*Tara Reed has been licensing her art since 2004 and began ArtLicensingInfo.com in 2008 to provide the kind of information and resources she wished she had when starting out.
Tara’s goal is to combine her business background, experience in the industry, and love of teaching to help artists understand art licensing and grow their businesses without breaking the bank.
She has authored 10 eBooks for artists, interviewed many experts in the industry, teaches and serves on the Advisory Board for SURTEX – the premier art licensing trade show.
(*From Tara’s About page on Art Licensing Info)
Carrie: Welcome to Artist Strong, Tara! How did you discover your love of the arts?
I have been creative since I was little – I have a photo on my studio wall (and website) of me painting when I was three and you can see I took it very seriously! I grew up doing any craft I could get my hands on and lots of drawing. I was fortunate that my mom was getting a degree in Education when I was little and we were her guinea pigs for arts and crafts – we used to make our own finger paints and I remember a fun paper maché project too.
My dad was an astronomy professor but also loved to draw – cartoons were his thing. He always illustrated the articles he would write for the local newspaper and I would sit with him in his office and try to be “as good as dad.”
My theory has always been “why buy something if you can make it?” so I love to try different things. I’ve been a quilter, a scrapbooker, a general crafter and eventually worked my way into making a living with my art. I feel very fortunate!
I create art in collections – usually related to a theme. So one day I may be creating a collection of coffee related art and the next working on halloween. I do most of my work in watercolor and then scan and manipulate it in Photoshop – some is done all digitally.
I incorporate a lot of words into my art and most of my work is fun and inspirational. My art is exclusively licensed – I don’t sell art in galleries or through shows, etc. so it is all designed to be used on products for sale in retail stores or online.
Carrie: Can you explain your creative process? What does it look like to go from an idea to a finished artwork?
My designs are created to help sell products – art licensing is a very commercial way of making a living with art. I think it is such a good fit for me because I actually have a degree in marketing and background in sales – I love learning about businesses and how they work as much as I love creating art. Art licensing is a blend of the two. You need to understand what consumers want to see on products so they will BUY them – not just give it a “thumbs up” on Facebook or Pin on Pinterest, etc. “What art will make them buy yet another coffee mug?” That’s my life’s work. 🙂
So first I decide on a theme, or a client will make a request. For example, Christmas. Then I decide what I want that to be… what colors, style (traditional, whimsical, modern, bright, soft etc.) What imagery? Santa, snowmen, penguins, pets in santa hats…
After deciding on a basic theme, look and feel for a collection I get more specific – what images will there be? (There are always 4 coordinating designs.) Will there be patterns and borders to support the images? What products could this art work on and what would those manufacturers need to get it done?
Then I create the art and send it to clients and potential clients for review. Nine times out of 10 art will need to be tweaked to suit the needs of any manufacturer. For that reason, I keep everything in layered files in Photoshop so we can move things, change a color, set up to different formats and templates…
The creative process isn’t all about me. It may start with me but then my clients become involved and it becomes co-creative. Artists who don’t like change requests or revisions will not be happy in the art licensing field!
When the client says, “Ok, it’s ready!” And then the collection may go through further tweaks and changes if another manufacturer decides they want to license it for their products as well.
Carrie: Do you use goal-setting in your career as an artist? How so?
I do – I even created a goal setting system for artists because so many goal setting systems felt constrictive and didn’t leave time for creative inspiration. Or, if you didn’t hit a goal in week one you might just give up because you’d never hit it for the month.
I set weekly, monthly and yearly goals that relate to art creation, writing and teaching, marketing AND taking care of myself. Without staying healthy, balanced and inspired – it’s hard to keep the rest of a creative business moving forward.
Carrie: Why did you create your website Art Licensing Info?
I created ArtLicensingInfo.com and the blog – ArtLicensingBlog.com – to fill a gap in the industry at the time. I was the first to really start talking and teaching about art licensing in an easily accessible way back in 2008. There was very little information about what it was let alone how it worked when I got started.
The website also filled a goal of mine – in 2004 when I was starting my art licensing business, I was also going through a divorce and working with a scrapbooking magazine. I loved writing and teaching for the magazine but had to let it go to focus on building my business and being home with my son. When I let that piece go I told myself, “somehow you will work writing and teaching back into your business when the time is right.” Apparently that time was June 2008. 🙂
Carrie: What is one thing you really want people/creatives to take away from your website?
One of my biggest missions is to help artists figure out if art licensing will be a fit for their art and for the lifestyle they want – quickly. I hate it when I see people waste a lot of time and energy on a dream without understanding what the day-to-day will look like.
My newly refined mission says it all (I think!):
I help artists succeed in art licensing by bridging the gap between creativity and business.
Tara Reed brings a focus on the business side of things to the the art licensing education options available to artists. She is an artist working in the business – doing the art and acting as her own agent, so she provides an honest and practical perspective.
Her passion and strength lies in teaching the business skills, mindsets and actions artists can take to make the connections and market their art. She assumes artists come with creativity and helps them learn how to “package it” for success in licensing (creating collections, etc).
Tara also brings strong personal development aspects to her teaching – believing they are they key to long-term success, no matter what the business.
Carrie: What do you like best about the art licensing industry?
I love the marriage of business and art. To succeed in art licensing you need to understand business and consumer behavior. The more you learn about your customers (manufacturers and retailers) and what their customers want (end consumers who buy things in stores) the more successful you will be. I get to spend time learning about the business and processes my clients have and then creating art that will help sell their products.
I’ve had several artists find agents after following the advice I give in my eBook, How to Find an Art Licensing Agent and one artist from the Art Licensing Academy reported having a lot more knowledge and confidence in negotiating a contract as a result of taking the class. Others have gotten the knowledge, tools and confidence to show their work to manufacturers and gotten art licensing deals.
(AT Special Note: Tara has MANY stories listed on her Testimonials Page that speak to the reach of her products and services.)
Carrie: What is one piece of advice you have for struggling creatives?
Learn to market yourself. Marketing trumps mastery – without marketing and some business skills you can have the best art in the world but you won’t make a living. Marketing, money management and pricing or negotiating would be the top three business skills – in order of importance – I would recommend artists learn if they don’t have them already.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
To me, creativity is about taking a problem or a theme or an issue and finding a solution. For artists, that is usually in a visual format – a painting, a sculpture, a video, etc. You would think there are enough versions of Santa images in the world by now but each and every year manufacturers are looking for a new one… it takes creativity to “recreate Santa” year in and year out!
All Images Artwork Created By Tara Reed