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Licensing and Diamond Art Club

When a company needs artwork for a product, they’ll often contract an artist to use their work in exchange for a future royalty percentage on sales.

Depending on the product, percentages can be small. But if the company sells a lot of that product, it can add up to a significant portion of an artist’s income.

This is licensing.

Some artists don’t like licensing because they think they’ll lose control of their art and it will be stolen. That has happened to me more than once, and to every professional artist I know. Sometimes you don’t even know about it until long after the fact, and most of the time, there’s nothing you can do about it except tell them to stop.

Most of the licensing companies I’ve worked with are professionals. They use the art how they say they will, pay me regularly, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

They don’t always use the images I want them to, or as many of my paintings as I’d like, but that’s not my call. They’re running their own businesses, and my art is often a tiny part. Once they license the work, it’s theirs to market how they see fit if they keep to the spirit of the agreement.

Harlequin Nature Graphics licenses a handful of my images on T-shirts. DecalGirl offers several of my paintings on cases and decals for electronic devices. A dozen other companies around the world have licensed my art through an agency for cross-stitch, fabrics, canvas art, and other products.
My most significant license, of course, is Pacific Music & Art out of Victoria, BC. Thanks to Mike and his staff, my work is on coffee mugs, water bottles, calendars, art cards, magnets, coasters, trivets, notebooks, and more. During the first year of the pandemic, his foresight to put my work on face masks was a welcome flotation device when other parts of my business were under water.

I regularly encounter people who tell me they’ve bought some of my art at stores I didn’t know existed in towns I’ve never visited. One local friend recently returned from a trip to Vancouver Island and told Shonna, “Pat’s art is everywhere!”

At the Calgary Expo this year, a very nice woman came into my booth and loudly proclaimed, “That’s my otter!”

I laughed and replied, “I beg to differ, Ma’am. That’s MY otter!”

She had bought the image as a framed art card in a BC store more than a year ago, and it hangs in her kitchen.
I get my licenses in three ways. The first is through an agency. They will contact me and propose a contract with a client. I have first right of refusal on every deal, and I have politely declined the opportunity a couple of times. They represent many artists, so it’s not a very personal relationship.

I look up every company in every proposed agreement. Sometimes it conflicts with an existing license; other times, their site looks unprofessional, I don’t like the product, or it’s just not a good fit. But most of the deals they send me are worth a try, and I give them the go-ahead.

Sometimes I look for a license because I think my work will fit a product or I like a specific company.

The third way is that a company will reach out to me. They’ve seen my work somewhere, looked around my website, saw images they liked and want to talk about a license.

About a year ago, Diamond Art Club contacted me to discuss access to my catalogue. The contact was professional, sent me a great information package for prospective licenses, and they were upfront about their royalties and payment schedule—no red flags.

I looked through their professional site and was impressed with how many high-end brands and artists they have under license. There’s no credibility question when a company has the official DC Comics and Harry Potter licenses.

I had heard a little about diamond painting kits but didn’t know much about the hobby, nor how massive it is. The simplest explanation is that it seems to be a blend of paint-by-numbers, cross-stitch and a little bit of the classic lite-bright toy. So rather than butcher the explanation, I’ll refer you to their site’s excellent description. Click here or on the image below.
After a couple of weeks back and forth with contracts and questions, I uploaded my art to their servers and tried to put it out of my mind. They were clear that nothing would likely be available until the end of the year. Licensing is often a long game, depending on the product, and each company’s lead time is different.

The production pipeline on these kits is extensive. First, there’s research with customers and retailers to determine which images to produce, then assigning an image to a designer who will turn a piece of art into a kit. Following that, the kit must be manufactured in large quantities and shipped. It’s more involved than most products I’ve encountered.

I don’t know the timeline for when the world is normal, but I was forewarned that it is much longer under the shadow of the pandemic.

It has been a year since I signed the contract with Diamond Art Club. I checked in with them every couple of months, and they were friendly and accommodating as they explained the different stages of delay. And I’m just one new artist. They no doubt have hundreds of other pieces in the pipeline, all affected by the same delays every company in the world has faced these past couple of years.

The first image Diamond Art Club put into production was no surprise. My Otter is one of my top two bestsellers everywhere, a close tie with the Smiling Tiger.

I’m glad they started with that one because if it does well, there will no doubt be more of my images on these kits in the future. Given the popularity and quality of these kits, I certainly hope so.
My sample arrived this week, and I was eager to open it. The first thing I noticed was the fantastic design of the packaging, both outside and in. The tools and pieces are well organized and labelled. The quality of the otter image on the canvas is superb, and there’s nothing about this kit that looks cheap and thrown together. At 23″X17″, it’s a fairly large image.

If I were into this hobby and bought one from Diamond Art Club, I would feel like a valued customer. As a licensed artist, I feel my work is represented well, and I’m pleased to be involved with this company. I hope it’s for a long time.

I’ve learned about licensing, however, that I have no clue what will do well or for how long. Certain paintings may be incredibly popular with the people who like them, but will a new product find a new audience? I have no idea.

So, while I wait and see, I let these companies do what they do best, and I’ll keep painting new portraits of whimsical wildlife for their future consideration.

Because that’s what I do best.
If you’d like to learn more about Diamond Art Club, head to their site and check it out. Right now, you can get 20% off your first order with the code SUMMER20. While they have a large assortment of fantastic art, might I suggest a certain Otter as your first piece?

Cheers,
Patrick

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Puzzling

A box of Spilsbury puzzles arrived at our door today. I knew these were coming sometime this year, but had no idea when.

Over the years, my images have found their way onto many different products, through licensing deals I’ve signed. I’ve written about licensing before, but the short version is that when a company wants to use an artist’s work on a product, they pay the artist a royalty. It’s usually for a set amount of time, two or three years, an agreed upon percentage, for a specific region, and stipulations regarding exclusivity. The contracts have a lot more details in them, but the general idea is pretty simple.

I have licenses for T-shirts and apparel through Harlequin Nature Graphics and decals/cases for phones and devices through DecalGirl. Pacific Music and Art has licenses for a wide variety of products, some of which are coffee mugs, art cards, magnets, aluminum art, coasters, trivets and as a consequence of our current situation, face masks and scarves/neck gaiters.

My interactions with these companies are quite simple. I’m almost always talking directly with the owner and I enjoy that one on one relationship.
Art Licensing, an agency based in New England makes my library of funny looking animals available to their extensive client list around the world. They act as my agent in negotiating those deals, for which they take a percentage. When a company is interested, Art Licensing sends me details of the arrangement and I approve or decline the offer. Because they’re professionals at what they do, they’re aware that I have other licenses and what those are, in order to avoid any conflicts between competing companies selling the same things.

I research the company, decide if I like the deal or not, and reply with yay or nay. Because Art Licensing knows their business, I usually approve, but I have declined a couple in recent years. When I’ve done so, they accept my decision without argument and we move on. Occasionally I’ll request a change to an offer and they’ll go back to the company with the request. If they accept it, the change is made, if they don’t, then I decide if I can live with the original terms.

For licenses obtained through Art Licensing, I don’t have any interaction with the companies making the products. From time to time, somebody following my work will send me a link to my art on a site somewhere and ask me if it’s legitimate. I do appreciate these emails, grateful that many of you are looking out for me and my work, but also because I do occasionally get ripped off and have to deal with that.

Most of the time, the links I’m sent are on the up-and-up. If I don’t know the company name selling my work, a little digging will often reveal that they have a parent company with whom I do have a license through Art Licensing. A customer recently told me he had seen my work for sale on a print in Macy’s in Texas. Sure enough, the company that put that art in Macy’s had a license to do so.

There are some artists who balk at giving up a percentage to wholesalers, galleries and retailers, but without those businesses, mine wouldn’t exist. Licensing is a desirable business model for many artists. I would never have the time, energy, capital or connections to manufacture all of these products and get them into stores all over the world. Licensing allows an artist to receive income from their work while continuing to create more, generating revenue year after year from the same images.
Spilsbury is a company that licensed four of my images at the beginning of this year. They optioned my Smiling Tiger, Great Horned Owl, Bald Eagle and Wolf paintings. While many of my licenses offer samples to the artist in the contract, this is the first time I’ve actually requested them. I really don’t want a warehouse of licensed items, especially as I get more of them. I’m not sure why, since I can’t recall Shonna and I ever putting a puzzle together, but I wanted to see these in person.

I did not expect to receive 12 of them, but I enjoyed opening that box. The puzzles come in 300 and 500 piece versions, so they sent me three of each of two of the designs, the Smiling Tiger and Happy Horned Owl. Looking on their website, they renamed the other two as the Earnest Eagle and Winsome Wolf. I have no issue with that at all, that’s just marketing. They sell them individually, or in bundles of two on their website, you can check them out here.
While I intend to keep one of each for myself, I’m going to give away the others via my newsletter. I don’t know how that will work yet, but I’ll give it some thought. I’d like to have fun with this, as we can all use some of that this year.

I’ll admit that I’m curious if putting together a 500 piece puzzle of my own painting will be easier, since I know those brushstrokes better than anyone. I’m going to save finding out the answer to that for an afternoon this winter, a hot chocolate and cookies next to me, with a snowstorm raging outside.

Cheers,
Patrick

EDIT:
It has come to my attention that Spilsbury does not ship to Canada. I tried it myself and the only shipping options they have is for the United States. That’s annoying, especially for those of you who have already told me they wanted to order some puzzles.

Apparently that’s the downside of not dealing directly with the company, in that I didn’t know that. It’s still a great license for me personally, but not for all of you. For that, my apologies.

For those of you in the US, that doesn’t change anything. Sadly, for my Canadian followers, these aren’t currently available. Should that change in the future, I will let you know.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news if you were looking to get a puzzle.

Cheers,
Patrick

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© Patrick LaMontagne
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