Tara Reed – Artistic Life Designer
Licensed Artist, illustrator, designer
I’ve recently met Tara through my participation with Twitter. I am still not quite sure how we crossed paths, but I am absolutely delighted we have. Tara is wonderfully upbeat and encouraging. She always seems to have advice and thoughts to share with others… I love her organic lines and downright friendly art style. Most of all I adore the fact that she also doodles
What do you create?
I create collections of art that I license to manufacturers to put on their products. I look at it as a mix between “traditional” and “commercial” art. “Traditional” because I’m not creating logos and brochures but rather themed art icons, borders and patterns. “Commercial” because as an artist who licenses their art, it is important to remember the role of your art: to help sell products. With the manufacturer being my first client (it then trickles down to retail stores and finally consumers — that’s a lot of people to please!) I need to be flexible and attuned to what the manufacturer needs to make their product stand out from others and appeal to their client. It’s very different from traditional art for ‘self expression’.
What medium do you enjoy most?
I like watercolors. A lot of people ask why I don’t go totally digital but I have to tell you, sitting at my desk and playing with the water and paint brings me such joy! If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed or slightly scattered, I remind myself to “go play with paint!” and it always makes me feel better. All of the hand-created work is then scanned into Photoshop™ and manipulated as well– which gives me the flexibility I need. I don’t know how artists worked before Photoshop™!
What title would you give yourself?
Funny, but I think this is the hardest question you ask! I’ve come up with “Artistic Life Designer” — since I’m designing my own artistic life and helping others design theirs as well. Plus, I thought it sounded better than “Woman who paints pictures, scrubs toilet bowls and everything in between” — that’s just a bit long! 🙂
How did you get started?
I’ve heard you become a “professional” when you make your first dollar. That means I went “pro” when I had my first font published in the May 2001 issue of Creating Keepsakes™ Magazine. That led me to look into designing in the scrapbooking industry when it was growing at an amazing pace. I worked with EK Success™ as a Creative Alliance Partner (their then fancy name for a licensee) for 2 years then switched and worked as a Contributing Editor for Simple Scrapbooks™ Magazine. In 2004 I ventured out of the scrapbooking niche into the world of art licensing and continue with that today
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Happy! I want flexibility in what I do, financial freedom to do what I want, I want to travel, meet fun and interesting people and have new and creative challenges. I guess I’m pretty grown up because I’m incredibly happy with what I do and have all the rest to some degree or other.
Name three favorite artists/designers/creatives:
Mary Engelbreit. I’ve loved her sayings, checks and cherries since I was little and she is a HUGE inspiration — who embodies “successful art licensor” more than Mary?
Thomas Kinkade – he makes my favorite list for his ability to market himself as THE artist you think of for an entire style of art. So many artists paint with the same basic techniques (don’t get me wrong, he’s an amazing artist) but have you seen anyone do that in any other art form? No one has marketed themselves to be THE artist you think of when you think of watercolors, acrylics or any other medium. He is an art marketing legend in my book!
Rie Munoz — not in the licensing world but as I sat pondering this question, she popped in my head. An artist from Alaska I have been drawn to her work for years — it makes me smile, I love her colors, her technique, her story – so she makes the list! (riemunoz.com)
What kind of training, schooling or other learning experiences have you gone through that have helped you get to where you are now?
I have a degree in Marketing from Penn State and a few years of sales under my belt before I joined the ranks of “stay at home mom”. My business background has affected how I look at and have built my business, and I believe, has contributed immensely to my success. I have always been creative, I think I’ve tried every craft on the planet, and could always be found drawing and doodling. So the art part is from within but not “formally” trained. Does that make sense?
Do you feel you’re successful?
Wow! What a great question! I was just talking to my mom about that yesterday… what defines success. It is different for everyone but yes, I feel incredibly successful. I LOVE what I do and I do it on my terms. I won’t do many things that “make me cranky”. (Some of my clients think that’s pretty funny– I think they are jealous. When you work for someone else you don’t get the choose what you do at the level a self-employed person does.) My ‘work’ is evolving into so many different things, there are always new projects, new things to do, new things to learn. I have an amazing son and I am home to enjoy him. (OK, some days to tell him to clean up but it’s still “face time”… I’m not at an office all day.) I love where I live (Portland, Oregon)– and I live here by choice, not because it is close to the office I go to every day. I believe that if you do what you love and wake up with a smile on your face most mornings, consider yourself a success!
What do you like most about what you do?
I like the creative challenges, the variety of tasks and the flexibility of the work.
What #1 piece advice can you offer to those which might like to “follow in your footsteps”?
Do something every day. There are times when self-doubt will creep in and try and convince you to stop trying, that you or your art aren’t good enough, that you have to have connections to succeed… none of it is true. That nasty bugger tries to take over my brain on occasion and I bet it creeps into Mary’s and Oprah’s too… here’s a great quote to keep in mind: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of myself for continuous stepping out on limbs that scare me a little. When I got divorced in 2004, the easy thing to do would have been to give up on the dream of my licensing business and get a “safe” job in sales. So glad I didn’t. Deciding to branch out into eBooks, teaching and coaching was scary too — what if no one liked what I had to say? But it has been amazingly rewarding. I have connected with so many amazing artists I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I love that aspect of my work too. I love to paint, teach, write, market, meet interesting people — and I’ve managed to do all of that and more. Awesome!
Other comments and ideas you’d like to share:
Jen, thank you so much for asking me to do this interview. Your questions are great and really made me ‘think’, I hope my answers inspire others to go for it and follow their heart, their passion and their dreams. Go forth and create your dream life — I believe you can!