New Products Out!

It's always so fun much when projects I've worked on are FINALLY out in the real world. Below are two items available now!

Last year I landed a dream project with KLUTZ Books- a coloring/activity book full of kawaii goodness! The book is full of a variety of things, including how to's that allow kids (and adults!) to practice drawing. BONUS: it comes with adorable scented markers that HAVE EARS. My agent Jennifer Nelson made a video showing the interior pages (click here to see!).  You can get a copy on Amazon.

I also had the pleasure of seeing my art on a new weekly 2018 calendar put out by the wonderful Peter Pauper Press. It's available on Amazon as well.

 

 

Style VS. Flavor

 My college instructors taught me that "style" is a 4-letter word.

For good reason, too. They knew that "style" was a word that causes confusion. It complicates things. The word serves to distract, intimidate, and frustrate the working artist; thus, my teachers told me not to worry about developing my style during my college years. Honesty, I think all artists in every chapter of their lives should ignore worrying about their "style", because trying to force or decide the style of your art is like forcing yourself to find certain foods delicious. Likewise, your sense of humor or taste in music aren't really things that you have much control over, and to some degree it's the same with the aesthetic of your art: you kinda just do what you do.

So instead of the word "style", I prefer to use the word "flavor" (especially when talking with my students). The word "style" usually forces us to look at only the visual elements of our work: how we make it, is it loose or tight, flat or textured, digital vs. traditional. There is too much focus on the methods and visual language created by mediums.

BUT, if we focus on "flavor", we then start to think about our artwork more abstractly, almost as if it has a personality. This is helpful because we start to identify elements of our artwork that are not affected by choice of mediums or techniques. For instance, if I were to describe myself only by the way I look, it may look something like this:

  •  medium length dirty blonde hair
  •  gold necklace
  •  gingham shirt with grey cardigan and black leggings
  •  glasses

But If I describe my personality instead, my list will look more like THIS: 

  • extroverted and enjoys being around people
  • people pleaser
  • afraid of the dark
  • likes dogs

You probably see where this is going: the first list sums up how we perceive  "style", whereas the second list is "flavor". In the first list where I describe the way I visually look, I could get overwhelmed if I changed any of those elements that I thought defined me in an important way. What if I put in my contacts and take off my glasses? What if I want to change clothes? Or dye my hair red? Will people recognize me? I'm all over the place!  You can understand how the art equivalent of this process results in the anxiety around your work and pursuing any natural experimentation.

With the second list, those elements will not be affected by how I dress or what my hair looks like. I like dogs. I'll always like dogs no matter what I look like.  If we start to think of our art in terms of personality, we can get to the core of what our work is and free it of being defined by medium or visual aesthetic. I describe my art as quirky illustration with a focus on characters, pattern, and color. You'll notice that I did not define my art in terms of how it actually looks or the way it's executed. This definition allows me to work in all sorts of ways without the mind games of worrying about style: I can work digitally, with gouache, very minimal, with lots of details and texture...and it all nicely fits within those parameters.

Not everyone has this struggle. If you do, I hope the idea of "flavor" helps you to work through those worries about your art's growth and evolution. In the end, this idea can encourage you to create without fear!

                            

REPOST: A Word About Style (Making Your "Style Soup")

For a while now, I've been meaning to repost a popular entry about my philosophy of "Style Soup" that I had living on my previous blog. Imagine my surprise when I realized it was first posted January 1, 2014. Three Years Ago. It is probably my favorite blip I've ever shared, and I got some wonderful comments back from readers, so it only seemed fitting that I have it here on my current website, too. Enjoy!


Many students and colleagues that I know mention the struggle of finding their "style" and the uncomfortable growing pains that come with it: fear, doubt, and confusion. They are worried about venturing too far from their comfort zone or "being all over the place" when they experiment with new artistic influences and interests.

One of the best ways I like to explain how visual styles come together is by using the idea of "Style Soup". When making soup, you take several ingredients and throw them together in a pot. The important thing is to give it a lot of time to cook. If you let it sit there for 5 minutes and then taste your soup, it probably won't taste very good, right? Let it cook all day and you'll have something delicious! Same thing with your own style- it takes a while for different interests and influences to meld together in your own way. This is how you can be interested in seemingly very different things (say, Renaissance painting and contemporary animation) and have it work for you. The challenge is to be patient.

I'll take this moment to point out that this "Style Soup" will give you a much richer point of view. Too many times people see something they like and say "I like that. I want to make art like that", and stop there. Instead, you should really be thinking "I like that. What in particular do I like about it? Compared to other things I like, are there similarities that point to my personal visual aesthetic?"

Let's take an example and see how different artistic fields and eras have influenced my work. I'll start by introducing some artists to you. You've probably heard of some while one or two might be new to you.
 

Yoshitaka Amano

I was introduced to Yoshitaka Amano at a very early age when I obsessively watched my brother play the Final Fantasy video games. Amano has done concept design for all of them as well as worked on several other Japanese titles, such as Speed Racer and Vampire Hunter D. In the meantime, he shows his paintings in galleries across the world. His work highlights qualities of Japanese woodblock prints and art nouveau, both sharing visual elements such as an abstracted sense of space and graphic, bold use of shapes and pattern.

Alberto Giacometti

Swiss artist Giacometti is best known for his elongated sculptures of the human figure, but his paintings are equally as explorative and full of texture. By the time he passed away in 1966, he had reached international fame. He preferred to use family members as his models, and I've always loved how direct yet intimate his portraits appear.

Mary Blair

With mid 20th century art and culture blowing up recently, Mary Blair has become even more popular. As a crucial concept artist for Disney on classic movies like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, she also has gained recognition for her role during a time when women were not seen in such crucial positions. Like many artists of the period, Blair pulled from influences such as folk art, which influenced her use of bright (sometimes unorthodox) color choices, use of iconography, and graphic compositions. In addition to working for the Big D, Mary Blair led a successful life as an illustrator producing children's books and numerous advertisements featuring her whimsical style.

Egon Schiel

It's amazing to see how trendy and fashionable Schiele's paintings of women seem today, even though they are about a hundred years old. An Austrian painter and student of Gustav Klimt, his more provocative work actually landed him a brief stint in jail after being deemed pornographic by local officials. His work finally gained popularity before his untimely death at the age of 28. Focused on the human figure, his paintings are full of energetic linework and paint strokes.

Yoshitomo Nara

Chances are you have come across Nara's delicate and somewhat mysterious paintings of feisty girls and animals in the forms of books or postcard sets somewhere. Born in Japan, Nara sites pop culture as a heavy influence in his large paintings and sculptures. Currently his work is shown in galleries around the world and is also licensed on everyday products you can find in specialty stores.

Whereas some of these you can probably see connections right off the bat, other images may seem very different at first glance. But, are they??? When you really break down the elements of each artist, many of them overlap in their stylistic choices.

 

Abstracted interpretation of space

ss1.jpg

 

All of these artists design their compositions by activating the space more with color, negative space, and pattern rather than realistic or naturalistic environments. Hand-lettering pops up as a design element, and things are heavily stylized or become icons rather than needing to be realistic interpretations, like Blair's flowers or Nara's girls.

 

Characters as focal points

ss2.jpg

Probably one of the more obvious connections between these artists is their focus on unique characters and the impact they have on the viewer.

 

Unique color story

ss3.jpg

Since space and figures are being abstracted by these artists, naturally color is also being abstracted, too. It's in these visual worlds that colors are chosen more for their design sense rather than what's actually there in reality (resulting in blue skin or a pink sky, for instance). Whether it's bold and high-constrast...or delicate and very limited, color is used in unexpected ways.

 

Texture and Pattern

Finally, we see how these artists create interest through texture and pattern. Blair and Amano's pieces are full of pattern, which in itself creates texture depending on the size and nature of the pattern(s) used. Schiele, Nara, and Giacometti's work all feature wonderfully raw texture created by brushes and various mediums. Many times these two elements can be one in the same, with Schiele highlighting the bold print of a woman's dress or Giacometti's strokes turning into a pattern of vertical and horizontal lines as he sketches out the details of a room that his model is sitting in.

In conclusion, when you are able to dissect the pieces you are attracted to, you start to see little connections that reveal more about your personal style. From these artists that I have grown up with, I know that I like character-based images with stylized environments directed more by color and pattern rather than a literal/realistic environment. 

You can start to see how these things influence my work when you take a second look.

Let me point out that it took me a while to see these connections. However, over time I eventually got there (remember earlier when I said time was an important factor in this process?) With each piece of art completed, you get one step closer.  

Let's see some old stuff from my college days and what I was playing around with

ss-sisters.jpg

A little different, huh? You can see I love characters and am playing around with how to handle the rest of the composition. There are also different takes on stylizing my characters- some more simple and cartoony, others more rendered.

I will end this post by saying that I believe your style is like your sense of taste: it matures, grows, and is constantly evolving. Remember that this process is about discovery. It's an adventure. Try new things, take a class once in a while, or just play around in your sketchbook. 

And have fun! Thanks for reading.

YIPPIEE KI YAY 2017 (AKA: 8 Thoughts I had New Year's Eve)

It's interesting to see how Instagram and such has really changed the way people (and artists) share. I've entertained ditching the blog, but there are posts about Surtex, the creative process, etc., that still work well in the blog format (I'm still tickled- and humbled- to receive messages from people who stumble upon old posts and let me know it helped them in some way). As a teacher, I feel like it's also the perfect vessel for those more "teacher-y" thoughts. For 2017, I've set a reminder on my phone to do at least one blog post every week. Sometimes it might be gold. Other times it might just be those gold-foiled chocolate coins (still good, but not as good as real gold).

This time I'm just sharing how I closed out 2016. It was in a packed venue in Nashville listening to my husband and our super-talented friends perform 90's songs in My So-Called Band. Here's two of the NYE flyers I illustrated for them.

I woke up this morning too early after only four hours of sleep (because my body decided to be a jerk on the first day of 2017). Did I get up and start being super productive? NOPE. I laid there for another two hours trying to wrap myself in all the perfect moments from the previous night, the ones that make me wish we had some sort of Star Trek tech/Harry Potter magic to capture all the details and save them for later...and cringing a couple of times as I thought OH GOD, did I say that/do that/dance like that? Did that person notice? Is everything cool? I think everything is cool.

The night pretty much went like this:

- OOOOO Pizza! I've been craving pizza for days.

- Ugh, black olives.

- PEPPERONI. JACK POT. I hope the band doesn't mind that I'm taking the first slice.

- Vanilla vodka with Red Bull is a drink that should not exist.

- I unintentionally wore a jumpsuit just like the three female vocalists. Obviously I should be on stage as the unofficial fourth girl. Call me Spazzy Spice.

- Intergalactic! I know all the words! nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh I LIKE MY SUGAR WITH COFFEE AND CREAM nuh nuh nuh...

- If I were a dancing werewolf, my full moon would be Jump Around.

- I AM OVERWHELMED WITH MY FRIENDS' TALENT AND CAN ONLY COMMUNICATE IT THROUGH HUGS.

 

Happy 2017!

 

 

 

What a Summer!

So let's start this off with a new piece I completed for friends, shall we? This baby is all acryla gouache.

It has been a great summer (but seriously, how is it going by so fast?)

I got to go to ICON9 and it was a great week in Austin talking to Illustrators and friends. I roomed with fellow Happy Happy Collective members Denis Holmes and Emily Balsley. You can read more about our experience on our HH blog. It gave me a lot to think about both as an illustrator and educator.

In the works are two new projects that I'm excited to be doing, although one definitely has some tech elements that make it intimidating! Luckily, it's a great team I'm working with. August 19th I'll be back at Watkins teaching Illustration students- can't wait!  Also exciting is the fact that in early September my husband and I will be going to Tokyo. This will be my third visit; his second. A couple nights ago, I was a nervous wreck stalking my computer for the release of September's Ghibli Museum ticket release, and I was AMAZINGLY happy (and relieved) to score two! I've never been, but since they just finsied renovations it seems like the perfect time. Follow me on Instagram ( @laurenmincolowen ) to follow along our Japan adventure and see what art tidbits I'm posting in the meantime!

Surtex & Blueprint Recap!

Seriously, this year I went to New York thinking I'm gonna take so many pictures this year and be on top of all my social media, yo! Annnnnd I think in the end I took only two real pictures. Seriously. Just look at the camera roll on my phone and it's ridiculously bleak. (Luckily, my agent Jennifer Nelson was all over it, so please feel free to check out Jennifer Nelson Artists on Instagram and such and you will see a whole lot more eye candy).

This was my third time at the licensing/surface design convention Surtex as well as my first time at Blueprint. In 2014, I had both Keith and my mom in tow. Last year just my mom...and this year just little ole me (although people were definitely asking about my mom. She apparently reached celebrity status at some point!)

Jennifer Nelson, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, and myself at the JNA booth at Surtex

Jennifer Nelson, Jennifer Orkin Lewis, and myself at the JNA booth at Surtex

Standing with the Blueprint Poster I designed!

Standing with the Blueprint Poster I designed!

The biggest change this year was showing in the JNA booth with Jennifer and fellow artists Jill Howarth and Jennifer Orkin Lewis, as well as Antonio (Jill McDonald's husband) who came with a boatload of show experience. The four of us divided and conquered the two simultaneously running shows. With each other (and a hefty coffee intake), we managed.

JNA at Blueprint

JNA at Blueprint

With each passing year, I find myself focusing less on the details of Surtex and simply discussing the things that left their thumbprints on my brain (which is still there but seriously needs a break after all of May).

So here we go!

Many people want to know the difference between Surtex and Blueprint. Since I was only at BP for one day, it's really hard for me to give a fair assessment. It was done very nicely and I saw good work being shown. Since it is a show that was spear-headed by design studios, it makes sense that many attendees are looking to buy art outright since design studios mostly work that way.

I learned a lot by working at the JNA booths at both shows. Even when a client wasn't interested in my art, I helped them out and became knowledgable about what they were looking for and the products they make. When an art director smiled at an image or made a positive remark, I took notice of what art they were reacting to. Did they like the subject matter? The colors? If they passed, why? It was a wonderful opportunity to learn.

Afterwards, I hopped on a train and went up to my old stomping grounds in Providence, Rhode Island. It's been a good four years since I've stopped by, so I was more than overdue to see old friends and check it out!

The Train ride to Providence

The Train ride to Providence

I must have really enjoyed myself, because once again I was busy having fun and took NO PICTURES once I arrived. Now I'm back in Nashville. Keith has a show pretty much every weekend and I'm busy getting work done before I leave for ICON in Austin.

Summer's here!

Surtex 2016 Update

I am SO happy to say that yesterday I uploaded and purchased my Surtex book. It feels amazing to have that crossed off my To Do List for the show. In the meantime, I still have plenty of things to take care of, whether it be client work or still little things to prepare for May's Surtex/Blueprint double header in New York. (That's right. JNA will be at BOTH.)

 

 

One Year Later With Jennifer Nelson Artists

Ok, first of all let's talk about how this title is absolutely bogus, because it's been over a year since I really signed with my agent, Jennifer Nelson Artists. JNA debuted in January of 2015 and we're about to hit...April? Geez. Hey! Better late than never, right?

I was inspired to write about the JNA birthday because so much has happened since joining and it's fun to look back. I think the most important thing is seeing how much I've grown as an artist and businesswoman since then. Since many of you know that I am more than happy to share my experiences, I thought it would be great to reflect on what it was like having an agent this past year and how it has affected the way I work and think about my art.

I'm learning what my "low hanging fruit" is.

One thing I've been working on is figuring out where my art easily fits in the world of licensing and illustration. It allows me to better target companies and clients that are more likely to pick up my work and improves my chances of getting a contract with them quickly. These jobs are what I refer to as my "low hanging fruit" because my work is a natural fit for that category or client. For instance, I seem to do really well with cards. I have hand-lettering in my portfolio, humor is an element of my work, and as a traditional illustrator I am very comfortable composing my work within a defined space (as opposed to a category like fabric where the art is in repeat and is a different visual aesthetic). These strengths make cards a good match for me, and one of my best returning clients is even in that category. 

Now, this doesn't mean I do nothing BUT cards. No, it just means I have a mental list of "easier to get clients" right next to my mental list of "we haven't done this kind of product/category yet but let's try in the future, shall we?" In the end, it's simply a balance between creating work that I know serves me well immediately and sprinkling in those projects here and there for the "long game" of getting new clients.

I should add that Rule Numero Uno is HAVE FUN. I always have fun creating my work and never try to force anything to happen.

I'm listening harder to advice and realizing dammit, it really IS good advice.

Let's be honest. We probably hear the same handful of tips given to artists interested in licensing: make lots of work. Christmas sells. Do hand-lettering. Everyone has a Birthday. After a while I think it's natural for people to say "yeah, yeah, I GET IT", without actually listening to it. We go numb to the advice in a way. I probably have been a tad guilty of this in the past. However, I can tell you this- when I did a hand lettered birthday piece and my agent found a home for it in less than 24 hours, I was totally shocked about that and even MORE shocked when my inner voice said "well DUH, you dummy. This shouldn't be anything new to you. You've been told over and over again that this kind of work sells".

So I'm still making tons of work that is very "me", but yeah you better believe I'm paying better attention to all that advice being dished out by Jennifer and other people in the industry. I'm really making a point to LISTEN, because there is a lot of worth there if you just take the time to actually process it and- more importantly- follow through. 

I still do "Business" even though I don't technically have to.

If you've taken Jennifer's workshop on agents, you may recall she mentioned that her artists still take the time to promote their work in some fashion. Obviously, Jennifer does this a LOT for us. She's constantly contacting art directors, sending out promotional materials, negotiating our contracts, handling the JNA social media and preparing for trade shows. But even though I am more than happy to have Jennifer handle all that stuff, the business part of the job is still in my blood. We're constantly brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other, and I'm still active in the world and send her any leads I might find, even if it's just stumbling upon a possible client and sending her an email quickly saying "hey, have you heard of this company?"

Yes, if you ever thought having an agent meant I just kicked back and enjoyed endless cocktails once the ink dried on the contract, then you might have the wrong idea. For me it really just lit a fire under my butt to work even harder. Not in a stressful way, mind you. It's more of a desire and excitement to just take advantage of the opportunity, because in the end an agent can only get you jobs if you're supplying new and exciting art on a regular basis. More art = more opportunity. Whether you are with an agent or going solo, that's a key thing to remember.

This year I have already worked on some amazing assignments. In addition, projects from last year are finally being unveiled! It's been a great time and I'm ready for Round 2!

 

 

Copyright Basics for Licensing Artists

Hello and Happy 2016! I hope you had a great holiday season and are ready to gear up for another year of successful art-making! My lovely agent, Jennifer Nelson, asked if I could post a little something about registering your copyright (in this case, with the US Copyright Office). I know, I know...the art-making process is so much more fun than thinking about legal stuff! Hopefully the information below will give you a basic understanding so it's not so scary.

Let me state that I am a working artist and college instructor, but in no way am I actually a lawyer or legal professional, so please do your own research and seek out real legal advice if needed. Copyright law can change and if you are in another country besides the United States, you definitely should read up on what your country requires for proper registration.

Let's begin! Below is the same information I share with my undergraduate students (with some extra parts to help explain it more towards licensing).

COPYRIGHT BASICS

Even though you immediately have the copyright for a work after its creation, registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office is a way to properly document it. This not only makes it easier to enforce if needed, but in some cases you can get court costs and damages from infringement. You can still defend your copyright if it’s not registered with the government (it just may be harder or more costly).

www.copyright.gov

  •  To register a copyright, it is $35 for a single piece and $55 for a collection. You can easily do this online by uploading common file types of your work such as jpegs or a pdf and filling out the forms needed online. The  website www.copyright.gov offers a handy tutorial to walk you through the process.

  •  A collection can be pretty broad, depending on how you label it.  For instance “Jane Doe paintings 2005-2010” would be acceptable. “Jane Doe portfolio 2014” would work as well.

  • Unpublished work must always be registered separately from Published work. Published work as a collection has to all be within the same calendar year, whereas Unpublished collections have no restrictions when it comes to the dates individual pieces were created. Right before Surtex I have a bunch of new work that has not been licensed or commercially used, so this year I will register one big collection of unpublished work as "Lauren Lowen Surtex Portfolio 2016". If I find an older piece from 2014 that I want to include, I can do so because it's an Unpublished collection. (Depending on what you do, you may find the need to divide significantly different work or research the needs of your individual field). However, Published collections have to be by project, meaning a series of illustrations for a children’s book or a series of editorial images that appeared in a magazine. Unrelated Published work cannot be grouped together in one collection like unpublished work can. So simply saying “Jane Doe Commercial Work 2016” and throwing in ALL your Published art usually doesn’t work.

  •  Most artists use FORM VA (Visual Arts Work). There are separate forms for other creative works such as sound/music and literary works.

  •  Names, titles, short phrases, and slogans are not copyrightable.  You would trademark these instead at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

  •  Even though the registration process can take weeks or even months, your copyright will take effect from the moment you submit it, so you will not be unprotected during the processing time (as of right now, they estimate an 8 month wait time for e-filing). 

  •  Some clients may request that you register your copyright in a contract. Remember that if an outside third party infringes on your copyright, a client will most likely not defend it. After all, since the copyright is yours, YOU are the one with the legal right and responsibility to defend it in a court of law. However, most clients are willing to aid (within reason) towards your case by providing any proof they can to back up your claim.

  •  You can watermark images and such, but the truth is you are always taking a risk when displaying your work in public. People can trace your low-res images in computer programs, remove watermarks with software, or just straight out copy it by their own means. Learn which online environments are hotbeds for foreign factories and individuals to steal art, such as some print on demand sites, and remember these platforms have no legal responsibility to aid you if someone does lift your work or idea from their website/venue. 

FROM THE WWW.COPYRIGHT.GOV WEBSITE:

 Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.

 I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

 Is my copyright good in other countries?

The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other's citizens' copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States

 How long does a copyright last?

The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first. For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code). More information on the term of copyright can be found in Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright, and Circular 1, Copyright Basics.

 Do I have to renew my copyright?

No. Works created on or after January 1, 1978, are not subject to renewal registration. As to works published or registered prior to January 1, 1978, renewal registration is optional after 28 years but does provide certain legal advantages. For information on how to file a renewal application as well as the legal benefit for doing so, see Circular 15, Renewal of Copyright, and Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Artwork copyrighted as “Unpublished” automatically “moves over” if that piece becomes licensed or published in the future. So if you register an illustration in your unpublished collection but a card company picks it up three months later, don’t worry! You don’t need to register it again. You’re good to go and the original copyright registration is valid.

 Some licensing artists or those who do personal work register all new pieces as a single $55 collection every quarter. It may be daunting to have that expense, but you just have to budget for those things like you would business cards or website hosting costs. Four Unpublished Collections done quarterly throughout the year would total $220, which isn’t that bad. (Plus, don’t forget it’s a business deductible on your taxes!) Depending how fast you produce work, you may not need to do it so frequently.

 The US Copyright office defines “Published” as the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending. The offering to distribute copies or phonorecords to a group of persons for purposes of further distribution, public performance, or public display constitutes publication. A public performance or display of a work does not of itself constitute publication. The category of “Published” isn’t limited to printed materials anymore. The Internet can be a bit of a gray area. After reading countless articles, listening to legal podcasts, and even having lawyers talk to my students about copyright, the only one thing that is true is this: no one 100% agrees how some of these modern digital formats relate to our current copyright laws. Each legal professional and court system has their own interpretations of this “gray area”, and sometimes it can only be figured out on a case-by-case basis depending on the unique circumstances of that instance.

 It’s true that registering every single commissioned Published project as they come along can seem overwhelming (and potentially very expensive). When registering Published work , I consider how likely it is someone will steal it for profit. For instance, an illustration of a kid flossing their teeth made for a children’s magazine will probably not attract many thieves, so I’m likely OK if I don’t register it.

See if your local area offers any legal assistance for questions you may have. Here in Nashville we have the Volunteer Lawyers & Professional for the Arts (VLPA). Local lawyers, accounts, and other professionals volunteer their time and expertise to help local creatives with issues like these for no or little cost depending on the issue. You might also have an Arts & Business Council nearby that can offer advice and guidance with your art-specific questions.

I hope this helps! I know you probably have many questions in your head, but I promise that www.copyright.gov has a lot of helpful and handy materials to help you along the way. And if you search the web about the subject, remember to check the date of any articles written to ensure up-to-date information (for instance, the cost of registering went up recently, so some older articles may have that listed wrong, etc).

Good luck and take care! And by all means, if you have information that contradicts anything posted here, please feel free to mention it in the comments. The only way to help others is by us sharing information & resources to ensure the best protection for all!

 

 

Creating YOU 2.0

My friend and fellow artist Sam Smith was talking with me this past summer, catching up over a late dinner after he had spoken to an evening Illustration class of mine. As we sat there on the cafe patio enjoying a pleasantly mild night, he talked about future ambitions and changing course in his career. I'm somewhat paraphrasing, but he said something that stuck to my brain the way good southern food sticks to your ribs:

"I don't know. I'm trying to figure out what Sam 2.0 looks like."

There was something so wonderful and freeing about that statement, because I, too, feel like I'm evolving into the next stage of my career. Not only me, but several amazing illustrators/artists in the Nashville area and elsewhere. These artists have worked with amazing clients and have done great things, but now they are ready for a change. It might be a stylistic change- the way they actually make their work. For others, it's expanding into new markets or realizing they are happier working in a different creative field.

Yet sometimes, we look at this natural artistic evolution with fear, as if it signals past bad decisions or "starting over". But it's just nature. I mean, individuals change their tastes all the time. We end up liking new foods over the years and change the way we dress or do our hair. Why wouldn't our art change as well? 

So it was so lovely when Sam described his struggle as finding "Sam 2.0". This signifies a new and improved model. Growth. Something better on the horizon

But it IS scary. I have been in my studio making art pretty much every day. Most days I am pleasantly humming along and so thankful to have time to try new things. Some pieces I'm pleased with annnnnnd then there are some other ones...well, I wouldn't say I don't like them...but it would be accurate to say that I don't love them. They get completed and I analyze them with an almost scientific viewpoint, examining a new piece and thinking ok, done with this one. What do I like? I think I'm getting closer to something. Moving on! 

I had a college professor who said if you are uncomfortable with something you've created, GOOD. It probably means you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. So with that voice going off in the back of my head I push forward, trying to figure out what Lauren 2.0 looks like. 

Come See Jennifer Nelson Artists at BLUEPRINT!

I'm so very excited that my agent, Jennifer Nelson Artists, will be at Blueprint in NYC December 2-4 (Get more details here). This is the second time the surface design and print show has taken place, and it has doubled in size! Below you can see some examples of art I will have there.

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I'm on Thanksgiving "break" just in the way that I do not teach this week. Hard to believe that I only have ONE MORE class with my Illustration 2 undergraduates! I have the whole Spring semester off from teaching, which will be an an interesting experiment since I haven't lived in my new town yet with absolutely no reason to drive into Nashville every week. I'm curious to see how this will effect not only my art-making schedule, but just to see how many times I actually venture out of my neck of the woods. My guess is that there will be the occasional family and friend visit which will lure me out, but I'm excited to have a huge block of time to make art for Surtex without interruptions.

Talking with Sabryna Fahrney from C.R. Gibson

The last couple of semesters, my art licensing students have had the pleasure of talking with professionals in the Illustration and Licensing world including Jennifer Nelson, Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren), and most recently Sabryna Fahrney from C.R. Gibson. Sabryna (formerly Sabryna Lugge) has been a senior designer at CRG for several years and is only moving up in the art department! She not only talked about creating artwork and products for customers as an in-house designer, but also how she looks for trends, what it's like to help buy/license art for a company, and what promotional materials from freelancers catch her eye the most. 

Just like many artists out there, Sabryna has to work with an art director and a client. It may mean creating a new product line for a top account or utilizing the hottest trend for the next season. Here are some of the tips she gave during her visit, which I think are gold!

Be flexible, and don't take feedback personally.

Many times a company will need changes to artwork. It has nothing to do with whether your art is "good" or "bad" (hey, if they're working with you, they already like your stuff). However, maybe your hot pink background isn't trending in a particular piece and they're hoping you can use robin-egg blue instead. Companies need changes for all sorts of reasons- manufacturing concerns, what the customer wants, product dimensions...don't take it personally!

When trend shopping, look at all products.

I love how Sabryna told my students to trend shop in ALL sections of a store. You'll notice colors or trends in the gardening section pop up in the furniture or bath aisle as well. This gives artists a broad scope of inspiration and industry knowledge. It also gives you the chance to explore a trend that is in one category, like apparel, before it hits another category such as greeting cards. 

Make the most out of your promotional materials.

Sabryna  brought some of her favorite promotional materials and portfolios that artists sent in along with examples of some that could be improved. This was a great opportunity for my students to see real-life examples of art samples and understand the finer points of promoting themselves. 

Some great tips from Sabryna include:

1) Make sure your name and contact info is on every separate page of a PDF file or printed portfolio. SERIOUSLY. I remember reviewing art when I was at C.R. Gisbon, and things get pulled apart, ripped out, and after an hour long Christmas meeting, someone picks up an art sample only to say "anyone know which artist did this?". Sometimes we're talking about hundreds of individual sheets of paper scattered on a desk, so you want to make sure your name is on everything. 

2) Think about the design of your promotional materials. Many artists focus on the art, only to let the design of their samples fall flat (and bring down the overall impact of your submission). What does this mean? Make sure your font choices are appropriate  (don't pick fonts that are distracting, too big, an obnoxious color, etc). Logos should be visible but not compete with the art. Don't put distracting borders or background colors around your art (we looked at one portfolio that had thumbnails on black pages- it was amazing to see how that one decision sucked the color out of the art samples). The ones that worked best were clean and simple, with the art being the hero. 

3) Try to show more than one piece of art or collection. Sabryna mentioned that seeing one collection or pattern may not be enough to get her to reach out to a new artist. When designing your promotional pieces that will be mailed, consider different ways to show a few good pieces all at once. One oversized mailer we looked at had one BIG image on the front, with 6 thumbnails on the back. This was a great way for the artist to get full impact out of their art while showing a sneak peek of other great designs they had available. In this way, Sabryna and her co-workers could tell this artist was not a one-hit wonder. Other ideas include making more than one mailer and sending them together (like a mini portfolio) , or finding a way to present more than one portfolio piece on a postcard (find a couple of designs that compliment- and not fight- each other). Of course, emailing a PDF file or jpegs is common and many companies enjoy seeing submissions in this way, too. Sabryna and I agree that even in the digital world, it's fun to get actual mail. Emailing art samples doesn't guarantee an art director will print out and save your portfolio, whereas they may keep a mailer just because they are fun to collect and brighten up an office. Make sure to shake up your promotional tactics once in a while. If online submissions aren't working, send something special in the mail. Postcards letting you down? Try submitting your work to an online blog such as Print & Pattern or They Draw & Cook for a different kind of boost to your marketing plan.

HUGE thanks to Sabryna for visiting my class! I hope she had some ideas that helped you out, too. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Zuca kid's luggage

Yesterday I was absolutely tickled when my sample bag from Zuca came in! Zuca manufactures heavy-duty boutique luggage and I was delighted when they wanted to use my collection Geo Animals for a kid's rolling bag. 

This is one SERIOUS bag! The cloth bag is detachable from the metal frame (metal, not plastic) for easy washing, it's got tons of cool pockets, and THE WHEELS FREAKIN' LIGHT UP, PEOPLE. Luckily the handle comes out far enough for an adult, because this sucker is coming with me to class!



AIGA's 2015 Think Tank

I'm very excited and honored to be a speaker at AIGA's 2015 Think Tank in Nashville on October 17th. You can find me on the Business+Design panel with other local creatives. If you're in the area, join us for a great day! For more details, click here.

Cruise Sketchbook Fun Time

Recently, Keith and I celebrated our one year anniversary. Hooray! We went on a cruise. Mind you, my family never went on cuises, so I've only been recently introduced to them through my trips with Keith. And I kinda love them. I never knew one could be so busy yet so lazy all at the same time, but that's sort of the vibe of being on a cruise. 

"Quick! Let's go get breakfast and then walk 2 minutes to 90's music trivia (note: we won it) and then we'll change into our bathing suits so we can walk another minute to the pool. We only have so many days to try every ridiculous tropical drink on the bar menu! Move out!"

This trip was different for one reason: I brought my sketchbook. Truthfully, I admire all the amazing travel sketchbooks I see from other artists. They document the food they eat and interesting sights...all while being beautifully executed. However, I've never really done it before. I love my art, but taking my sketchbook with me feels like I'm "taking my work on vacation" to some degree. It's just the way my mind works, and I want to 100% shut off and force myself to chill. BUT, this time I gave in and just brought along the small sketchbook I've been working in lately. Nothing special. 

It actually turned out really well. I was able to come up with some new ideas that I'm genuinely excited about (ocean views and beer helps the creative process apparently) plus I had a chance to just draw for fun. A couple of times I sat in a high-traffic area and drew people as they walked by. I only had a few minutes or less to observe them, then I would use that impression to "inspire" a character.

There was also this one couple in the pool that I had to document with a comic.

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Happy Happy Portrait

The ladies at Happy Happy Art Collective decided it was time to revamp our website with new portraits and a new color palette! Below is mine. Go to our website to see the rest!


Derby Girl Card For Hallmark

Awww sweet! My Roller Derby card is out now at Hallmark stores! I LOVE what the in-house team did my art, including the fun charm bracelet that comes with it. I've known quite a few derby girls in my day and love the culture of it, so this one is for you tough ladies out there!