Creating Art and Cartoons For Licensing

I recently had the opportunity to meet with a creative director and manager of a major overseas coffee mug manufacturer at their Madison Avenue office in downtown Manhattan (at the end of the article I’ll provide the details of what turned out, in retrospect, to be a very humorous day. Just not for me.). I presented my work on my iPad, which seemed to be the perfect platform for the job. I flipped through about 2 dozen images, many of which they laughed out loud when reading, then moved on to the business end of the discussion. The first question presented to me was, “What about coffee or tea-related material?”. I replied that I’ll get some to them as soon as possible. Which is not the right answer.


In cartooning we have a term called ‘slanting’ where we create work specific to a magazine or publication’s theme, such as cuisine, wine, golf, etc. We develop a series of concepts specific to that editorial need. Exactly what I should have thought of prior to the meeting.

Another key factor is shape. I draw my cartoons in seven inch square boxes with text beneath. When I first started working as a cartoonist, I’d read that this was the preferred format for newspapers, so that’s what I did and never had any reason to change. In many cases, it works well for art licensing, particularly for greeting cards, t-shirts and anything where a rectangular presentation fits. There are a number of manufacturers I would love to partner up with, but I know the current format I use won’t work. Should I have the good fortune to sit down and meet with those companies, I would make those alterations, and perhaps create a mock-up showing how my work would look on their products. A case in point is my latest licensing partner Hi-Look who manufacturers lens cleaning cloths for eyeglasses, iPads, iPhones – you name it. The format had to be exactly square which required some reworking. And so I did.

BA0006 am i sexy yet

Humor is a great fit for many manufacturers who license art for their products. But having a great humorous illustration may not be enough. Remember to present material topically appropriate to the manufacturers needs, and make sure that the formatting will work in an attractive and enhancing way.

Now, here’s what happened in New York City. Admittedly, I’m not a fashion mogul. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure I even know what one is. But, being aware of that, and knowing I would be going to a place where such things are noticed, I thought I might better show up wearing something other than my typical cargo pants and hiking shoes.

My son-in-law Nik is the peripheral opposite of me in terms of fashion. He knows his stuff, so I asked him to give me some pointers, to which he graciously offered to accompany me on a trip to Macy’s to correct my fashion deficiencies. And so we went. After trying on a dozen or so fancy-schmancy pairs of jeans, then a like number of button-down shirts, sport coats, and shoes with a squarishly pointy end, very expensive but surpizingly thin socks, and a belt that looks just like the belt I always wear, but for only three times the cost, I was ready.

The evening prior I made the 5 hour drive to Albany to spend an evening with my parents. The next morning I woke up well before sunrise, showered, shaved, and started getting dressed into my new, fashion-savvy clothes. I caught the early train to New York City and arrived without incident. As it turns out, Penn Station is a pretty massive place. By the time I found my way through a sea of people to the 7th Avenue exit, my feet, jammed into their high-fashion squarishly-pointy shoes, were painfully blistered.

It was at this moment I reflected on what a bad idea it was to buy expensive, squarishly-pointy shoes, not breaking them in, and having to walk over a mile through the busy streets of Manhattan to my very important appointment.

Within only a few blocks I was visibly, painfully limping, trying to scrunch my toes into different positions to alleviate the friction which was sanding the skin off of the outsides of me feet and heels. At long last, I arrived at the Madison Avenue address. Three and a half hours early. And it was very cold. But fashion didn’t allow for a jacket. Time for more reflection.

Outside the building were a number of circular benches, one of which I quickly planted my butt upon. The relief to my feet was wonderful. So now I have lots of time to kill. In the cold. I took the opportunity to commence shivering. As I looked around I noticed a great deal of security, both within and outside of the building. My attention focused most specifically on the bomb-detection officer and dog which seemed to, in turn, be focusing on me. I suppose my look of obvious discomfort didn’t help their perception of why I might be sitting there.


The hours passed while I chattered away until the appointed time finally came. I limped into the building and approached the security desk to check in and get my badge. Into the elevator I went and up to the floor to the offices where the meeting was to be held. I was still about a half-hour early, so I stood in the hallway looking awkward, fidgeting in an attempt to appear as though I belonged there. Here’s where the military did me a disservice. For all of my 20 year Navy career it was mandated that you show up to your appointed station or watch 15 minutes in advance. In most circumstances, this is good advice. It wasn’t on this day. 15 minutes to the appointed time I energetically limped straight through the door – into the middle of someone else’s very important meeting. Yet more awkwardness. I smiled embarassingly, apologized profusely, and backward limped out of the room to resume my awkward place back in the hall, where sweat began to bead on my forehead. After a short time, the gracious people whose meeting I intruded on walked by with kind smiles – the kind you give someone who is on their way to a root canal. I entered the room, and the meeting proceeded as I’d described above. Upon its conclusion, I limped back to the elevator and into the lobby. I raised the lapels of my sport coat to ready myself for the cold, limp-hindered walk back to the rail station when I noticed all the umbrellas. Umbrellas are a key indicator of rain. And so it was. So I finished my day with a higher quality level of shivering, wet to the core, limping like Captain Ahab on a train where I came away with one very significant, non-pain related lesson: bring artowrk that suits the occasion and the prospective client. And wear hiking shoes next time for Pete’s sake.

About Bill Abbott

Published, licensed humorous artist. My work has appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, Harvard Business Review, Medical Economics, American Fitness, Long Island Business Journal, Illinois Busness Journal, and many more. Additionally, my work has been published in greeting cards by various companies around the world including Hallmark UK..
This entry was posted in cartoon, cartoon licensing, cartoonist, childrens illustration, humor, Illustration, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Creating Art and Cartoons For Licensing

  1. I can relate .. As a woman … I can relate :) this is a common scenario for us. No coat and uncomfy shoes. Meanwhile I also once broke the heel of a pair of four inch heels prior to going into a interview once. I had to limp in, sit there all awkwardly … Superglue doesn’t work btw on shoe heels.

  2. Too funny :)…at least you can take it all in “stride”.

  3. Mike Motz says:

    Hilarious! I sympathize (you sound much like me).. thanks for the laughs Bill!

  4. Twig says:

    Glad you survived with you mo jo intact! Your words of wisdom very appreciated. I am just learning about art licensing and looking for a rule of thumb for image sizing. I think all that I have done for Zazzle may require tweaking but I don’t want to start without understanding it. I am very grateful for people like you who are willing to share your experience. Best wishes!

  5. Sarah Hudock says:

    Your words strike fear into my very heart! An arrival to Penn Station is coming up in my near future too. Since as Leah pointed out above, each and every woman out there has personally experienced that limp, I did think to bring some “borderline” shoes: they do have a heel. But they are also broken in. But now I am seriously doubting my judgment! Maybe I should just take this article as an omen and wear hiking boots with MY newly-acquired “professional” wardrobe…

    Excellent advice about the art too.

  6. cindydrawpj says:

    Oh what a laugh! I can relate so much to this! Reminded me of the day that I was commissioned by Microsoft in Brisbane 2004…so nerve-racking but exciting. I over-planned every step of the journey to that meeting too. I love your story telling, thanks so much for sharing all the little honest details. It made my day to read this!

  7. Simon Lake says:

    It’s a precarious thing being in the “Funny Business” Bill and you are an entertainer of note!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s