The Pilgramage

As a designer, artist and art director, taking a "pilgrimage" to New York City was surely inevitable. I once visited as a meek and shy college art student many moons ago and was completely overwhelmed by the place--so overwhelmed in fact that I had no desire to go back again. That is until recently. This visit, I was once again overwhelmed but at the same time incredibly inspired and motivated, so much so that my travel partner and I were talking about our next visit and all that we would plan.

The motivation for this trip to NYC? It was more about research, education and networking. If you know any professional illustrators/artists, you may find that the mere mention of the trade show for art licensing called Surtex makes their eyes light up more than usual. I was lucky enough to visit for the first time as an observer and helper to Jennifer Nelson Artists thanks to Lauren Lowen, a wonderful artist and teacher I've been fortunate to study the art licensing industry with in my hometown.

Jennifer Nelson Artists' booth stands out as a wonderful example of great booth design and representing great artists like Lauren Lowen, Jennifer Orkin Lewis (aka August Wren), Jill Howarth, Anisa Makhoul, Jill McDonald, Bee Brown, and Jessica Swift.

Jennifer Nelson Artists' booth stands out as a wonderful example of great booth design and representing great artists like Lauren Lowen, Jennifer Orkin Lewis (aka August Wren), Jill Howarth, Anisa Makhoul, Jill McDonald, Bee Brown, and Jessica Swift.

Why this new motivation to visit a trade show for artists? I've always created art and have loads of it that never sees the light of day. In the process of doing some major spring cleaning a little over a year ago, I found that I needed to muster my courage and bring it all out to be seen and hopefully appreciated in some way. In the process, I felt this wellspring open up and began creating even more art. And the inspiration kept flowing. In fact it's been flowing since I was a small child. The decision to take it more seriously in my career became a new pursuit. Art licensing seemed a perfect channel to keep the creative channels constantly open AND fueled.

What exactly is art licensing? Surtex explains it this way: it's "where artists, art agents, licensing agencies and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable. Wall coverings, fabric prints, decorative accessories, bed linens, stationery, giftware, apparel and so much more...."

Not only did I walk the floor of the Surtex show but I also attended the National Stationery Show, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (both happening simultaneously with Surtex in the Javits Center) as well as Blueprint, "a design led print show put together by design studios." And in the evenings, touring the Big Apple even on a small scale provided great inspiration.

As a business owner, I'm not only searching for ways to improve my work but I'm also constantly working to kindle my creative spirit in new ways and improve the creative potential for my clients' marketing and commerce. Well, licensing art is new territory for me that I have little to no experience with. I'm learning about copyright law, new product development and manufacturing, product substrates...the list goes on and on. One major thing I'm learning is the need to call on the expertise of other professionals and this show was a perfect opportunity to start that process.

It's easy to feel dwarfed in a place like the Javits Center but, oh what a joy to be there.

It's easy to feel dwarfed in a place like the Javits Center but, oh what a joy to be there.

While I have some work to do before landing any big licensing clients or even an agent (fingers crossed), I'm very hopeful about the road ahead and taking it all one step at a time. The learning process is off to a great start (thank you Lauren Lowen and Jennifer Nelson!). I'll keep you posted as things unfold so please stay in touch. If you'd like to see some of my most recent work, be sure to follow me on Instagram for the latest creations and of course my illustration, surface pattern, and letters web site galleries. I've also added the option to sign up for my e-newsletter on my site so please take a moment to sign up for that as well. I promise not to clog your inbox--just an effort to stay connected with a news about my world of work. You just might notice that I sure do love what I do!