I hate to admit it, but I’m newly in FL trying to get warm! (nice to be semi-retired!) They promise the wind will calm and the sun will stay out better starting tomorrow. Still warmer than CT!!!   SO…..

I have a little time to BRAG about some of the CAT artists! always good!….

This first is fun!!:  Patrice Bartons book REMARKABLY YOU has quite an honor. HC is partnering with Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! Give me 20! reading program from March 18-April 10th to reach over 10,000 teachers to read every day to their students!!  What a perfect book  for this idea too…..  https://www.bookitprogram.com/programs/give-me-20

The marvelous non-fiction book THIRTY MINUETS OVER OREGON, illustrated by our Melissa Iwai (author Nobleman) has a couple more notices = It WON The Colonial Dames of America Young Readers Book Award!!             AND it also was a 2018 Freeman Bk Award for Children and YA lit. on East and Southeast Asia Honor Book!!! Quite the surprise story to even Oregonians!

HELLO SCHOOL, written and illustrated by our amazing Priscilla Burris has just been picked up by Scholastic for their book clubs and fairs too.  So the book is really going to SCHOOL!!!

Logan Cat logo

this was a fun logo idea from Laura Logan when we were updating our logo cat a bit two years ago.  I felt the attitude really feels like a ‘bragging cat.’





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Critiques, and growth, can be hard!

I was reminded recently how painful critiques can be!  I was talking with one of our agency artists about the ‘stuck’ feeling she’d been having recently. She was doing JUST the right thing and asking us and other industry professionals for portfolio critiques to help her see more clearly where she WAS now, and how she might get where she WANTS to be.  One does lose perspective and clarity on ones own work. We’re often too close! She has paying work, and a style we obviously enjoy….but she’d like to move more into the illusive ‘trade picture book look.’ There are no easy answers or directions for that non-distinct destination! It’s very individual, and to be honest, only the ARTIST can find the way there.  But then it’s ‘The Industry’ that decides if the artist has ‘made it.’ Remember, it is a moving target...always changing…thankfully.  If it’s not YOUR year, maybe the next will be.

It is possible however to critique and give some thoughtful pointers….things we’ve noticed, directions the market seems to be moving, suggestions about possible changes IF that’s what the artist truly wishes.  I started by sharing with her a couple of stories from other of our now successful trade agency artists. (family is always fair game!)   Many of their stories were and are a zig zag of fortuitous happenings!  NOT a straight line to success. Even those who SEEM to have lucked out with an initial HIT to the top, often then have to regroup and rethink.  That can be harder …having known easier success! It’s the nature of the always changing business! She seemed to enjoy these stories…made the struggle more real, even though the stories weren’t hers.  She believe she took something from each.

After we finished our hour chat, she mentioned that this critique had been painless and helpful.  I DO hope so of course, but I asked her why particularly. (always looking to improve!)  She told me that my critique, as well as the other two she’d recently had, were NOT ‘painful  or discouraging.’  This interested me as I would think ALL critique givers would strive to be encouraging and productive! But I too have had one or two of the ‘painful’ types.  You feel stripped, naked, bruised and left unsure of the will and justification to go on!  The opposite of what most critique givers would want for you.

I think the generalizing of ‘the struggle’ by sharing others specific stories helped her see that it IS a shared journey, not a lonely personal struggle.  Each story is unique and ongoing, but we all follow similar overall paths – growing, learning, discovering, re-learning, experiencing, pushing ourselves, re-learning. Studying trends and other artists we admire (and feel might be of interest in TODAY’S selling market!) is all good for us. Don’t mimic to own, but DO borrow to play! We want to be true to ourselves and our styles at the same time that we stretch. Stir it up with new materials, approaches, colors, methods, but one generally can’t quite help being ‘YOURSELF’.  Thank heavens! That uniqueness is the spice and fun in all art forms, but in children’s book illustration particularly perhaps.  We bring something NO ONE ELSE can bring ultimately.  The sense of PLAY and FUN and experimentation should always be part of our illustrations because they are for CHILDREN, and the ‘child-like’.  This is their life! Play and learning and experimentation as they try to figure out the world around them.

Critiques then can always help an artist SEE freshly.  I truly do not feel they should be painful….though seeing oneself more clearly can often be hard work! I too  have seen portfolios where my first inclination might be to suggest another field altogether!  But the recipient should NEVER feel like they have been ‘slapped in the face’.  They are laying themselves bare, and we CAN help them redirect if need be in a positive, productive manner.  If you are given a ‘slap in the face’… well, I’d suggest standing up and walking away….as fast as possible!  Run! and then take a deep breath and begin ‘playing’ again!! (A slap in the face generally says more about the critic than the critiqued!) 

As I have said so many many times in my 25+ years, (thanks to an art director many years ago) – Three things are essential: Good Drawing, Good Color (and that might be no color!), and Good Composition! These are the basis for any successful outcome. The solid ground for your castle building! Even in abstract work! It ‘works’ or it doesn’t.  Then the artist builds on top of these basics and creates something new!  HAPPY CREATING!!

CAT 25 year banner

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catch up brags!

Yesterday I posted a ‘brag’ about one of our artists, Nicole Tadgell, (‘Out of this World’)….. but then realized I hadn’t really said HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  and I certainly DO wish you all a great 2019!!

It’ll bring it’s challenges…. many of us may have already been hit with some. But isn’t that the way?  just another year full of surprises….good and not so good.  But FULL of stories!   let’s tell and show our stories with joy! 😉

I also realized I had lots more artists to brag about! Many we can’t yet, (darn!) but we WILL!  keep watching on our FB and  Blog here. Let me get to some recent nice reviews and awards…..

Melissa IwaiTHIRTY MINUTES OVER OREGON from Clarion – illustrated Iwai: Jr Library Orbis Pictus Honor Book for 2019 and a Guild Selection for TX Topaz Reading list for 2019 as well.  (SUCH an interesting, surprising WWII story!)      ALSO: Mr. Schu and Colby Sharp’s Blog “Best of the year list #12 non-fiction!!

Patrice Barton – 12/14 PW Review of REMARKABLY YOU, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated Barton from HarperCollins, was SO lovely! Kudo’s on a ‘remarkable’ book!

Nina MataSHE’S GOT THIS! illustrated by Mata, written by Laurie Hernandez from HC – 8th on the New York Times Best Seller List!  Such a strong girl story -They GOT this! 😉

Priscilla Burris – The cover reveal for FEAR THE BUNNY by Richard T. Morris and illustrated by our Priscilla Burris included this wonderful line – “ this book might ‘cute you to death’ but it’s faultless and funny!!”  BEAT THAT!!  and it comes out 2/5 from Simon & Schuster!  GET THAT!

Nicole Tadgell – had to mention Booklist gave raves end of last year to FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN illustrated by Tadgell and from Albert Whitman. Another great story about something most of us knew nothing about!

I’ve missed a lot I’m sure, but so proud of our agency artists!!  Will try to be better with this, but our Facebook Page has loads too!  Do follow us there as well…..www.catagencyinc.com

Good place to announce our YEAR LONG celebration of the AGENCY’S 25th Birthday!  May 2019 bring loads of good reviews, honors, great mentions, and personal successes to each and every one of our followers!

from our artist Ana Ochoa….digging for new stories???

ochoa 2019 newyear



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OH MY GOODNESS…. had to shout to the moon!  Our Nicole Tadgell illustrated “Astronaut Annie” written by Suzanne Slade and from Tilbury House Publishers in 2018. The book will be read, and a couple of others, from a space station as part of NASA’s “Story Time From Space” program.  Talk about OUT OF THIS WORLD COOL!!

check this out!  😉   tadgell cover astronaut annie


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Licensing Market… some answers

On this ‘cyber’ Monday, I felt it appropriate for some reason to repost this article I wrote recently for Kathy Temean’s ‘ASK CAT’ blog contribution.  Both she and I feel this might be very helpful for many, so here it is.

I have been asked by our agency artists a few times to look over a contract that is LICENSING…not PUBLISHING.  They are similar, and can overlap, but are also quiet different.  I’m happy to do that for our artists, even though we won’t usually handle that market unless it’s connected to a book project.  About 15 years ago or so, I’d even considered going into this area also as an agent. I joined one of our artists and her booth for the 3 days of Surtex NY Show at the Javits Center! Great fun, but I realized I truly didn’t have another 8 hours a day to put into this Licensing market!

I can, however, offer a few thoughts, issues and things to be careful about with these Licensing deals.  LICENSING, is a contractual agreement to sell rights usage for your images/designs that MIGHT be used for various manufactured uses.  (It can include a published product as part of the deal, of course.) Examples are clothing, home decor, bedding, shower curtains, cards, mugs, toys, prints, other surface printing, etc. First of all,….it’s tricky…. and I do recommend getting a lawyer versed in this area if you are planning a push into the market.  Read up on everything you can as well….various artist ‘how-to’ books are available, but EDUCATE yourself and be careful!

I mentioned your work MIGHT be used.  It’s more of a ‘risk market’ for the artists than publishing as there is usually NO UPFRONT ADVANCE for the work done.  It’s all in  royalty WHEN ad IF the item sells, and you get a percentage of this sell price during certain royalty accounting periods.  (reason I, as an agent used to advances, do not get involved normally.)  The company might be buying an existing image(s) which is great!….expands the market for that image if you own ALL rights to sell.  Be sure of that fact first off so you don’t get sued. (check contracts to see if you retain the right to sell various other rights, and call past publishers if you aren’t certain.) If they want you to design something especially FOR them, in the hopes that they will pick it up and maybe sell it…. well, could be great… or come to nothing with NO compensation at all!  (you’ll have a nice sample to show off maybe?)

So  here are a few things to be watchful for in a Licensing Contract.  There are certainly others which is why I suggested getting a lawyer.

Statement of Rights Purchased:  states client name and yours and what exactly the image(s) is and what the expected sales product is: description, title, etc. and exact rights they are purchasing and for HOW long. This should include Size, number, expected due dates (this is often rather loose which can run havoc on your schedule)  The length of time terms of the rights purchased.  I would encourage limiting this to a year to three years so you can rethink, renegotiate or withdraw their usage rights.  Watch for AUTO-RENEWAL…might be ok, but have a way to get your rights back after the initial time frame should you wish that.  Usually you might have to let them know at least 30 days before the auto-renewal…but CHECK!   There should also be a statement that you RETAIN OWNERSHIP of the art work itself – paintings, design elements etc.  that their product is based on.  You should/might have the right to sell the copyrights (or the orginal) again to another product user as well as the initial one, SO ASK! You also RETAIN COPYRIGHTS....you are merely selling them to clients for a particular item usage and time frame.  This usage needs to be stated in the contract, but in fact, being licensing, they may not know yet.  Require them to TELL you when they do know how the images will be used.  (so you’ll know how you can sell the rights for OTHER image uses.)

Royalty Amounts: they do vary greatly but often 7-10% and could be more or less due to marketability, client name, size and expectations for the range of sales, your name leverage etc.   Know WHAT is the royalty is based on…often NET sales which is what the client actually receives from sales (which might be discounted) less returns, excise and sales tax, US and transcontinental duty fees, freight, transportation and insurance costs etc.  Be sure you understand the normal ‘accounting period’ time frames when you can expect a statement of earnings and a check.  Any deductions for such things as ‘returns’ etc. will show up during the next statement period normally.

Warranties:  you will have to legally swear that the image(s) is yours and yours alone, to grant the rights for the client to use.  Check the jurisdiction of any injunctive relief court information too.  They might mention that they have the right to ‘assign freely’ this agreement to company purchasers or to subsidiaries.  This might be just fine if the client is sold for instance, but you might NOT want to have hour image used in ways the subsidiaries or new buyer might want to use it! watch this…ask for a relief protection should this happen.  Check too if they pay any US and international copyright registrations…are there costs to you?  The client will want the right to crop/change the work to reproduce.  This normally has to do with ‘fitting’ the image to the product, but be sure you are comfortable with it.  You can try to get copies of every piece of licensed product too…as we expect in publishing.

I hope this has been helpful for those who might have the opportunity to get some images licensed.  It can be very lucrative…or nothing at all for a lot of work and waiting!  Read the contracts very carefully and be sure it won’t HURT you or your reputation.  Talk to other artist friends who might have had experience with Licensing too…invaluable! Then have FUN with it and wait for the royalties to roll in! 

CAT Agency Ditty

thank you to Priscilla Burris for allowing me to use her SO CUTE and HAPPY ‘CAT’ agency wee lass and CAT friend!!

Posted in artist information, Artists Q&A, Biz issues, business for illustrators, industry tips, SURTEX, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A ‘nutcracker’ of a year?…..

I  have always loved Nutcrackers…. collected a few while my kids were young and every Thanksgiving they come out of the antique chest they call home the rest of the year and hang around until sometime after New Years.

This year my youngest granddaughter is turning 6 and her party today is a trip to the movie ‘Nutcracker! ‘ So I did up a life sized clock and several nutcrackers to use as decorations with her party decor at the theatre.  Seemed right and happy!

Then it occurred to me how appropriate these weirdly smiling men and woman ‘nutcrackers’ are this year!  It’s been ‘a time’ for sure.  Personally and nationally challenging.  But we stand straight, chin up and carry on with a smile and a strength that comes from somewhere deep and good…. love, loyalty and a good story that supports us!  And I’m sticking to it…..

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  In a world pitching in the waves of doubt and chaos from many sides, we DO have so much to be thankful for.  So much to hold onto.  So much to gratefully share with the next generations.  Life was never meant to be easy!!  But it is meant to be cherished.  Thank YOU!


yes I borrowed ideas from various magazines and sites but changed them all to MY ideas and interpretation.  One DOES have to be careful and respectful of copyrights !

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New Beginnings…..again

Last night’s mid term election and all that went before has led me to think about ‘new beginnings.’  They are usually well intended! full of optimism and creative thought and intentions.  We had a ‘new beginning’ around September this year  this and every year…..along with the new box of crayons, a new outfit for first day, and hair sparkling clean and brushed!  We have ‘new beginnings’ Jan 1 each year…also full of fresh intention and goals.  We clean out our studios and organize ourselves to push ahead and expand our minds and body of work.  Then after tax season we have another sort of new start….with more business creativity and awareness.  Surely there is a birthday, or several, in between where we appreciate the past years, and plan, hope and prepare for the new one with positive enthusiasm. Then summer starts again with yet another ‘new beginning’, change of rhythm and plans to do better and be better.

Thank heaven for ‘new beginnings!’….. but lets remember that we NEED these.  We NEED to reassess, reexamine, reestablish ourselves, our portfolios, our intentions, our families, our communities and country, and our lives in general.  Thank God, or the fates, for this need!  Refreshment is a lovely feeling and act…. or should be.  I have to hope that THIS community’s creativeness will jump in now, no matter what your political leanings,  and try in any way possible to help make the changes needed to our mode of governing and caring for our country and its people.

Ah….. that new box of crayons….. that need to make a new bright, maybe surprising line on the white paper…. full of color, brightness and promise!

burris HelloSchool Visit Aug 12 Coloring Pic

thanks to Priscilla Burris’ school visit for these young hands and crayon marks!

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