Category Archives: Art Licensing & Business

Life Imitating Art…

…or is it the other way round?

I watched the pilot episode of the new Showtime television series “Penny Dreadful” the other day, and was smitten by a number of things. Least of all the actress Eva Green, who first caught my eye as the haughty Queen Sibylla in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom Of Heaven”, and later as an eccentric teacher in “Cracks”. She was also Vesper Lynd in the Daniel Craig Bond movie “Casino Royale”.

(Images are sourced from Google Images)

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She’s been a Queen

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…a Teacher

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…a Femme Fatale

…as well as many other varied characters, in a range of diverse films over the years.

And now Eva Green stars as Vanessa Ives in the Goth/Steampunk/Horror/Supernatural/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen/Sherlock Holmes/Frankenstein series “Penny Dreadful“. Her character, Vanessa Ives, is a beautiful, enigmatic young lady who is also psychic and clairvoyant. And extremely fetching in tight-laced Victorian garb oooo errr! ;)

Anyhow, in one scene, Vanessa is sitting at a table with a deck of dark purple Tarot cards, which she spreads out in a semi-circle. We don’t actually get to see any details of those cards right then. After some suggestive banter with Josh Hartnett’s American gunslinger dude character Ethan Chandler, she invites him to pick a card. She turns over the card Ethan’s selected. It’s The Lovers.

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My interest piqued, I searched online to see if these cards really existed, or were they just a stage prop (like those newspapers you see in movies where only the front and backs have actual newsprint and the rest is just blank paper). The artwork of the Lovers card that viewers get to see on screen is minimalistic yet macabre. If this deck was real, it would shoot to the top of my Must Have Wishlist. (Yes, unfortunately in my quest to be as spiritually enlightened as Yoda, light sabers divination cards still get me all excited).

Well, what do you know, the Penny Dreadful Tarot IS a real deck. And it can be bought from Showtime’s own website through this link http://store.sho.com/penny-dreadful-tarot-cards/detail.php?p=523695

The price is reasonable too, at USD$14.95. Only, after heading to the checkout, I was greatly disappointed to see that postage to Australia would be a staggering $34.95?? WTF, excuse my French…was the deck gold-foiled and dipped in caviar, then wrapped in platinum paper covered in diamond dust, or something? Put it back on the shelf, girl, right now!

I next looked at the Penny Dreadful Tarot deck listed on Amazon.com. US readers will be pleased to know the deck is available to purchase from there too. Only, for me once again, my efforts to secure this deck were thwarted…Amazon.com just would not post the deck to Australia. Amazon.co.uk did not even have the deck listed. SIGH…

Anyhow, undaunted, I searched for other sites online. And then I just happened upon this site Popcultcha that not only had the Penny Dreadful Tarot at a great price, AUD$18.99, but also somehow managed to discount the price of postage too…meaning when I got past the checkout the postage was Freeeee…Here’s the link.

I also went searching for the artist who created this deck. She’s Anaïs Chareyre aka “Irio” from Ireland, and here is her deviantArt page showing the full Penny Dreadful Tarot deck http://irio.deviantart.com/art/Penny-Dreadful-Tarot-Cards-449642001

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What are you waiting for? Run, don’t walk! 😄

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Lenormand moves

…in the right direction, hopefully ;). I’ve been in a creative frenzy lately, creating decks of Lenormand cards. What started out as research rapidly escalated into a full-blown obsession and passion for these seemingly inocuous divination cards which traditionally utilise playing card pips as insets.

And now Bobbie Kelley aka the Rogue Perfumer aka Psychic Twin Bobbie-el, based in Maui, Hawaii, has caught wind of my Lennies (as they are fondly referred to in the Lenormand community), and will be reviewing them on her YouTube channel. Yay, happy days!

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Bobbie asked what my thoughts were or what I’d like attention drawn to, for when she reviewed my decks, beginning with the Moonshadow Lenormand, my very first. So I sat down and wrote about my approach to Lenormand.

Here’s what I wrote, for your ease of reference:

Well, I’m relatively new to Lenormand. I was drawn to Lenormand because the playing card insets intrigued me. My first deck was a Piatnik, followed by a mini Ukrainian deck, a Laura Tuan Dondorf deck, and Ciro Marchetti’s   Gilded Reverie. Then I discovered  artist self-published decks…

I’m a digital photography artist and my “studio” is my Samsung Galaxy S4. I’m also recently a licensed artist with several companies in the US, Canada and the UK. I sell my Art also on Society 6. When I discovered I could create my own physical Lenormand card decks, and not just virtual art, I was inspired to try my hand at making my first Lenormand deck. This rapidly became a passion and obsession, and I’ve since then created 7 Lenormand decks, and am concurrently working on my 8th, 9th and 10th! Yes, I’m very prolific 😄. You can or will soon enough find my Lenormand card decks on my eBay and Etsy pages.

I learn by doing, so with each individual Lenormand card and deck that I create, I’m finding new nuances and perspectives. I’m also learning new aspects of my chosen format (digital mixed media photography art) as I go – freestyle design in one, using frames and templates in another, creating one card at a time, or creating an entire deck one layer at a time. My Lenormand decks utilise my own photos and public domain/copyright free images and clipart. I’ve built up quite an archive of Lenormand archetypal images now, on my Samsung Galaxy S4!

So, my approach towards Lenormand is two-pronged – 1) from wanting to learn a new esoteric language and 2) from an artist’s viewpoint. Now that I’ve created several decks in various styles – eclectic, modern, geometrical, plain and simple, time-worn, half-tone, etc I feel the need to share them with the rest of the Lenormand community. I’m sure that whatever style you prefer, or if you’re a deck collector, you’ll find one or more of my Lenormand decks that suit you!

You can catch Bobbie’s videos on YouTube, under her name “Rogue Perfumer”. http://youtu.be/CIHncKg4Vpg

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Courting Controversy Part II: Elizabeth Durack/Eddie Burrup

We’ve seen what happens when an artist passes off another’s work as his/her own. In my previous post, I wrote about the controversy surrounding Walter Keane and Margaret Keane.

What happens then, when a white woman in her 80s paints in the style of Australian Aboriginal Art, and claims to be an Aboriginal Artist by the name of Eddie Burrup? That is exactly what happened in the 1990s, with Elizabeth Durack (1915-2000).

Early in 1997, 82-year-old painter Elizabeth Durack (now deceased) was reported to have produced a number of paintings under the persona ‘Eddie Burrup’. Under this pseudonym, Durack produced images of some Kimberley country in an Aboriginal style. Many Indigenous artists attach to their paintings a text that talks about their life experiences, their world-view and their relationship to the land. The Burrup works attached similar biographical information to the paintings. Durack had spent decades associating with Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region, as had her family since their arrival in the 1880s, and she believed this ‘gave her the right to paint as one’ (Debelle, 2000).
In response, Wayne Bergmann, acting head of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre, said: ‘…in Aboriginal law, no-one can take another’s work or another’s identity. Miss Durack has failed to respect the very law and culture in which she claims empathy and understanding’ (McCullock, 1997). Another critic of Durack was Doreen Mellor, who was the curator of the 1996 Aboriginal Art Centre Exhibition in Adelaide at the time when the true identity of Eddie Burrup came to light. ‘I was terribly angry,’ Mellor said. ‘At that point she was definitely representing the work as being by an Aboriginal artist’ (Debelle, 2000).
However, other responses were not so condemnatory of Durack’s paintings. There were some senior Nyungar men who backed her, saying she had been possessed by the spirit of an Aboriginal artist. Also in her favour was the fact that she had been painting pictures depicting Aboriginal themes long before the Aboriginal art boom of the 1970s. It could also be said that the Eddie Burrup pictures represented a huge leap in her creativity in the twilight of her career. (Earlier in her career Durack’s paintings used Aboriginal people as subjects in the Western tradition.) That she chose to reveal the truth voluntarily shows that perhaps there was no evil design at work.
Durack claimed that Eddie Burrup was a compilation of several Aboriginal men she had known. In the furore that followed her disclosure of being Burrup, she asserted that she was astonished that it had hurt or offended. Whatever Durack’s intentions were, the consequences served to fuel a debate on the issue of the authenticity of Aboriginal artworks including the question of non-Indigenous artists painting under Aboriginal pseudonyms.

(Source: http://ab-ed.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/go/aboriginal-art/protecting-australian-indigenous-art/background-information/protection-the-issues/case-study-eddie-burrup)

Here’s a website with further information about the Elizabeth Durack/Eddie Burrup impersonation: http://www.elizabethdurack.com/burrup_6_storm.php 

Whatever one’s opinions are, the fact that remains is this: for many years Elizabeth Durack made money selling her Eddie Burrup paintings to unsuspecting members of the public. Collectors parted with their hard-earned money to acquire what they assumed in good faith was the work of a prominent Australian Aboriginal Artist. Despite what Elizabeth Durack’s estate may say to refute this, monetary gain was had as a result of this deception, and no amount of apologising or throwing up of hands can ever change what happened.

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Elizabeth Durack’s daughter, Perpetua Durack Clancy, herself courted controversy this year, when, as judge of an Indigenous Art competition in Broome, Western Australia, she refused to award the prize to ANY of the participating artists. This created a furore amongst the Aboriginal community, many of whom felt that salt was being rubbed into old wounds when they realised Perpetua was the daughter of none other than Elizabeth Durack.  In the 1990s Perpetua ran the Durack Fine Art Gallery in Broome, that promoted and sold the art of Eddie Burrup.

Read here for the full article: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-09/outrage-as-judge-refuses-to-award-indigenous-artists/5730274/?site=indigenous

Courting Controversy Part I: Walter Keane/Margaret Keane

When is it a good idea to pass off someone else’s work as your own? The answer is: Never. The Truth will always come out in the wash. And sometimes that laundry bill comes to millions of dollars.

Some of us may remember seeing these images of big-eyed children, in our own childhood days. I have a vague recollection of seeing some of them on some kitschy wall ornaments when I was around 8. But I never made the connection between them and the huge controversy surrounding Walter Keane and Margaret Keane, until now.

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KEANE

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Walter_Stanley_Keane                                                 Walter Keane

a4cc5c46ce35a28062d61f353bc6468e17                       Margaret Keane

Wikipedia describes Walter Keane as a plagiarist. And that is exactly what he was. He was a clever narcissist with delusions of grandeur, who in the 1950s and 60s passed off his wife Margaret’s work as his own. The only contribution Walter Keane ever made with regards the big-eyed children paintings was to add his signature to the finished works. Margaret Keane was kept in the house as a virtual slave, told to just concentrate on painting. Walter emotionally blackmailed Margaret to stay silent about this fraud for many years, whilst reaping the financial rewards all in his own name. (I have a name for people like him, but I won’t use it here, as we are in polite company).  My heart goes out to Margaret Keane, who suffered under Walter’s abusive tyranny for 10 years, until she decided enough was enough, divorced him in 1965 and took him to court in 1970…Walter had claimed that she only said she was the real artist because she believed he was dead…so Margaret sued him for slander.

A “paint-off” between Walter and Margaret was ordered by the judge in Court, to decide once and for all who the artist of the big-eyed children images was. Margaret painted hers in 53 minutes. Walter claimed he had a sore shoulder and declined the order to paint. The Court found in Margaret’s favour and awarded her $4 million in damages, but Walter never paid up and in fact contested the judgement until the day he died on 27th December 2000.

Margaret, I’m happy to say, moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where she remarried, became a Jehovah’s Witness and continued to paint. She now resides in Napa Valley, California, where she is still active.

Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Alice in Wonderland etc) will release his newest film to movie buffs this December 2014, entitled “Big Eyes“. And it’s about the life and times of Walter and Margaret Keane. One of my favourite actresses, Amy Adams, plays Margaret Keane. Walter will be portrayed by Christoph Waltz. I can’t wait!

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Introducing the “Moonshadow Lenormand”

I have finally completed my debut Lenormand card deck. And decided to self-publish it through Printer Studio. It was a choice between Printer Studio and Game Crafter, and as I couldn’t get my head around former’s templates but found the latter’s very user friendly, I went with Printer Studio. The company is based in Hong Kong, so I expect turnaround to Australia to be 14-21 days. That’s when I’ll get my hands on the “real” cards, and can assess the card stock and printing quality. I have a couple of decks by other artists, from the same printer, and their cards were nice and smooth and excellent quality.

Here are the links for both Printer Studio and Game Crafter.
Printer Studio
The Game Crafter

So here is a teaser page showing the fronts and backs of some of the cards in my deck.
Moonshadow Lenormand
If you are interested in purchasing this deck, you can find my eBay listing here:

http://m.ebay.com/itm/261630354440

Introducing the brand new Moonshadow Lenormand by AlyZen Moonshadow. The Lenormand divination system is named after Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand (1772-1843), the great fortuneteller who read for the likes of Napoleon and Josephine. Although Mlle Lenormand never designed or created the system that carries her namesake, the Lenormand divination system is faithful to the imagery of the Sibylla of the Salon, who read in the cosy parlours of the gentry, giving practical advice with regards love, romance, finance and even war. It is a very different system from the Tarot.

This is my very first Lenormand divination card deck, created using only my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone and Apps, and using either my own photographic images and clipart or images from the public domain.

The accompanying images show the front and backs of all the cards in the deck. There are the usual 36 Lenormand cards, plus an extra Man and Woman card for same-sex readings. Included in the deck also are 2 cards showing some card meanings, and also a card of recommended further reading. 42 cards in total. Your order will come directly from the printers, fresh off the press, in a clear acrylic case. Please allow 14-21 days for delivery, as this is beyond my immediate control.

Postage is Free to wherever you are. Please contact me directly if the item is meant to be sent to someone else, so I can change the delivery details. Thanks for looking!

And here is the listing on Etsy:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/207677660/the-moonshadow-lenormand-card-deck-by

LENORMAND CARTOMANCY

Some of you may be aware that I’m currently creating a deck of Oracle Cards to be either self-published or submitted to various publishing houses to be licensed. Click here to find out what Oracle cards are, and here to see examples of my ongoing project so far.

What you don’t know is that behind the scenes, I’ve also been researching, learning and practising another cartomancy system known as Lenormand. This is a lesser known system than Tarot or Oracle cards, but equally important, I think.

So, you’re asking what Lenormand cards are all about? As I’m still a student of this fascinating system and still learning the intricacies of its “language”, I’ll let others with far more experience do the explaining:

From Aeclectic Tarot forum:

The Petit Lenormand deck is based on a regular playing card deck that has been reduced from 52 cards to 36 cards by removing the 2, 3, 4 and 5 pip cards in each suit. The cards are illustrated with various symbols and traditionally also include a miniature of the playing card associated with each symbol. Little seems to be known or understood about the significance of the playing cards, other than that the court cards can serve to describe people in a reading. There are also regional and personal variations throughout Europe in the card meanings.

Several decks named after the French cartomancer Marie Anne Adelaide Lenormand (1772-1843), including the Petit Lenormand popular today, were published after her death. However, the Petit Lenormand appears to have been modelled on a deck of cards published much earlier as part of a game of chance, called “The Game of Hope”.

A fellow blogger has written a comprehensive description of how Lenormand cartomancy works, with examples of spreads and explanations of the meanings of the cards in readings. Definitely worth a look and bookmarking, if your interest has been piqued:

http://benebellwen.com/2013/06/10/the-lenormand-nutshell-summary-of-the-petite-lenormand-from-history-to-practice/

My first Lenormand deck purchase was Ciro Marchetti’s “Gilded Reverie”, check out his website for more information. Ciro’s site also sells spread cloths, if that tickles your fancy. Also, you can for the princely sum of $1.50 download a PDF full-length 144-page book on how to read the cards. I highly recommend the “Gilded Reverie” (which you can also easily find on Amazon and eBay), the artwork is detailed and sumptuous without detracting from the meaning of the cards.

image(Photo is of Ciro’s spread cloth illustrating the “houses” of the numbered cards. Just to give you an idea of how lovely the artwork is)

Actually, my first Lenormand deck was one by the brilliantly zany Titania Hardie, nearly 15 years ago. I had her “Titania’s Fortune Cards” for a long time, then they got lost in a series of house moves (I’ve moved 7 times since the year 2000, or 22 times in 44 years, go figure!). I recently tracked down and purchased the same deck again on eBay, and got reacquainted with it. The reason I didn’t initially make the connection between Titania’s cards and Lenormand cards was because her cards have no numbers on them or playing card pips. The images however, are the same archetypes as in any Lenormand deck. It was only while I was first learning about the Lenormand cards recently that I realised there was something strangely familiar about the images – Rider, Ship, House, Stork, Dog, Man, Woman, Child etc, and made the connection.

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(Photo shows Titania’s “Fortune Cards” in a classic Grand Tableau spread)

Concurrent with my Oracle Cards project, I’ve been busy creating my own deck of Lenormand cards. I figured what better way of learning than by doing? And what better way of doing than by utilising my digital mixed media photography skills on my Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Oracle Cards project is taking longer, as I intend to do a 52-card deck, with explanations. For the Lenormand, though, there are only 36 cards, so…I’m happy to be able to say that I’ve recently completed my own very first deck of Lenormand Cards, yay!

Watch out for further posts in the coming days, as I will be posting about my Lenormand cards, as well as updates on how the next phase is coming along – where I get my cards printed.

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All Done With Mirrors

I’m in the midst of not one but two concurrent projects creating Oracle cards and Lenormand cards. For my Oracle card shenanigans, read here. I haven’t blogged about Lenormand cards yet, or indeed about my Lenormand cards project, as I’m still learning about that divination system myself. Rest assured all will be revealed in due course.

So, my idea is to create a deck of Oracle cards, which I will then either 1) approach a publisher to license or 2) self-publish through a Print-on-Demand site. Still having a think about how to get a package together consisting of the deck of cards, a box and what those in the trade call the LWB or the “little white book”.

My Oracle Cards project has passed the 40th mark, out of a potential 52 cards, so it is well on the way.

As for my Lenormand Cards project, I’ve done 12 out of the 36 cards that make up a Lenormand deck. I’m taking my time with this project, as I’m learning about the symbols and meanings as I go along. Fascinating subject, which I will blog about soon enough.

All playing cards have a front and back, right? My digital mixed media photography art will go on the front of the cards, and now I need to create some designs for the back too. Here are some potential card back designs that I created using the App PicsArt, mainly playing with its “Distort” filter which offers image mirroring on X and Y axes, easily creating symmetrical designs.

PicsArt for Android

PicsArt for iOS

Enjoy! (All images copyright AlyZen Moonshadow)

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Living with Hope

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image(Joyful Nest by Lisa Kaus. Wooden collage sculpture licensed and produced by Demdaco)

I saw this in a shop just the other day and fell for it hard. I won’t say I fell in Love with it. Love is a word my errant husband has been screwing up for me, and using on another this past year. I don’t know what Love is these days, because if it’s my husband’s definition of it, it’s just not right, morally and spiritually. How can you love someone and have an online emotional affair with another? And with a mutual Facebook “friend”, for that matter?

Johnny Depp‘s quote has been widely copied and quoted on Facebook and on the internet. It pretty much sums up my feelings about my own situation. It might strike a chord in many of you too, dear friends.

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Oh, this is going to make my husband so mad. Mad enough to go incommunicado for days on end. Mad enough that he will say I’m digging up skeletons…well, matey, I’m not, you’re still dancing with that old skeleton, aren’t you? Her grave is still open, and I’m Hoping that you’ll have the sense to put her in it, shovel dirt over it, stamp on it, face the music and move forward. I don’t care if You’re upset by my exposé, you Should be upset. I don’t care if your friends or family find out, they Should know you’re not who you pretend to be. You’ve pulled the wool over people’s eyes for far too long now.

The Snake did not tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden this time. It tempted Adam, and boy, was he ever so keen! He still wears that same Snake around his neck, like a proud trophy. Time to put it down, boy, and walk away!

As for me, these days, I live with Hope. Hope never lets me down, as she symbolises what could be, potential, something to work towards, an ideal, infinite possibilities. I just have to believe. Hope won’t screw around with my feelings or with my head. Hope is kind and gentle. Hope will show me the way to Love again, but not the pathetic kind of Love I’ve had, no, it has to be True Love or bust. So, if the Universe is listening, I’m open. Bring it on!!

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Art Licensing Caveats – from Joan Beiriger’s Blog

Since some of my Art is licensed with a number of Art Licensing Agents, I subscribe to Joan Beiriger’s blog, to keep up to date with the industry and also to chase up any leads Joan may introduce.

Joan has just written an editorial about what to watch out for when dealing with Art Licensing Agencies. If you are an Artist looking to get your Art licensed, or even if you are already a licensed artist, the following can still be useful information to bear in mind. I have taken the liberty of simply reposting Joan’s entire article here verbatim, for your ease of reading, in case you’re not subscribed to her blog. Joan is an expert on the subject and I’m most certainly not, so the purpose of this post is to simply disseminate Joan’s message to those who may not already know. (Note: Hyperlinks to books and resources mentioned below are clickable on Joan’s blog, but not on this page).

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From Joan Beiriger’s blog:


Art Licensing Editorial: The Truth About Art Licensing Agencies

WARNING! This is not an upbeat article and is depressing because the art licensing industry is like other industries where people sometimes take advantage of others. The purpose of this article is to warn artists that they need to make sure that they are signing a fair contract or at least know the repercussions in signing an unfair one when they agree to have an art licensing agency represent them.

The truth about art licensing agencies is that there are MANY agencies that are honest, professional, have a fair artist/agency agreement (contract)* and work hard to represent their artists. BUT, there are SOME that are unethical, and/or are not professional in dealing with their artists, and/or have unfair contracts, and/or have poor business practices. Sounds alarming, huh? Well, it is! And, that is why an artist needs to do her/his homework before signing with an art licensing agency. Read the following so that you do not make a bad decision and sign a contract that negatively impacts your income and even worse allows an agency to have control of all your art so that you lose your rights to it.

In the fifteen or so years that I have been in the art licensing industry, I have heard many complaints and some horror stories from artists about the agencies that represent them. Unfortunately, those artists with the horror stores were so pleased that an agency wanted to represent them that they did not read the contract closely enough, understand all the terms, or realize that some terms that should be in the contract were missing. The artist’s big mistake was not to acquire information about the agency’s reputation and business practices by asking other artists and not having an attorney that is an expert on art licensing contracts look the contract over before the artist signed it.

* The artist/agency agreement is a contract and is referred to as a contract or artist/agency contract in this article.

Common Artist Complaints about Agents
Most of the complaints I’ve heard about agencies are not as drastic as unethical agencies and unfair clauses in the artist/agency contract but about the lack of communication between the agent and artist, poor business practices, not getting enough or any licensing contracts with manufacturers, and not receiving enough money from the contracts. Some of these complaints were because the artist had unrealistic expectations such as earning a lot of money from each licensee contract. Read below for more information about agency complaints.

• Lack of communication
Lack of communication and not being on the “same wavelength” between persons is a common human foible. It often results in frustration and may be intolerable when working together. Some artists want to be in constant communication with their agent and feel adrift and slighted if the agent does not immediately answer their questions or respond when new art is sent. Other artists realize that agents are busy and will respond as soon as they have time and are not upset when they do not get a quick response. Although, it does not go over very well if the agent does not respond at all. No one like their emails or art to “drop into a black hole” and not know if the agent received it. Note: Some artists find that if they phone the agent they will get a faster response than if they email her/him. Agents may not have the time in their busy day to sit down and write an email but find the time to chat if their artists phone them.

Some artists expect agents to provide art direction, to send them the latest in art trends, and give feedback from the licensee when art is submitted. Or, there are personality clashes where communication between the artist and agent does not work because they are not on the same wavelength. Not all agencies provide art direction and some depends on the artist to keep up with trends. That is why it is important for the artist to talk with the agent before signing with the agency to see if there are any communication problems, if the agency provide the services the artist expects, and how the agent envisions the artists work will be used on products.

Artist Jill Meyer describes the process she went through in selecting an agency in her very informative article “Finding a New Agent.” An important part of Jill’s process in selecting an agency was talking and asking lots of questions of the agent before considering hiring the agency to represent her. Also important was talking to other artists about the agency and having an attorney familiar with art licensing agree that the artist/agent contract was fair.

• Poor Business Practices
SOME agencies do not have the best business practices. They are negligent in submitting art, do not make adequate follow-ups, do not keep track of art already submitted or licensed to manufacturers, and do not respond to emails from licensees or send signed contracts back to them in a timely manner. Any of these will damage the creditability of the agency. The following are some complaints I have heard from other artists and licensees.

1. Poor method in tracking art
– Some agencies do not keep track of the art they submit to licensees and thus submit the same art time and time again. Licensees are looking for new art; not art that they already have seen.

– Some agencies book keeping abilities are not very good and they do not keep track of the art that have already been licensed. Thus, they are at risk in licensing the same art for the same product to different licensees and breaching the terms of the contract granted to the first licensee.

2. Poor response to queries and return of contracts
Some agencies do not reply to licensee emails or return signed contracts in a timely manner. Art directors appreciate quick responses and it shows that the agent is professional which helps in promoting future business. Also, a slow reply to a query can mean missed opportunities to license and promote art.

3. Poor follow-up
– Some agencies do not follow-up frequently when licensees show interest in art and thus they may lose the opportunity to license it.

– Also, some are poor in following up when payment of licensing fees are late or contracts do not arrive when expected.

4. Poor method in submitting art
Some agencies submit their artist’s work to their entire client list in what I call a “shot gun method” in the hopes the licensee will be interested in some of them. Instead they should be submitting only the appropriate art for each manufacturer. Licensees do not appreciate getting a ton of art that is not suitable to be put on their products and will eventually not open emails from agencies that submit art that way.

• Not enough deals or pay enough
Artists may not get licensing contracts because the agency does not have a list of licensees that is suitable for the artists work. Of course, the agency should never have signed the artist for representation if they did not think they could license her/his work. Or, it could be due to the impact on the licensing industry with the change in consumer spending and also the increase in competition of artists vying for licensing deals. The change in consumer spending has drastically changed the way retailers sell products. Retailers now order lesser products from manufacturers and the shelf life is shorter. Thus, licensing revenue per image is less than it was before the recession struck in 2008. Consequently it is not the fault of the agency to now get fewer and not as lucrative licensing deals for their artists.

Artists and art licensing agencies are struggling to get contracts and bring in revenue. In the article “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios wrote, “Art licensing today is an industry in search of a workable model. The scramble is on – agents and artists who used to make their money by licensing art are now finding ways to collect from (mostly newbie) artists in ways that run the gamut from coaching to holding contests. Some agencies are accumulating artists, hoping that more people earning less money can make up for the reduced sku counts and short market runs. Branding agencies are taking on artists and art agencies are promoting brands, and both are consulting for manufacturers who are buying art worldwide and licensing art only when they have to. It’s a wild time in the biz.” Jim’s article is a very “tough pill to swallow” but his aim is not to discourage artists so they quit trying to license their art but to energize them by trying new ways to license it. To get Jim’s perceptive on licensing art in today’s market, read his article.

Note: I recommend that you read Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten’s article “The Big Contest Dilemma” if you are interested in entering a design contest. Ine wrote a really thought-provoking article about contests. She ended her post with “So what do I hope you take away from this post? I hope you think careful when you enter a contest next time, think whether it’s just an easy way for the company to get free artwork and cheap marketing and whether the prizes are truly fair, or if you can really gain something that is actually worth something to you. By entering these bad contests you only help them devaluating your own and other artists’ work!”

Artist/ Agent Contracts
In “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by licensing consultant J’net Smith, she states that “It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of finally signing with an agent and forget to make sure that the contract is not only fair to both of you, but includes everything you need. . . Don’t accept the first contract you are given without understanding all the obligations and ramifications of each clause. It may be your first and the most important contract you will ever sign.”

Artists may interpret the terminology and meaning of legal terms or poorly written clauses in a contract incorrectly. And, if clauses that should be in the contract are missing such as the date and terms specifying termination, the artist may be obligated that the agency continues to represent her/him forever. That is why it is recommended that an attorney experienced in art licensed legislation look over the contract before the artist signs it. It is less expensive to pay an attorney to make sure the contract is fair to the artist than to pay him/her to try to free the artist from a bad contract even if it is possible.

• Unethical business practices and contract terms
What I deem unethical is when an agency does not pay monies due to artists for licensing their art or taking advantage of artists by having clauses in their artist/agency contract that takes control of the artists work and denies the artist usage of their own work.

Several years ago two artists told me that their agencies were not paying them revenue for their art being licensed. Their agents insisted that the art had not been licensed and yet the artists saw their art on products in stores. In one case, the artist was able to get monies owed by hiring an attorney. In the other case, the artist found out that her copyright was infringed upon and the art was illegally used. It is important that artists be constantly looking for their art on products in stores and on the Internet. And, getting their friends to help. That may be the only way that an artist finds out that their copyright has been infringed upon.

In the article “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing discusses the word “assign” and the consequence when used in any art/agency or licensee contract. He wrote “. . . when you see the hot word “assignment”, make certain that you’re not assigning the copyright or all reproduction rights to your artwork as a part of the agreement. If you do, it’s lost to you forever. Other people will control the reproduction rights to your art, and you’ll actually have to ask their permission to reproduce the art that you created.”

Lance relates a couple of horror stories that artists endured by signing bad contracts in his article “How to Avoid the Most Common Mistakes in Licensing Your Art”. In one example, Lance said “. . . This agency, which just happened to be owned and operated by the same people who owned and operated the publishing company, gave itself the exclusive right to publish any or all of the artist’s work for the next five years and to sublicense his art to anyone they wished, whenever they wished”. He stated, “If there’s any one piece of advice I could give an artist about to enter a legal agreement, it is to read every single line in the contract and make sure that you totally understand it. I know that isn’t easy for most people, but don’t get in the water if you don’t want to get wet. If you find that there are sections or sentences that aren’t written clearly, don’t say what you want, take away a bit more of your rights than you feel you want to give, or if any of it seems confusing or contradictory, have the company rewrite it in plain English. . . . But don’t let this stop you from promoting your art for license. Most companies are quite reputable and many contracts are completely understandable by the average human. Just make sure you read every word, and know what it means”.

• Unfair contract terms and business practices
Not all agencies have unfair terms in their art/agency contracts but some do. Terms that seem unfair to artists are usually in the contract because of the way the agent decides to operate the agency. For instance, a clause in the contract may state that the agent will make all decisions in licensing the art. That means that the artist has no say-so in what company manufacturers her/his art, will not have the opportunity to approve or not approve the licensee contract or even see it, and cannot approve the amount of royalties or flat licensing fee that will be paid for the use of the art. That is unfair to the artist. But, the artist may trust the agent to do a good job and is willing to sign the contract because she/he wishes to be represented by the agency. What is NOT acceptable is if the artist is blindsided and not aware that the terminology in the clause gives the agency that right. And, that is the reason why an art licensing attorney should be hired to point out unfair terms in the contract before it is signed. Note: Yes, there are agencies that have that clause in their contract.

Below are more contract terms and business practices (may not be in the contract) that may be construed as unfair to artists.

1. Artists do not get to see licensee contracts
A variation on the above unfair term is that an artist does not see the licensee contract but gets to approve or not approve the contract. The agent sends a form to the artist with the basic terms of the deal so that the artist can sign it for approval. Just like the above term, the artist must trust the agent that she/he makes sure that the clauses in the licensee contract is fair.

2. Agencies continues to receive commission after termination
Most agree that the termination clause is the most important clause in the artist/agency contract. In his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship” art licensing attorney Joshua Kaufman states, “The greatest issue of tension and dispute between artists and their agents surround post-termination issues. . . . The issue of how long an agent is entitled to keep receiving its commission after the contracts terminates, is one that is strongly negotiated. Agents of course, wish to be compensated for not only the full term of their contract but for the term of the licensing agreement and of all extensions and renewals. The artist wants to limit the payment to the agent after their contract expires. Agents believe that they secured the contract, they work long and hard, had to wait for their money and should be entitled to their receipts throughout the term of the contract. ” Note: Most contracts do give the agency the right to continue receiving commissions from the contracts they obtained for the artist until the contract expires and no renewals are requested by the licensee.

3. Agencies continues to represent the artist after termination
Some agencies have clauses in their contract that allows them to continue representing the artist after the termination of the contract. The representation is for an additional several years after termination and is limited to those licensees that the agency obtained contracts for the artist’s work during the term of the contract. There are questions on the legality of this clause according to attorney Joshua Kaufman in his article “The Artist – Agent Relationship”. He states “One finds in many agreements prohibitions against dealings by an artist, post termination, with the agent’s clients. First of all there is a question (which depends on which state law applies) whether those clauses are enforceable and to what extent. . . If the agent’s client list is very large, and there is a blanket restriction against dealing with the agent’s clients, and this precluded the artist from doing business or greatly hampered their ability, many states will disallow the restriction.”

4. Do not allow any interaction between the artist and licensee
There may not be a clause in the artist/agency contract but some agencies do not allow their artists to interact with licensee art directors. All licensee requests for high-resolution art are sent to the agent who forwards it to the art director. And, all requests for editing of the art go through the agent. This is awkward and frustrating to the artist. It is much easier and faster for the artist to make art changes if she/he works directly with the art director.

5. Artists do not get to approve samples
Not all licensing contracts allow the approval of art on the products before they are manufactured. But if it is in the licensee contract, the agent normally approves the samples and not the artist. That restriction may not be in the artist/agency contract but because of licensee time restrictions it is not usually possible for the agent to ship the sample to the artist for approval.

6. Artists are required to pay part of booth and marketing expenses of the agency
Many agencies do not require artists to pay any of the agency expenses. But, if they do required their artists to help with trade show and other agency expenses it should be clearly spelled out in the artist/agent contract according to art licensing consultant J’net Smith in “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials”.

Summary
There are many good art licensing agencies. But, do not get blindsided and sign a bad contract. Do your homework and ask agents for recommendations of artists in their agency to talk to and/or look at agency websites for the artists the agencies represent. Select a few artists and find out their contact information from their own website, Facebook or LinkedIn. Either phone or email them to ask questions about the agency. Make sure that you fully understand all the terms in the artist/agency contract. And better yet, hire an attorney that knows the ins-and-outs of art licensing to look over the contract and point out any unfair clauses before you sign it.

For a list of agencies, read “List of Over 50 U.S. Art Licensing Agencies”. But, you need to research the agencies yourself because I am not familiar with all of them or their artist/agency agreements (contracts).

Resources:
The above post mentions quotes from the following articles. I recommend that you read these articles because they contain a lot of important information you should be aware of.

• “Finding a New Agent” by licensed artist Jill Meyer

• “You Are Not Going to Make It in Art Licensing” by art licensing agent Jim Marcotte of Two Town Studios

• “The Big Contest Dilemma” by Belgium surface designer Ine Beerten

• “16 Art Licensing Agent Agreement Essentials” by art licensing consultant J’net Smith

• “Hot Words to look out for in contracts” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “How to Avoid Mistakes in Licensing Your Art” by art licensing agent Lance Klass of Porterfield’s Fine Art Licensing

• “The Artist – Agent Relationship” by attorney Joshua J. Kaufman

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MY ORACLE CARDS PROJECT: THE JOURNEY SO FAR

A short while ago I hatched a grand plan to create my own deck of Oracle Cards. I blogged about it here.

Now I’ve created about 20 such virtual cards, so I’ll share them with you. You can see how some work better than others, I’m constantly learning as I go along. Creating the imagery is only part of the whole process. I still haven’t gotten round to writing the explanation or meaning of the imagery. That will come. Also, I have to research the practical logistics of getting my cards into print.

So, here are some of my “Practice” Oracle Cards. They may or may not be the end product…I might add a black border all around each image, or more key words at the bottom.

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