Janet Kruskamp's Paintings - Portraits to Products, an article about Janet Kruskamp - original oil paintngs by the artist

Portraits to Products
Originally published in Art Expressions, February 2003
by Robert Sher



Janet Kruskamp

Janet Kruskamp, internationally recognized artist. Her images are licensed worldwide and available to you in Original Oil Paintings and  original paintings

"It's exceeded all my expectations", says Janet Kruskamp. "I thought it was going to be a sideline, but publishing and licensing has captured me, provides my entire livelihood, and is the highlight of my career."

Ten years have past since the publishing and licensing bug bit Janet. A professional painter right out of school, Janet has always painted for a living. After graduating from High School (earning a B.A. award in Fine Arts), she continued her studies, on scholarships at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. From early grammar school, her one ambition was to become an artist and as the years went by her ambition never wavered. Through the 50's and 60's she did commissions, portraiture and still lifes, often creating 50 paintings in a year.

In the 70's, she traveled across America, creating a documentary of America to celebrate its 200th birthday. The 1976 show was considered an official bicentennial event, quite an honor. Her teaching continued, and her work began selling in the $5,000 range. Over the years, she held one woman shows in galleries and museums, winning numerous awards, and many articles were written about her. In the 80's she continued to progress as an artist and teacher, but began to find that the constant battle to find ethical galleries tiresome. Her children were nearly grown.

In 1991, her husband became terminally ill, and after a yearlong battle, he passed away. Janet says, "It was the first year in my life that I didn’t paint a single work. Even the year after I lost him, I only did a few paintings." But during that period, her local framer began asking her why she had never been published. She found reasons why she wasn’t interested, but the reality was that she didn’t know anything about it, didn't know any publishers, and due to mistreatment by distant galleries, was mistrustful of any distant business relationship.

Finally the framer kept her in his shop while he showed her the pages of Décor, an industry trade magazine. He pointed out a Bentley House ad, citing that they were only a 45 minute drive away, and that he had bought prints from them in the past and was pleased. Finally she acquiesced and called them. They were friendly, and one of the principals visited her. She signed on, and produced four cat paintings, which were published.

While her previous work had always been serious subjects, Bentley requested decorative work from her, and she developed a series of themes that sold extremely well. A teddy bear series followed her cat series, then a garden series, and a pathway series. With the popularity of the global design trend, a series of palms and related designs has been a recent best seller.

Within a few years of being published in prints, her images were demanded by manufacturers of other products, like puzzles, collector plates, stationary items, cards, t-shirts, figurines, and much more. Bentley acts as her licensing agent, promoting her work and handling contracts, collections and the rest. She says, “It is so exciting. I can go anywhere in the world and see my work as prints or other licensed product on retail shelves. My friends and family call me all the time with “sightings”. It embarrassing but they often tell me they re-arrange the store shelves to push all my things up front!”

Since 1992, Janet has retained most of her originals. Today, she feels as though all her early work is lost to the world. Most are hidden in private collections, only to be viewed by a few. In contrast, her published work is enjoyed by thousands, produces more revenue per painting that they did as originals, yet she has the originals to enjoy herself, and for her children to have in time. And in some cases, the decorative nature of the work might be harder to sell in galleries than her earlier, "serious" work. Still, she is often surprised at how large the royalty checks can be.

Yet every new painting brings a challenge. She says, "Regardless of the subject matter, every painting I do is my absolute best. Composition, color, attention to detail and technique are so very important - especially given the tens of thousands of times each of my images is reproduced in one form or another."

Given the strong demand for Janet’s work in all forms, Bentley Licensing Group has begun to promote Janet Kruskamp as a brand name. Manufacturers that dominate their categories will be producing large collections of Janet's work, which will all be coordinated into major launches at retail. This is a big step forward for Janet, and she is hard at work creating design concepts that are adaptable to many different products, often creating hand painted, multi-sue borders, patterns and icons that tie into a given painting or series of paintings. Recently, she traveled to a major national US retailer with her agent and worked with their creative team to develop exclusive artwork and design. Over 100 coordinated items will be produced and sold at the end of 2003.

"I have a lot to be thankful for", says Janet. "The framer that gave me such good advice and pushed me during a tough time for me personally was the start. Then I was lucky enough to sign up with honest, good people that really know how to treat an artist, and how to run and grow a business. After experiencing too many shady galleries, I know that dealing with good people is a must."

Robert Sher is President of Bentley Publishing Group in Walnut Creek, California, and has been an adjunct professor of Entrepreneurship at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. He may be reached at Robert@bentleypublishinggroup.com.

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