It’s Friday so it must be time for Lilla’s popular Q&A column, with questions from the previous class of Make Art That Sells. You can see what a wide variety of topics are covered – and you might even find the answer to that burning question you have been wanting to ask! We will be sharing a host of questions and answers over the next few Fridays so stay tuned!
Q) What percentage of fabric is printed in spot colors versus “full color” printing? (Perhaps that’s not the right terminology — I’m referring to full color artwork that is created conventionally.) Is that just as popular (or acceptable) with art directors and manufacturers than spot color artwork?
Lilla: Most fabric is printed in spot colors, but as I mention in the course, fabric companies love traditional media and will either separate the colors for you, or will print digitally (full color printing).
Q) The bolt fabric assignment asked us to avoid all primary and secondary colours. Is this only for us to try something new (assuming that we normally use those colours), or are there other reasons? I see lots of primaries and secondaries on some of your artists’ work.
Lilla: It reads “Avoid using all primary and secondary colors in equal amounts”. Use some more than others, and try non-primaries and non-secondaries like neutrals such as tan, pinky-beige, or dove grey, for example.
Q) For bolt fabric, is it better to rotate the images so that there’s no right-side up?
Lilla: If you are licensing to a bolt fabric company, you don’t need to do this unless you like to. This is something they will do if need be. You want to wow them with your cool subject matter, great icons, and super color palette.
Q) In regards to designing a bolt fabric line, how far in advance do you recommend working?
Lilla: Winter holiday art is usually bought in the summer. Many companies buy 6 months in advance, so you would show your work for spring in the autumn, and your summer work in the winter, etc., but it varies a bit from company to company and market to market. And work that is not seasonally-based, like your kitchen pattern, can be shown at any time.
Q) You mentioned that fabric companies will turn our art into repeats themselves and it’s not necessary that we do it, but rather concentrate on making great art. Is that often the case?
Lilla: Yessiree! Make great art! And that is why you are here in the class. That is our experience with all of our artists’ work with many fabric companies—you don’t need to make repeats per se. By making a piece with sprinkled-around icons, the company can make the repeats.
Q) If someone who licenses their artwork only had time to focus on two or three categories, which are the most lucrative or deepest?
Lilla: It’s a great question. It’s very important to focus on lucrative outlets for your work while staying true to your passion. The answer to your question is that the most lucrative markets are the ones that you are most successful in! You might have a bolt fabric company that keeps licensing your work for collections. Some of my artists that get a handful of lucrative greeting card commissions every month. Some get Target gift cards now and then that pay really well! Some of my artists have products like holiday ornament deals with Crate & Barrel every year. You never know where you’re going to hit! It’s like fishing. And I’m helping you make the bait.
Ideally, you are going to license your art in multiple categories. In the beginning, you are happy to get any category. Cast a wide net and see what you get. All the markets in MATS Part A and Part B have the potential to be lucrative as they are all tied to large companies. You’ll find over the course of MATS that many of the pieces that you create for one market are perfect for many of the other markets! I’ve created assignments for you with that in mind. Cool. And it’s true that people buy your joy, so keep staying tuned in to what kind of art you love to make.
Q) In general, do royalty rates remain the same over time or is that something you can negotiate as you work with a client (especially if your work sells well and you’ve worked with the client for a while)?
Lilla: If, over time, your work is selling well, by all means have a discussion with your client about that. You might say, “I love working with you. It’s been very rewarding. My products seem to be selling well and my royalty statements seem to be quite good. I’m wondering if you would consider discussing raising my royalty rate.”
Q) What should you do if a client asks you to make so many changes to a piece of work that it stops looking like your work? It is frustrating – how can I deal with this?
Lilla: Two things. One, try your best to make it fabulous, even with the changes. It can be hard to do. It requires flexibility. Perhaps they want you to add certain icons, or change the colors. Those are things you can do. If they want you to draw in a way that is not how you draw, or in a style that is not what you are able to do, then this job is not a good fit. You can pass on taking the job next time. That’s the sign of an art director that is inexperienced.
Q) Should an artist attempt to maintain a somewhat thematic style, or go with the flow and just create based on their instinct paired with market knowledge? Is it a danger that an artist becomes too identifiable with a specific style, or is it a positive?
Lilla: If an artist has an identifiable style, that is fabulous! That takes years to develop, and then the artist is in demand for their “brand”. All my artists have their own unique style or brand, and companies come to us for our artists’ look. You get really interesting projects this way. The other way is to be a jack of all trades which is fun because you get to do all kinds of things. You don’t need to decide this issue that right away. You make art and see where it leads. Strive for the very best you can be, however, whichever path you take.
Got your own questions for Lilla? Join us for the next round of Make Art That Sells. Class begins March 31.