After Christmas, Think Catalogs!


What to paint?  It’s a question I’m often asked by representational artists.  Just as often, my suggestion is: paint Christmas subjects. The month that begins the day after Thanksgiving and lasts until late on Christmas Eve is the busiest buying season of the year.

Do What Makes Sense!

It always makes sense to paint to where the money is.  Christmas is a rich source of sales and of licenses for compelling artwork.  Even after the retail sales crash over Christmas 2008 that heralded the beginning of our economic downturn, it didn’t take long for Christmas to come roaring back as a significant force in retail spending.  And where retail spending goes, art licensing is sure to follow.

But after Christmas, what’s next in importance?    Other holidays have their following: Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, Halloween.  Before the recession, Halloween was coming on strong as the second most important holiday-related buying target in retail.  And that’s despite the short buying season that precedes it.

Other Remunerative Holiday Products

I’ve done a lot of licensing over the years into Halloween, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, July Fourth, and other special annual events.  It has tended to be toward remunerative – but  limited — product areas, such as decorative flags, mailbox wraps, gift bags, and a vast number of  related paper products, table décor and decorative products.

Then, once the holiday’s over, retailers focus on getting rid of any remaining overstock because no one will buy products for that particular holiday for another year.  That adds to the uncertainty retailers face, not just with Halloween, but with all other holidays that aren’t Christmas.

So when artists ask me what’s next after Christmas, I suggest that they consider the fact that many companies put out several catalogs every year:

  • An Autumn/Winter/Christmas Holiday catalog that also includes products that use autumn,  Halloween, and general-winter art;
  • A Spring/Summer catalog that includes not only the spring/summer holidays (like Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day and July Fourth, with related patriotic images), but will also feature Spring and Summer themes, such as florals, gardens, and landscapes.
  • An Everyday catalog that may include a host of other subjects not related to the holidays, such as wine, roosters, farms, country Americana, cats, dogs, wildlife, and art for kitchen and dining room tabletop and fabrics.  Everyday catalogs can also occasionally include florals, gardens, landscapes, and spring/summer or beach images.

If you are able to paint charming, whimsical, inspirational, eye-catching and/or compelling representational artwork for Christmas, do everything you can to get your art onto products for Christmas catalogs but also consider the other catalogs that companies often produce during the year.  What other subjects can you paint well that might work in either the major catalog runs or in the Everyday lines promoted by so many companies at the January shows beginning with Atlanta the second week of that month?

Study Your Market!

I advise all my artists to study the market every way they can.  Visit major malls and big box stores and look at all products that carry art. There are  more than 5,000 distinct types of products that carry licensed artwork.  See what retailers have bought to present to their customers.  Become as educated as you can about what’s selling.  Try to pick out trends in design, color, and subject matter

Then take that knowledge and your own artistic inclinations, and start painting!

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(c) Lance J. Klass.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the author. 

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