How long have you been representing artists?
I know I am going to sound ancient, but it’s been 35 years! Amazing how time flies when you are doing something you love! After teaching art in the New York public school system for 10 years I was looking for a new career path. I loved the children and teaching but wanted something new and different for the next phase of my life.
I interviewed with the renowned NY art group, “Push Pin Studios” headed by Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser. Two icons in the advertising and editorial world even back then, realized the importance of a well qualified agent. Seymour and Milton were not only exceptionally talented but enjoyed sharing their knowledge with me. I learned the right way to represent artists and had a ball running around Manhattan showing their award winning work. I met Neil, the month before I started that job. I was visiting all my Stanford University buddies up north first. I then went south to Los Angeles to visit friends there and that is where I met Neil. Meeting Neil was my high point that summer. We really got to know each other via many long phone conversations. My trip to LA lasted only a week as I headed back to New York to begin my new career. I loved my new job, but Neil’s power of persuasion was too much to resist. I started my illustration representation business shortly after he moved me out here. That was the birth of Rosenthal Represents. We are still in contact with our first group of illustrators from way back in 1979!
Do you primarily represent artists for licensing?
I represented illustrators for editorial, advertising, publishing and entertainment (Movie posters) in the beginning. Neil joined the business soon after to help with servicing the many customers, Warner Bros. Disney and the ad agencies because it became too busy for only one rep. We met the new Creative director for Warner Bros, thanks to Neil’s great talents for researching “up and coming” businesses. That launched us in 1989 into the licensing business but only for Warner Bros. I was at Warner Bros. almost every day for a year and a half consulting with Andrew Baron, the amazingly talented art director Warner Bros hired to begin their licensing business. He kept our group of 13 artists busy for over 18 months creating images for their growing list of licensees all over the world. Andrew Baron, was the one who encouraged us to branch out into art licensing.
We were relatively clueless about licensing art. Andrew was generous with his time and knowledge in the beginning. It helped us initially but the real education was by diligent research. There were no websites to learn from as there was no INTERNET…. can you believe that? No one would talk to us about it and there was very little to read about it. I would just have to go to shows and find out myself. Since we love challenges, we threw ourselves into this new biz as we realized that our days in illustration were numbered. Computers were getting popular and the Movie Studios no longer did art on posters. That business dropped off the planet very quickly. The ad agencies were suffering and the time was ripe for a new phase of ART and it seemed to be Licensing.
We looked for new types of artists and discovered the biz together. The rules were different, the process was different and the payments were very, very different. New and different was a nice change. We all grew together and now we share our knowledge by mentoring and educating
new talent in this challenging biz.
We love to put on seminars and mini classes on Licensing in Art Schools and big and or small venues. Although there are many art schools in the United States and around the world they, for many reasons, do not include licensing as a formal course to their students. We have been invited to speak at Utah State and then other invites came along in LA as well.
What products have your artists been licensed for?
We run the gamut depending on our team of talent and what they are open to creating for clients. We go from fabric, textiles for the kitchen and bath, party plates and Stationery such as: invitations, notebooks, albums, to cocktail napkins, to jigsaw puzzles, gift bags, flags and more.
As Neil would say, we go from the floor to the ceiling with the types of things we license. We license art for floor mats, area rugs, coir welcome mats, wall décor, metal and wood signs, ornaments, Popcorn tins, music boxes, tabletop, gift bags and boxes, decorative boxes, crafts, such as paint by number, embroidery, kits, tee shirts, trays, coasters, top of bed, luggage, calendars, children’s products, baby and pet products. Inspirational products are important too. Often art is needed by location, country, coastal, national parks, Lodge, mountains as well as seasonal art too since many products concentrate on important holidays. Anything you can imagine that has art on it, we can do!
What advice would you give an artist interested in licensing their work?
This is not the business to start if you have no other income coming in. It’s not a quick earning business. They will need to consult with a seasoned agent to decide how to begin creating an archive of art. They will need to create seasonal art, which is a good place to start. Seasonal designs can be licensed to many categories at the same time. Photoshop or similar programs are a must. Manufacturers are literal… they must see the art the way they are going to use it. IF you do art in groups, they will get a taste of your hand and your styling.
One design won’t tell the story and won’t get you in the door. This is not a one trick pony industry. On the bright side, you can earn money from art you are doing for years to come. Re-freshing your look is important and paying attention to trends is essential. An artist will need to be creating new art every day so their archive will be broadened and widened to include new markets. With licensing, you are earning an annuity for your art once you have found your niche .We can help you branch out into new specialties so you won’t get burnt out and will acquire new revenue streams along the way.
What kinds of themes do you see trending for products?
Chalk art has taken hold for the past couple of years and that retro decorative layered look that came in from variety of sources including Punch Studio. Fringe and Michel Studio have a very successful and appealing style. Realism with some new twists never goes out, but new looks are also important too. Graphic looks have a contemporary feel is appealing today as well.
Retro never seems to go away. In tough economic times, people like to be reminded of the more innocent days of yore. Also inspirational art and art with an attitude is hot. Campus art with typography and famous icons are popular with the high schoolers and the College set.
Are they any other things you see as a current trend?
Pet products are a huge industry since billions of families have cats, dogs, birds and other small pets. People without children have pets as their families and spend a fortune on items to celebrate their special “four legged family” members.
What do you like about representing artists?
As Neil would say, I was born to do this business. I have always loved art and doing it myself in my amateur way. I loved studying and learning all sorts of art techniques at Queens College in NY and then at Stanford University and then teaching it. I mentored my special students when I was a teacher and have been doing that for the past 35
years. Art is my life!
I see it everywhere and enjoy coaching talented people change their lives by doing what they love! Encouraging others on how to excell, is a huge part of our business. When our artists send art to present to our clients, I know which pieces will need tweaking and which ones will be chosen and why. It’s most important to help them understand how to improve their designs so that a client will be thrilled to have the privilege to manufacture and produce them. That is the ticket!
Elise can be reached at Rosenthal Represents (818) 430-3850