SURTEX - the premier event for selling and licensing art and design

Art Licensing

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How to find copyright infringements and help deciding how to handle it…

Eep! Someone's Stolen my ContentIn a perfect world, you wouldn’t need any advice, counseling or guidance about what to do if you find someone using your art for profit without your permission… Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world.

We live in a world where you can be happily scrolling through Instagram one minute and the next minute you see your art on a product that you didn’t license… or someone sends you a photo from a store or a link to a website and says, “Wow!  I didn’t know you did this deal!  Congrats!”  But you didn’t do the deal and it’s your art and your heart is now in your stomach…

So what do you do?  What recourse do you have legally and how do you decide when and how to set the legal system in motion?

Attorney Kiffanie Stahle of* has written a great guide for creatives – Eep!  Someone’s Stolen My Content!* (I believe she uses the term “content” instead of “art” because this all applies to writers as well as artists.)

The book is divided into 4 sections:

  1. Finding your Content
  2. Copyright Law Crash Course
  3. Create an Action Plan
  4. Templates

There is a lot of practical, how-to information in these pages.  Links to sites if you want to search for your designs that may be being used without your knowledge (sometimes you won’t stumble across it on Instagram or Facebook!)  She also includes a great and understandable introduction to why copyright laws exist and what they do and don’t protect, some basics about registration, publication, fair use and all the other things that have us often scratching our heads.

The third part is my personal favorite – how to decide what to do when you “have arrived” and your art is used without your permission.  When calm heads don’t prevail (or is that just me?) this is the guide to turn to for advice. (And then you might want to call her or another attorney – I’m by no means saying this guide will turn you into a lawyer who doesn’t need help resolving this stuff!)

Finally, there are templates.

I had the chance to be a Beta reader of this content and offer feedback before it was finished. I like that it is practical and easy to understand – something that often evades things that relate to the law.  Kiffanie breaks it down so you can easily go back and review specific topics quickly.

To me, this is a must-have for any artist or writer who is serious about understanding the legal side of their business and what they can do when they find others trying to use their content without permission.

Click here to learn more and get your copy…*

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  Check out Kiffanie’s Office Hours* – for a minimal fee you can be one of 9 people who meet for an hour to get your questions answered about the legal issues affecting your business.  Click here to learn how it works and sign up if it sounds interesting…*

* I am an affiliate and will earn a commission if you click these links and make a purchase.  I don’t promote things I don’t believe in and wouldn’t use myself.

Feel like it’s all the same old same old?

One reality of art licensing is that manufacturers regularly need new options for common topics.  I call it the “recreating Santa” syndrome.  Every year I ask myself, “How will I do a Santa collection this year?”  If you don’t do holiday art, you may substitute coffee, flowers, baby bears or some other theme you do repeatedly.

For artists who think doing the same topic twice sounds like torture, this industry isn’t for you!

Marie Forleo posted another great video for creatives who sometimes feel like they aren’t adding value to the mix or it’s all been done before or others are better, etc… take a few minutes to see what she has to say!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Art Licensing Info Ask Call replay is now available

ask Maria Brophy and Tara Reed about art licensingIt was an exciting and somewhat technically challenging call… thankfully I’ve been doing this long enough to roll with the punches without having a break down!  A few artists had trouble getting on the call or got kicked out for no apparent reason… not sure what that was about but we also had 70 on the line the entire time and a random spot check revealed they had no issues.  Maria says we should blame Mercury being in Retrograde so I’m going with that…

Issues or not, that was part of the business lessons learned: things don’t always go as planned, figure out how to keep moving forward.  We have two new buzz phrases from tonight – “commercially viable” and “business model” – you have to get the replay if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about.

Since Maria and I have done many of these calls, the replay is available for a minimal fee of $20 through January 31, 2015.

This helps me cover some of the hard costs of these calls and allows me to give Maria some compensation for sharing her knowledge time and time again.  We both appreciate everyone who buys one and are confident you will get your money’s worth in knowledge and food for thought.

What we covered on the call:

Tara did a recap of the Atlanta Gift Show and talks about what “commercially viable” art might mean…

Maria talks about looking at your art as a business and how that changes your behavior and perspective and improves your business.

Questions we discussed…

  • What tips & advice can you offer regarding artists wanting to freelance and generate sales without committing to an agency?
  • One artist sees art on products as quirky but does realistic and another sees art as realistic and does funky… we talk about how people are seeing what is in the market and how to find where you might fit.
  • Do you put every color on a different layer in Photoshop so you can change them and how often are changes requested?
  • What kind of paperwork should I be getting from my agent about royalties earned?
  • How do I know when I’m getting paid unfairly, or could negotiate more if I try?
  • I’m one person, any advice on handling creative development and business activities?
  • New types of deals being offered are discussed – how to evaluate and why it might be happening more and more…
  • What’s the best advice you can give to a newcomer to art licensing?

Buy Now Button

Some links to things we talked about…

A great post by Maria about royalties >

Here is the software I mentioned to track your royalties by client or art collection or even image >

If you are exhibiting at SURTEX or the Licensing Expo, time is running out to apply for the 4 month Art Licensing Trade Show Academy – we start on Thursday 1/29.  Get the details at and if it sounds good, fill out the application.  I won’t be accepting any new people after the 28th so don’t delay.

Cathy Heck and Tara Reed answer questions about art licensingFinally – our next call is with new guest, Artist Cathy Heck, on March 11, 2015.

She will be talking about working with family (her husband and all three of her daughters are in the business now) as well as answering your questions. So please let us know what you want to know at


Join Maria Brophy & I tomorrow for the first Art Licensing Ask Call of 2015

Maria Brophy and Tara Reed answer questions about art licensing

Tomorrow night is the night!  Maria Brophy and I will be kicking off the 2015 Ask Calls answering questions submitted by artists.  The questions are organized and we are working on our responses – so no new questions will be added at this time.

If you signed up for the call or have signed up (and not unsubscribed) for past calls, you will / should have received an email with a reminder of the call in details.

If these calls are new to you – welcome!

You can go register and get the dial in details here > 

The calls are always free if you listen live.  Because Maria has done several with me in the past, the replay will cost $20 through January 31st and $30 thereafter.  The nominal fee helps offset the cost of the websites and help I need to pay to make these happen and I also split it with any expert who comes back more than once to generously share their knowledge. (So we appreciate your support and purchase of the few that do cost money!)

Hope you can join us – talk to you soon!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Atlanta Gift Show – January 2015

Atlanta Gift Show Jan 2015Do we need another blog post about Atlanta?  Not sure as there have been many but I’ll throw out a few impressions of my own as well.  I feel a little late to the conversation but it’s been a juggling act in my studio – follow up from the show and enjoying my son’s last few days home before heading back to college took precedence.

Since several of the links I’m adding to this post have great discussions about traffic and trends, I’m going to go a little different route.  Let’s talk about what it takes as an artist to survive going to the Atlanta Gift Show.

I say “survive” because sometimes, that’s what it felt like.  I’ll be very honest and transparent – it’s a roller coaster of emotion.  With so many showrooms, products to look at, elevators and escalators and walkways to navigate, it can get overwhelming.  There are times when you may question your relevance – “Who is going to buy all this stuff and with all this amazing art I’m seeing, why would an art director choose mine?”  Every artist may not battle these demons but I can assure you, I had enough conversations to know that I am not alone in this self-doubt creeping in and testing my resolve from time to time during this show.

There is visual overload – where you walk down a hallway, looking right, left, forward and back only to realize it was all a blur and you have to do it again.  The January show is usually a great place to see new trends for color, theme or style.  The consensus seems to be that there were no big stand-outs like in years past.  Chalkboard look is waning, woodland creatures still seem pretty strong.  Christmas is traditional, etc.

I was talking to a few art directors and agents about the quantity and quality of art coming from artists.  From our end as artists, it seems crazy competitive. If you look at the number of people talking about art licensing on social media, you might reconsider even giving it a shot and go take a class in real estate or medical transcription.

Is there more competition than 5 or 10 years ago?  Absolutely.  The internet shines a light and awareness on what is possible, not only in art licensing but almost every other industry out there.  Most feel there is enough to meet their needs – few are feeling like they can’t find what they want.  But they also mention finding a lot that simply isn’t applicable or “good enough” for their products.  (“Good enough” – don’t you love that one??)  While I believe there is a place for everyone’s creativity, art licensing isn’t the place for everyone.  As one person put it, “you and others do a great job teaching how the business works, how to put together a collection, etc. but if the art just isn’t what I need, that doesn’t matter.”

That is a great reminder that the ART – the suitability as far as theme, style, technique etc – is paramount for success in art licensing.

Another observation was that many artists are so hungry for a deal that they are all doing the same thing.  Many artists showing the same style and theme  – “artists need to bring their own unique spin to the market and see if it will work”.  Don’t be a “me too” thinking that will get you in the door.

A few people expressed some frustration with artists not following submission guidelines or not researching the company to know if they are a potential fit.  “With all the information about how to submit, when an artist emails me and says ‘I have great work, will you look at my website and let me know what you think?’ I want to pound my head against my desk.” It is OUR JOB to show them what we have that is appropriate for them, and then they might want to go to our websites.

Finally, I even heard a few horror stories of artists getting really rude via email if they felt they weren’t getting feedback quickly enough or they didn’t like the feedback.  This isn’t a big industry and that is a dangerous way to burn more bridges than you realize… you would be amazed at how connected people are.

So in summary – I had my ups and downs and pangs of self-doubt that I got to work through on escalators and at night. I had some great meetings, a ton of follow up and lots of potential.  But these shows are usually just that – you leave with potential and then it is your job to turn that into business.  If anyone ever really feels there isn’t room for more than a handful of artists to get licensing deals, they have but to walk the Atlanta Gift Show.  I think it takes an army of creative minds, factories and sales people to create the myriad of products that will be hitting stores in the coming months!

Fingers crossed the follow up is fruitful and here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Atlanta Gift Show - Tara Reed Designs -Jan 2015

Here are some other blog posts to read – a variety of perspectives, pictures and impressions from some artists and agents that I stumbled across:

Joan Beiriger >

Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios >

Alex Colombo >

Caroline Simas >

Sagebrush Fine Art licensing >

art licensing agency >

Last chance to submit a question for the Art Licensing Info Ask Call…

Tara Reed and Maria Brophy answer questions about art licensingTick tock! It’s time!

Our Ask Call is next week – Wednesday 1/21/15 – and we need a few days to get our ducks in a row.  I have to review all the questions, decide which make the most sense for Maria & I as the answerers (is that a word?) and put them in a logical order.  Then Maria and I like to marinate over them and make sure we give you our best and most thoughtful responses…

For those reasons, we need your questions about art licensing by this Thursday, 1/15/15.  Please.

Don’t judge your question – just ask yourself, “What don’t I fully understand about art licensing?”  then click here and submit it.  Simple. Fast.  Easy.  (and much appreciated!)

Then mark your calendar to join us on Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm Pacific / 8:30 pm Eastern and whatever that equates to where you live. (Not sure?  Check out to confirm)

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

Ready, Set… Exhibit at SURTEX

Interested in exhibiting at SURTEX, but not sure if this is the right move for you?  I will be doing a webinar with SURTEX again this Wednesday, January 15th if you want help deciding if and when you are ready to take the plunge.

Here is the official invite from the show… hope you can join us!

SURTEX would like to invite you to join us on Thursday, January 15 at 1 pm Eastern / 10 am Pacific through our interactive webinar, presented by Tara Reed, SURTEX exhibitor and founder of Titled Ready…Set…Exhibit, this complimentary webinar will discuss SURTEX show basics along with factors to consider before exhibiting at SURTEX.  Tara will cover understanding the business, making sure your art is suitable for market, budgeting, creating a successful mindset and more.

We hope you’ll join us! To register, click here.

Space is limited, please only one per company can register.


How to create a “collection” of art for art licensing

In art licensing, manufacturers want to see groups, or collections, of art more than stand alone pieces.

A collection is a coordinated group of images and/or patterns that can be mixed and matched to create full product lines that sell in stores and online.  Think about throwing a party – either with fine china or paper plates – would you want the same exact image on everything or a little variety to make it more interesting?  Variety of course!  And it’s up to the artists to provide that for the manufacturers.

Here’s a video I created to show you how to think about collections….

How an artist goes about creating these collections seem to fall into two categories – those who take a ‘fine art approach’ – creating painting that could be put in a frame and hung on the wall.  The type of art that easily lends itself to gallery sales, for example.  The other way is to start with icons and build to a scene or image digitally.  Art can either be done by hand or completely digitally – there are both types of artists successfully licensing their work.

Artists who paint completed images use four coordinating pictures as the building blocks of a collection. For example, four different but coordinating snowman paintings would make up a winter or holiday collection.  The artist could make the collection more easily applied to products by creating coordinating borders and repeat patterns, using elements from the four base images, to fill out the collection.

An alternate way of creating art collections is to start with individual icons as the building blocks. The icons can then be combined to create scenes (similar to the four painted images above), borders and repeat patterns.

Creating collections means thinking about the bits and pieces a manufacturer would need to create a product. When manufacturers see that you understand and can provide what they need, you are more likely to get an art licensing deal.

– Tara Reed

P.S. To learn more about the basics of Art Licensing and decide if it might be a fit for you and your art, I recommend you take a look at the “Beginner Basics Audio” or the eBook, “How to Get Started in Art Licensing”.

Highlights of 2014…

If you are on Facebook or Google + or both…  you are probably painfully aware of the “It’s been a great year” photo montages the sites are preparing for you.  They are based on photos you post and their popularity… an interesting look at what you chose to share and what was responded to.

Highlight Video thumbnailHowever the Facebook version of your Year in Review might not reflect your TRUE HIGHLIGHTS of the year…

I would assume they include great memories and moments, or you wouldn’t have posted them and they wouldn’t have gotten so much attention from your network.  But today I encourage you to do a little thinking about 2014 and what YOU consider your top highlights.  You can divide this exercise into categories or just do a quick top 5 – either way, it will be a valuable way of acknowledging your year and help you prepare for the year ahead.

So what do YOU consider your highlights of 2014?

You don’t have to share them but I encourage you to write them down, for yourself if no one else.  Here are some “Top 5″ categories to consider – choose the ones that resonate and leave the rest behind.


  • Brave things I was afraid to do but did anyway
  • amazing events
  • fond memories
  • life changing realizations
  • improved habits


  • new things I tried
  • most successful projects (that can be defined however you want – money earned, publicity, personal pride of accomplishment, etc)
  • experiences that helped me grow my business
  • investments in myself and / or my business
  • success habits that are working

Don’t let your highlights be defined by social media.  YOU decide what is important, what is worth remembering, celebrating and what is worth continuing on into 2015.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  Here are a few of my “Business Highlights” from 2014…

  • Completed an amazing coaching program that has changed me in so many ways – best investment of time and money I’ve made in a long time!
  • Successful launch of the Art Licensing Academy Group coaching program – loved how it worked both for me and the artists who participated.
  • Made some “brave” (for me) changes to my licensee list
  • Did some out-of-the-box (again, for me) art that was well received
  • Revamped the site and overall branding and focus

Christmas as an art licensing theme…

Since I’ve got Christmas on my mind, I thought I’d do a quick post about Christmas and art licensing.

lots of ChristmasChristmas is a HUGE spending event – from gifts to gift wrap, dishes, decorations and more.  I’m not sure where I heard the statistic but I believe almost half of licensed products are for Christmas.

As you celebrate the season – Christmas, Hanukkah or other – look around you at the products on the shelves, under the tree and on the table.

Don’t just decide if they are “visually pleasing” but take a look at WHAT is on the many products from an art collection creation process.

As you gaze at gift bags, think about what designs were needed to create the bags.  Repeat patterns, images, borders or icons.

If holiday dishes adorn the table, look at what is on them and how the colors, designs and images go together.

Wishing you a fabulous week of celebration – however busy or quiet your want it to be!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed


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