Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Licensing Your Stuff

NY10#13 used in Scott Motocross Goggles

//// UPDATED 9/1/2013 ////
first, you need to decide if licensing is right for you. second, think outside the box. don't rule yourself out if you are an installation or fiber artist. before you make your installation you may do some renderings. maybe you work out patterns on graph paper. those preliminaries can make beautiful prints or a pretty bad ass skate board.

one reason it works for me is i'm not that attached to my work. once a painting is done, i'm done with it. i'm ready to move on to the next thing. having them translated into a snow board or made into prints is a no-brainer. i need to pay rent and eat, why not? second, i also know that nothing beats the original. even if you've gotten the highest resolution scan possible and a most gorgeous print w/insane detail is produced, it's not the original. it's sorta surreal when you look at a luscious print. it's like looking into another dimension. yes, that's my painting...but it's not, it's too flat, when i run my hand across it, it's flat. remember, you're licensing a representation of a piece. third, i don't buy into the lame sentiment that licensing your work devalues it. just make sure you're in good company and taste. would you buy it? lastly and most importantly, it gives many the opportunity to have some art at an accessible price in various formats.

licensing images of your artwork is a great way to generate some passive income. this type of income is "received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it." if you have a royalty based agreement up to four times a year you can receive a check in the mail w/out lifting a finger. there's just the initial investment of time and office work. granted the check can be anywhere in-between $20 - $2000, depends on sales.


how to find opportunities - figure out what you'd like to see your art on and look for websites that sell that. if you want to make limited edition prints check out your options. since 20x200.com's launch and stellar success there has been a proliferation of limited edition sites. check out the other artists and see where your work would fit in best. if you think your art would make a great skate board or snowboard deck look at the websites of the companies who make those things. see if they have an artist submission policy and follow their directions. if they don't have a policy, then write them a BRIEF email asking if they accept submissions. mention at least 2 artists already on their roster who's work is akin to yours and include a link to your site. you should also contact a couple of the artists on the site and ask them what their general experience was working w/the company. DO NOT ask them business questions. contracts can be totally different for each artist depending on what they ask for. all you want to know from the artist is if the company is "good people". there are also sites that let you put your art on various products like Society6, or make fabric like Spoonflower.
NY09#04 used on LAQA package design for their Lamchop Fat Lip Pencil

  • is it exclusive or non-exclusive. if exclusive, within what industry
  • how long is the contract
  • how are you being paid
    - one time fee
    - royalty based. what is the royalty percentage?
    - what is the royalty payment schedule (it's usually 30 days after the last day of each quarter)
    - one time fee + royalties
  • reimbursement of scans or images (find out when you'll be reimbursed. it usually takes no more than 30 days after you submit an invoice)
  • where are they selling the product; national, international

it's normal for a company to want exclusive rights to reproduce your image but at the same time be totally cool with you licensing the same image in another industry. i.e.; limited edition prints and fabric. different industry, different market = little or zero competition. if you're dealing with an exclusive contract, industry specification should be in there. if it's not, ask if the rights they're seeking is industry specific.

each industry has it's own licensing protocol, so any of the above payment options are legit. also, when someone licenses an image they are limited to that image only. they do not have any right to anything else you have. this is not full throttle representation like a gallery - just the images you license to them.

one reason you may get an upfront payment and then royalties is if you create an artwork specifically for the company. in other words, they buy the artwork. in this case this is a commission and your price should reflect that. you're making something specifically for them, even if it's based on another artwork that's no longer available. so make sure you price your work accordingly.

ask questions. if someone contacts me i check out their site and if i'm interested i reply w/any questions and ask to see a sample licensing agreement. this is not a problem and everyone i've worked w/so far has supplied one easily. if someone gives you shit for asking, you don't want to do business w/them. look over the contract and make sure you understand it. anything you don't understand, ask and quote the contract directly in the email so your question is clear.

it takes awhile to get your first check if you're being paid quarterly. by the time you figure out what images you're licensing, get hi res images or scans taken, then wait for it to go into production, then available for sale, and then finally 30 days after the last day of the quarter, it could be 9-12 months later. if it's just a one time lump sum it shouldn't be more than 90 days from the day you send them an invoice. oh yes, you'll be invoicing sometimes. if you don't have a paypal account, you can easily set one up. it's a great way to receive payments and invoice.

NY1201 as 2 yards of Fabric on Spoonflower, pattern - mirror repeat

Cee Lo Strikes Gold, Without a Gold Albumhttp://nyti.ms/s0csM6 

The collapse in record sales over the last decade has decimated the bottom line, and a hit song alone is no longer enough to bring in superstar wealth. So even musicians with multiplatinum success have started looking elsewhere for income, especially to increased touring and the kind of commercial deals that result in Miracle Whip product placement in Lady Gaga videos and Taylor Swift’s performing at a JetBlue airport terminal.

Online Sales of Louis C. K. Special Cross $1 Million Mark

limited edition prints with 20x200
limited edition wallets with Poketo
unlimited canvas and posters that stick with Wheatpaste
unlimited prints with West Elm
snow boards
motocross goggles...yeah, that's right.

licensing i dream about - Diane Von Furstenberg slapping one of my paintings onto a wrap dress...heaven! there were many fine artist and fashion designer collabs in the 2012 spring collections including: Prabal Gurung, Jil Sander, Rodarte, Jason Wu, etc.

this is Dries Van Noten Spring 2012 Ready-to-Wear. He uses photographs by James Reeve in combination w/other prints for this collection.

what have i left out?....let me know.


  1. thanks for all this info, have always wondered how it works. the wallets look amazing!

  2. thanks belinda! i really believe that artists should share the knowledge they gain thru their experiences. this is the type of stuff they DON'T teach you in school. share! share! share!

  3. Thank you so much for providing this information!

  4. Jennifer this is awesome, thank you so much! I was literally about to write you a letter asking all of this.
    Would you mind taking a look at my work? I am trying to figure out where my work might be best suited.
    I am thinking West Elm, home accessories and stationary is best.
    Also, what do you think about Society6? I just found them too.
    thank you thank you again.
    Linda Colletta

  5. You're welcome! As far as finding places to license your work, think about where you would like to see it. If West Elm is interesting to you, visit their site and see if they have an artist submission policy. If you can't find one, send them a BRIEF email asking them what their submission policy is. Think about what products your work is best suited for, where you see like minded artist congregating. You know your work best, you know what drives and inspires the work - that can be your best indication of where it might be best suited.

    I know that Lilla Rogers Studio (which represents illustrators) is having an online course soon about just what your asking for. If it's in your budget, it might be a great way to get some feedback from professionals and ideas for how you can license your work. http://lillarogers.com/make-art-that-sells/

    Society 6 is a pretty descent site, but your shop there is not going to be viewed by as many people as you think. Not all Art Prints or other items are selected into the Society6 Shop. this shop is what you see when you first go to their site, but it DOES NOT expose all the shop owners/merchants on Society 6. It does NOT function like Etsy, where someone can do a search and find you based on specific key terms. So understand that the site itself will NOT bring new traffic to you, you have to make that happen.

    hope this helps!