The Happy Phase

Suzan Waldinger looks for ways her happy, hopeful art "can lend itself to society and still make a statement." She is currently working on the final phase of a three-part series called "Peace, Love and Happiness." The first painting in the series "Peace Quilt" is a quilt made from a collection of 55 peace-themed paintings. The second quilt "Give Love" launched last year and included paintings with heart icons. This year's "Happiness" phase will feature images reflecting happiness and joy.

A self-taught artist, Waldinger has been inspired by the colorful, uninhibited styles of artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Kandinsky and Pollack. "When I paint, I don't sketch it out before I start to work. I like to work with lots of bright colors and acrylic paints right out of the tube. When I look at color, it makes me feel good," she says. "A lot of my images look good on product because they are so colorful." Her use of vibrant colors and impressionistic style are a good fit for wearable art.

While some of her products are silkscreened, most are sublimation or digitally printed. "Digital printing is exploding and making it easier for artists to offer products to a wider range of consumers," she said.

Waldinger has signed a licensing agreement with Flashbags, a Vermont-based handmade handbag company, for three bags featuring her art. The company also will produce placemats, wallets and checkbook covers featuring her designs.

Other licensing partners include Imports Unlimited, which is producing doormats bearing Waldinger's peace-themed images and The Tunes Co., which commissioned an image Waldinger calls "Peace Bouquet" for T-shirts. The artist is working with Classic Imports to produce fleece blankets based on her quilts.

Waldinger plans to enter the children's business with her Chick Peace character. The chick, which was designed using peace symbols, was inspired when the artist experienced the process of chicks hatching in her child's elementary school class. The lesson for her was that "life is precious," she says. "Chick Peace is a statement of hope that peace will prevail."

The artist also developed a female chick character called Chick Ita. "I would really like the opportunity to market these characters," she says. "We are talking to companies about layette, bedding and T–shirts for babies, but the characters also appeal to tweens. I'd like to do backpacks for older kids. The peace message is something that is always current but resonates especially now. I'd like to take these characters global."