Sophisticated parents are seeking more artistic and stylish looks for home décor in traditional subject matters that appeal to children. Animals, planes and trains, and letters of the alphabet still dominate in theme, but the approach differs in that it's more imaginative and artsy. Within the last few years, more catalogs such as Pottery Barn Kids and PoshTots also have focused on transforming a child's room into a more style-savvy haven. "We are starting to see more of a demand for juvenile artwork with parents wanting to design 'theme' rooms for their kids," says Deana Peat, licensing director of Salt Lake City, UT-based agency Sagebrush Fine Art.
Such a demand opens new windows of opportunity for children's artists who previously may have focused on licensing their work for books or apparel. All of the artists License! spoke with have their eye on the booming category and are beginning
Flip-Flops & Flowers
"Through words and imagery, I emphasize the fun, innocent side of life," says artist Stephanie Marrott, who is represented by Sagebrush Fine Art. She uses acrylics on artboard to create her whimsical illustrations. Although Marrott studied art in high school, she decided to pursue a degree in advertising and design. It was not until recently that she began exploring fine art again. "I have always loved color and texture, and knew that I would paint again one day." Some of her work caters to a younger market, but most of it targets older children, specifically her flip-flops and tropical flowers.Most of Marrott's "juvenile" artwork was created specifically with products in mind such as wallcoverings and partyware. Licensees include Wall Trends for wallcoverings (her strongest category); LPG Greetings for Christmas cards; Mystic Stitch for cross stitch; and Highland Graphics for coasters, trivets, and cutting boards. "I would like to pursue bedding and bath textiles to coordinate with the wallcoverings and also stationery," says Marrott. Keeping a step ahead of trends is among the biggest challenges for the artist, who believes the children's décor market is really "up-and-coming." She says understanding how art may be used (for products) helps her understand how to paint. Marrott recommends artists work through an agent, who can do the legwork. "By working with an agent, I was able to find out what the licensees were looking for and create artwork for their needs," she says, adding that it's "very hard to break in with the big companies and understand contracts."
Fairytales & Airplanes
"Colorful" and "silly" are the words artist Stephanie Bauer of Lake Oswego, OR-based Two Red Shoes uses to describe her graphic depictions of animals, gardens and flowers, fairytales, and transportation modes such as airplanes. Although the images are bold, the artist's palette remains soft. "I try to find the humor in my subjects and hope to help children and adults find the humor in themselves," says Bauer, an artist who credits her earliest influences to private lessons and wonderful teachers. Her acrylic paintings are primed for products ideal for infants through the 'tween age. Bauer's work is priced between $50 and $780 and is available at
, as well as boutique stores nationwide. Bauer has been licensing her work for nine months, and already has signed on about 15 licensees for categories ranging from wall décor to magazines and paper goods. Wall décor is among the strongest categories, and the artist seeks to license her work for bedding, toys, rugs, and children's domestics. Bauer's licensed assortment ranges from $15 to $200, and is available at specialty stores such as Room With A View in Los Angeles and City Cricket in NYC. It is also available at
. Although Bauer represents herself, her licensing consultant, Christin Miller of New York City-based CM Perspectives, helps her tackle contract negotiations, review promotional materials, and locate manufacturers. She suggests other artists take this approach so they can maintain control. One of the biggest challenges Bauer faces is getting properties and product ideas in front of manufacturers. How did she get started? "Someone had contacted me to see if they could license my art," she says. "Next, I went to Licensing International Show in New York."
Letters of Love
Artist JoAnn DeJoria Smith lost confidence in her creative ability when she received a "D" in art while in grade school. Years later when she set out to make a birthday card for her daughter, she happily found fulfillment in drawing spontaneous characters that emerged from letters of the alphabet. This was the start of The Alphabuddies-a language of colorful letters that morph into characters children easily relate to. The happy characters aim to convey feelings of hope, love, peace, joy, and kindness.The Alphabuddies boast a range of more than 350 graphics. "Much of the artwork consists of different alphabets, which I use to write words, using watercolor washes or other drawings as a background," says Smith. Watercolor, colored pencils, acrylics, and a variety of paper are used to achieve this whimsical style. "I may use an old sponge or glue Kleenex onto paper and then paint over it," says the artist, who then scans the individual pieces into the computer for a more finished look. Via her art, Smith wants children to discover and express their own creativity without placing boundaries on their work. "I want to let children know that if they have a dream, don't let it die because of what someone told you or a poor grade," says the artist, who has donated several hundred picture diaries to various charities. The Alphabuddies seem to transcend age and gender barriers. "I never dreamed my art would appeal to adults," says Smith, whose youthful art brought a playful spontaneity to John Paul Mitchell Systems' (corporate) custom-made Christmas cards. "I began to realize the appeal was much wider than I had anticipated," she says. Her books, "Prayers Of Blessing" and "My Own Picture Diary," are available at Amazon.com and other bookstores. Suggested retails are $12.95 and $14.95, respectively. Smith recently signed on with Brent C. Higginson with Simon Bull International in Monterey, CA, and with New York-based C.S. Engel & Associates. Although she does not have any licensees at this time, she expects both agencies to arrange deals for merchandise in a full range of product categories. Says marketing consultant Carol Engel, "Publishing is a main category, as well as stationery and paper goods as a start."
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