy time of year.

Thanks!  Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Do you have a LinkedIn Company Page?

With Surtex just over a month away, I’ve been busy creating art, making sure my website is just the way I want it to be and working on my online presence in general.

One thing I added to the mix this year is a Company Page on LinkedIn in addition to my personal profile.

At first it felt a little weird, I mean, I am my company so why would I have a Company Page too… but then I thought, why not?  Tara Reed Designs is a business that offers a service just like any other business.  And maybe someone, some time, will be searching through LinkedIn in search of art and my company will be found and not me, personally.

Here is a slideshow from LinkedIn – 10 Tips for Best LinkedIn Company Pages of 2012.  It has some great food for thought about how to create an effective Company Page.

Want to read the FAQs about Company Pages direct from LinkedIn?  Here is a link to that too… CLICK HERE

You may or may not decide the time is right to create a page about your company on LinkedIn… but it is something to consider.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Pantone Color Guides and art licensing

Pantone Color GuideToday I got my brand-spankin-new Pantone Color guide!  So exciting!

I showed my husband… ok, maybe he caught me taking this dorky picture of myself – and he said, “Now you can pick more paint colors.  What room are you painting?”

NO!  Pantone color guides aren’t for picking room paint (and I’m pretty over painting this house for now).

In their own words, this is who Pantone is…

Pantone LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Rite, Incorporated, is the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries. The PANTONE® name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.

Basically, Pantone helps us communicate color.

Some manufacturers ask artists to give Pantone colors for their art, others don’t.

The key question to ask your licensee is this:  What color system do you use in the manufacturing process?

Pantone Color Bridge - coated and uncoatedThere are a variety of ways to talk color and communicate.  There are different color fans, swatches and systems you can buy.  What you invest in should depend on what the manufacturers you work with need – personally, I didn’t invest in these until I was asked for colors.

There are swatches for coated and uncoated paper, RGB, CMYK and HTML equivalents and there are Textile colors.  You can’t even guess what a manufacturer will used based on the product.  A few years ago I was picking colors for ceramic dishes for a licensee and they and their factory wanted me to pick textile colors.  Now I am working with a different ceramic company that wants to use coated colors…

Honestly, I find it a bit confusing, but it is important to be able to keep color as consistent as possible as your art moves through the process – going from your drawing table to computer to licensee to factory to the end product.

Learn more about Pantone at and when the time comes that you are asked to “give Pantone colors for your art” – don’t panic.  :)  Ask what color system to use, get the guides and start picking!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Some advice I’ve been giving myself and sharing with others lately about fear…

I’m not sure why but I have found myself sharing these thoughts on fear with a few people lately.  I decided since it keeps coming up, I might as well “share it with the group” as my kindergarten teacher used to say.  So… here it is:

Fear is a test to see how much you REALLY want something… or so I tell myself when Im full of it.  (Fear that is!)

So ask yourself – what are you most afraid of right now and how much do you want to push through the fear?  Sometimes you might decide to leave it alone and other times not.  I was terrified when I decided to try and license my art – but I really wanted it so I pushed through the fear and am glad I did!

I’ve always been afraid of snakes – even pictures freak me out.  However I’m not really seeing the need to work through that one – I simply avoid the reptile house and the zoo, skip the snake pages in books and continue on with my life. :)

Some fears are worth the effort to overcome, others, in my opinion, aren’t worth the time and effort.  Only you can decide which fears are which…

What are you afraid of?

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed