There are a few special times in life where one has such a light bulb moment it would seem silly not to follow through. I was very fortunate to have one of those experiences which brought me, almost by accident, to licensing. I had gone to school for illustration and despite graduating at the top of my class didn’t have much of a plan on how to create art for an actual living. In some ways my “now whats?” were made easier as I found out I was having my daughter Sienna. I became a mom and all the day to day that brings. Starting an art career was constantly in the back of my head, I’d research, mentally cataloging all sorts of random bits of information and every year or two I’d send out mailers. There were freelance assignments here and there, a children’s book, a few interviews but beyond that I was the “artsy mom” and it killed me.
In September of 2010, after going back and fourth with a prospective freelance client, I lost the job because I refused to sell my rights. When I pressed as to why they needed to own full rights I was told that they wanted to make additional items beyond the proposed project. That felt “off” and I had always been told not to sell my rights while in school but as my degree was near a decade old I wasn’t sure if this information was still current so I did something I hadn’t done before.
Not wanting to lose jobs in the future if my information wasn’t correct, I reached out; a total cold call style email, to an illustrator who had done a previous project for that client. Not only was she kind enough to confirm I was correct to keep my rights but she was the first person who introduced me to term “licensing”. She pointed me to her website which had much of the same art she had done for this client being used on all sorts of different products. I was completely fascinated!
In addition to explaining licensing, she also pointed me to where I could learn more about the industry. Tara Reed used to do something called “Ask Calls” and she had a number of these to download on her site. I will never forget the first one I listened to, it was with Paul Brent and they were doing a Surtex recap. I listened, having no idea what most of it was or meant but when it was over I knew one thing. I was going to walk Surtex in the Spring and exhibit the following year.
Now, I didn’t have a portfolio, know anything more than there’s this industry called licensing and a show called Surtex but things couldn’t have been more clear if there was a giant blinking arrow saying THIS WAY. I have days when I find myself wishing I had gotten an earlier start and those where I’m questioning this as a path but then there are the special moments when I realize I’m doing EXACTLY what I was meant to do and how lucky I was to loose that job, reach out to a stranger and find my way to an art career which I thought escaped.