Anyway, (is that really any better?!?!) Surtex was an absolute whirlwind, from the moment I got there and began the set up process to the last minutes of the show. I met so many great artists that I've been fans of for some time and I can honestly say, they are collectively, a wonderful group, funny, talented, friendly and just great to hang out with. Definitely a major highlight of the show for me.
I was reading my friend Lauren Lowen's recent post on her road to Surtex and it really got me to contemplate my own path. I don't have the same background, but she made me think about the how's and why's of getting to the show. I'm a graphic designer by trade...that's what my degree is and the design program at Penn State was meant to develop you into an art director. NOT an illustrator, which is why I don't consider myself much of a drawer. I still don't think of myself as an 'artist' and that's actually ok. I like to think that I'm more of a problem solver. But, when it comes to presenting yourself as an artist licensing/selling your work, it can get a little tricky. Truthfully, I never even heard of Surtex until a couple years ago, when I took a series of online classes. It opened my eyes to the possibility of working to get stuff in the marketplace, vs. working for a client. Big difference.
My first job out of college, was as a entry level designer for a major toy company. I had interviewed at a number of small agencies, but landed in corporate design. It's an area that is often overlooked by graphic design grads, but it gives you a great background in working with and for all the different aspects of getting a product to the market place. From R&D, to marketing, to upper management, to sales, packaging, copywriting, legal and merchandising departments...there's a lot to learn. I worked with a lot of brands and helped develop and apply styles (yes, I even did a few My Little Pony rump designs O_O). I left Hasbro to raise my family and I continually, in dribs and drabs, started doing some freelance illustration. But not "licensing." Somewhat ironic in that I did a lot of work for the Licensing department, developing kits that defined brands like MLP, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head, Furby, etc. I was pretty good at creating patterns, motifs, etc. that expanded the brand for manufacturers to use, but my own brand? What was that? I worked to briefs, solved problems, came up with ideas. I never gave my own "brand" a second thought.
So the whole concept of coming up with art that others would be interested in, was pretty foreign. Make art that sells, do what you love... huh?!? To be honest, that still seems like a stretch at times. I decided to walk the show last year, and like so many others have said, it was completely overwhelming. So much to see, learn and process. I never had the courage to take a single peep into any portfolios, just walked around. When the opportunity arose to show with my happy happy friends, even though I felt completely unprepared, I knew it might be my best and only chance to get in. Usually the one standing on the sidelines watching, instead of logically waiting and developing an appropriate amount of work, I decided to go for it. We formally committed to a booth in January, but due to other commitments, I didn't start anything until mid-March! Not a plan I recommend to anyone! I did a lot of 'refresh' on some existing work (my motto being, it's new to you! ;) Here's an example...
|This was originally a journal cover that I reformatted and did some coordinates and new lettering.|
Even though I walked the show, I still didn't feel like I had a handle on what to show. This would be my biggest learning curve. I knew I wasn't a "pattern" person, but despite that, I still felt compelled to do them. That was my biggest eye opener. You don't have to do "patterns." Not that you shouldn't of course, but it's not a requirement. There were very few who came to our booth that were actually looking for them. A majority seemed to be in the market for icons that they could pull out and use. And Christmas. Bring it. You can't have enough of it. It was downright shocking to us how often we were asked for that subject. I had some, but should have had a lot more. I had heard that there would be a lot of requests for boys prints, but that didn't seem to be the case for us, at least.
Another surprise was the number of publishers present. This was great for me, since it's an area I really want to get into more. It makes sense, since NYC is kinda the publishing capital of the world, but surprising at least to me, considering it is advertised as a licensing show. Again, it's not all about pattern.
What do I wish I had done more of? Just prints and lettering in general...more that could be applied directly to the paper market. What was I glad I had? Prints with an abundant number of characters. It gives the buyer more bang for their buck. Can't have enough of that. What do I wish I had done? Send out show stopper self promos. Even if it is only to a handful of very select dream clients, if you do it well enough, you can really stand out and get noticed. Case in point...Emily's pennants! Who could resist or forget these beauties?
What was I glad I did? Show up. There's nothing like it. Where it all leads, remains to be seen, but it all went down pretty well and I'm excited about what happened and what might happen next! Stay tuned for part 2 when I talk about booth design and showing with a collective :)