This was a sketch I did for a book entitled “Splat the Cat: Where’s The Easter Bunny?” which came out last year. The series was created by Rob Scotton a brilliant Writer/Illustrator. I went through several hoops to get the job in the hopes this would catapult me into the “A” ring of artists doing licensing work. The idea being I could work in many different styles and this would generate income while I develop my own art. Previously I worked on some Skippy Jon presentations, a Scooby Doo picture book and tons of Danger Ranger licensing art.
Now I was not a babe in the woods when it comes to Licensing artwork. I had worked as Executive Creative Director for Saban Entertainment during the Power Ranger explosion into the marketplace. I cannot tell you nor do I remember how many pieces of art I did for that franchise but it was significant. I was also very involved in developing Licensing Guides for Saban in their early days. Now my experience may not be typical but I found this avenue a dead end that culminated with my total frustration. I know other artists who have done very well as licensing artists working on franchise characters from Disney, Warner Bros, Fox and other franchise owners that have ended up frustrated or not being used anymore as well when their price became too high. Perhaps this is just the natural progression of things for an artist who wants to be known for his or her own work. After all Leonardo and Rembrandt had plenty of students and helpers doing their work who later struck out on their own. My solution to this was to think over what I wanted to do. Where was I at in my career? If I wanted to to known for my work then I needed to put that out there. How would I do that? The thought of changing my portfolio around was frustrating, not so much about the work but what is my direction? What I wanted to do may not be salable. After a while I realized I needed to go to my peers and get their feedback. So I started a newsletter and this blog. Later at the suggestion of a friend I went to a digital magazine. What better way to find out what other illustrators are doing than to talk with them and give them a platform for their work and mine. This is how the Illustrators Journal came to be. I also reached out to groups on Linkedin and got feedback. What a revelation!
What I really liked about the “Journal” was I could use all my skillsets to create something for myself and my peers, create new relationships and maybe help us all a little bit in our ongoing need to be recognized. After all art whether commercial or fine is meant to be seen and experienced by other people to evoke feelings and reactions as well as stir emotions.
Ok, so to circle back on topic, “Is Creating Licensing Art A Trap?” my answer is it depends on how you utilize it in your work. If you like rendering Scooby Doo or Mickey Mouse and that is enough to make you happy then creating artwork for those brands is a blessing. But, if you don’t then perhaps following your own path is the way to go. However, beware of the commitment to your own art, it takes a lot of digging into yourself and self discipline to create something you like doing and that the marketplace will reward. I am still digging and willing to do so until I unearth a treasure that I can share with you all.
In the meantime I, like you, have bills to pay and skills that can benefit publishers, art directors and art buyers. ( I hope they are reading this) I am grateful and happy to work with them on their projects because it enables me to keep using my free time to pursue my own creations in the hopes that I will break through and be recognized for what I bring to the table.