Abstract and still life oil painter, Manuela Valenti, has been selling her art since the age of seven. Having come by her artistic talents naturally, Valenti’s mother saw an opportunity to nurture her daughter’s talent and took full advantage of it.
Valenti was encouraged to paint on any surface available—whether that surface was on a seashell found at the beach, a piece of broken mirror, or a flattened cardboard box. Then, at the age of 12, Valenti’s mother insisted that she try landscape oil paintings.
Over the next several years, Valenti would try her hand at several different activities, but it was painting that always called her back. After college, unable to let go of the hold painting had on her, Valenti set out to become a full-time artist.
In 1999, she found an opportunity to show, promote, and sell her work online—and she hasn’t looked back since.
It’s been over twenty years since Valenti set out to become a full-time artist, and in that time she has exhibted in Europe as well as the United States. If there’s one thing she’s learned, it’s that there are many ways to sell art. . . through in-person contact, via galleries, through online portals, and yes, even licensing.
Today, we’re going to discuss how licensing Valenti’s art plays a role in her success as an artist. So sit back, grab a cup of java, and enjoy. . .
Alyice: Besides selling your art through galleries, shows, and your website, you also license your art through various mediums. How did you get into licensing your art?
Manuela: I got into licensing very late in my career, but I got there through a good friend and collector of my work.
While I was still in Spain, my friend suggested that I create prints out of some of my work and gave me some pointers. After a little bit of research I gave it a try.
The prints were such a huge success that I started receiving calls and emails from companies interested in my work—to the point that I rejected quite a few of those manufacturers.
Today my work is in the faces of the famous Flip Mino Camcorders, in posters, on marble and granite backsplashes, on bookmarks, on shirts, etc.
Alyice: It’s been said that licensing one’s art means an artist is “working
smarter, not harder.” Has this been your experience?
Manuela: Oh! Definitely! It provides a certain freedom as an artist and a business person.
Licensing releases the pressure we, as artists, feel of coming up with something “new” or having to become mass-producers who paint the same painting over and over again.
Having a steady income coming in provides you the necessary tranquility needed to create art in a better way and allows you to show your true potential as artist.
Alyice: Getting a manufacturer to take notice of your work isn’t easy. How did you go about finding manufacturers to work with?
Manuela: The only way to know if a company has interest in your work is to ask. What is the worse they can say? No?
Aside from asking, it is extremely important to have a good body of images before approaching any manufacturer, otherwise you will be rejected endlessly.
Don’t approach manufacturers if you don’t have at least 10 consistent high resolution images of your work. It is very important that your images are of really high quality, so if you are not a professional photographer hire one or find a lab that would scan your work.
Once your images are ready, contact manufacturers to find out what specific protocols are in place and follow them.
After taking a look at what the manufacturer does to make sure it meets my expectations of a certain product, I send out an email asking if the manufacturer is interested in working with my images, pointing them to my portfolio.
Many times I get the “no, thanks” response so I add them to my black book—the book where all the galleries, dealers, manufacturers, etc. go after they have rejected me for whatever reason. Then I move on to the next manufacturer.
Alyice: Licensing one’s art can be tricky, how can artists educate themselves so that they don’t get taken advantage of?
Manuela: Well, if it looks too good to be true, probably it is.
There are certain key features that a manufacturer needs to meet before you engage in any business with them. If you don’t understand the legalities of the contract, have a lawyer check it out and explain it to you, otherwise you could be signing off your entire life without knowing it.
Make sure the contract is clear about who owns the copyright of your work. As an artist you should always own all the rights of your work—regardless of whether you license it or sell an original piece of work.
And make sure the royalties are clearly specified in the contract.
(Interviewer’s note: In other words, you’ll want to know whether or not you’ll receive royalties on the gross profit or net profits; or the retail or the wholesale price; or if the royalties will go up or down based on sales, etc, etc.)
Also, there are many manufacturers who make more than one type of product, and some of them might not be a good fit for your images. So make sure you have a say as to which products you want your images to go on and which products you don’t want your images on.
This is important as your work becomes your image as an artist and your reputation, and the last thing you want is to have your work used on products that could damage your reputation or cause you harm.
Alyice: If you could share one tip with artists interested in licensing their own art, what would it be?
Manuela: Don’t be afraid of rejection. Part of being an artist is overcoming the fear of rejection. Artists get rejected more times than any other professional. 8 times out of 10, to be exact.
Don’t be afraid to ask if a manufacturer is interested in using your work as many times this is all it takes to engage in business. And if a manufacturer says “no” just realize that the right one is out there waiting for you.
To learn more about Manuela’s work—whether to purchase an original oil painting or Giclee print, or to license a piece of art—visit www.ManuelaValenti.com.
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