Which Way Do We Go?

So yesterday, my daughter Faith and I went to The Greenery Nursery. We were in the market for some hanging baskets and this was the best local place to go. After waiting in line to get into the store – yes, the new pandemic normal – we pushed our cart into the store and stood a little flustered as to which way to go. Our jaws dropped as we looked down the never-ending aisle at thousands of hanging baskets over head. It was a gorgeous site of colour to behold!

We looked one way, then turned around to look the other way, only to turn around again to face the original direction we were facing. I have never seen so many hanging baskets in my life. Without a clear direction of our bearings we just started walking. 

“Oooh, look at that colour,” we pointed and moved in the direction our fingers pointed. That gorgeous basket of blooms led to another one we like more. “No, look at that one.” We didn’t meander in a straight line but zigzagged through the aisles with an even more beautiful prospect drew us along. How would we ever decide?

Finally, we started to get a bit smarter and began reading the signs and labels. I quickly fell in love with the begonias and impatiens but soon realized they were part-shade plants that would not survive on our sunny deck. That made the decision a bit easier as we started eliminating full areas of beauty. We loved them all but they simply would not work for our situation. 

Heading in the direction of the full-sun baskets, we discovered the petunias and geraniums, not to mention the aisle of succulents with a totally different kind of beauty to explore. Now, if only we could choose a colour. Would we go with white for a classic look or a “ba-bam” pop of colour?

This was not the only time this week, I felt overwhelmed by decisions. I purchased, from Amazon, the book entitled “Artist’s Market 2018 – How and Where to Sell Your Art (43rd Annual Edition)” by Noel Rivera, editor. Why have I never come across this book before? Opening the pages, I realized that I was, definitely, out of the loop.

Have you ever gotten that feeling as an artist where you don’t know which way to turn in pursuing your art career? I felt the exact same way looking through this book as I did stepping into that nursery pushing my empty cart with the thousand of hanging baskets over my head. Which way to turn first, I wonder.

For those of you who have not discovered this book before, this falls in that category of “I wished someone had told me about this book sooner”, so I am passing the information on to you. It is a 670 page directory of opportunities for artists including tips about the different industries with submission advise.

The book is broken down in to various directory categories of places looking for art submissions – Galleries, Magazines, Book Publishers, Greeting Cards, Posters & Prints, Advertising, Syndicates, Artists’ Representatives, Art Fairs, Contests, Workshops & Art Tours, and, finally, Resources of Publications, Websites & Blogs.

Each entry within the sections breakdown the information into bite size chunks of information including contact information with website of the company, who to specifically contact (ie: the art directors name & email), a brief summary of what the company does and what they are looking for in a submission. There are more details specific for submission guidelines for illustrations versus cartoons plus the first contact protocol and tips for success specific to the company. 

There is also detailed information on how many artists submit per year and how many illustrations they actually purchase with the price they pay for each image. On top of this all, each chapter has an overview of the industry with more tips for success. 

The book pages are printed on newsprint quality paper so you feel you can write in the margins as you weed through the 1800 entries. Although, I do like to see colour pages of the photographs included instead of the black & white pictures. But really that is my only criticism of the format. However, I do appreciate them cutting costs to make the volume more affordable.

Now to go through the entries to pick and choose what will work for my situation and what won’t, kind of like looking for the full-sun baskets at the nursery.

You have to keep in mind that the majority of the information in this directory will not pertain to your art career. You have to be prepared to cater your submission to the organization. For instance, just because I can draw a train for a railroad magazine doesn’t mean that I should be drawing the thing that does not inspire me. I am looking for organizations that will suit my artistic style. 

If you can’t define your artistic style, then you must go back to your studio before your crack open this book to create, create, create until your style is glaringly obvious. 

Over the past year, I have defined my style through surface design. I know, after many, many years of experimentation, that my artistic style is feminine using figures and florals. I am inspired by fantasy & creating an ideal world while trying to evoke an emotion of sentimentality and nostalgia. 

My artistic preference and style will be used as a benchmark for deciding what entries in this book are appropriate to my personal situation. 

I have already combed through the entries of the Greeting Card section. I have looked up every website in that section to see what is relevant to 2020. I was happily surprised to see that almost every company is valid. And, I have made note of the updated submission guidelines that are posted on their sites.

There is so much valuable information is in this book! I have learned that if you are wanting your illustrations to be purchased by Bed Bath & Beyond or Costco, there is an illustration agency who represents you. I have learned that all those calendar & planners designed for “Daytimer” on the shelves of Staples are published by Mead who will respond to submissions within 6 weeks and that they “pay for illustrations by the project with advance against royalties”. Who knew?

Keep in mind, all those Canadian artists out there, the majority of entries from this book are American but you will find the odd company from Canada included in the mix. I learned that Paper-Ya, a popular stationary store on Granville Island, BC, gets their cards from a New York card publisher. If you are looking solely for Canadian companies, you will be limited.

The other thing I have learned is that if you are thinking you can license with just one company you will not be able to craft a full-time art career. If you do decide to license you will need to develop a plan for on going submitting with multiple companies. Each spot illustration in a magazine, for instance, will only pay approximately $200. You will need to collect a bunch of these types of deals to make any kind of an art living. 

Overwhelmed yet? I know I am but I am working it through step by step. I have to narrow down the possibilities to a plan that is manageable for me. Persistence is the key. The task at hand is huge but I believe it will come together one day in the end. For now, I have found a starting point. And more importantly, I have to always remember that my content is not any less valuable than the art that is already being published and consumed. 

As for my hanging baskets, after 2 hours of narrowing down the possibilities, we made our decision. We would have to leave the rest of the beauty behind. We left with 2 baskets of deep burgundy petunias that will look amazing on our yellow house porch. We also purchase coral and white geraniums for the back deck, some white, purple and white/pink petunias for the front bed and a splurge purchase of succulents. 

And we left knowing, that there is so much more from where they came from. Now, I just have to keep these blooms (ha! and my art dreams 😉 ) alive!