Artist Spotlight: Haley Art & Design
“Nothing good comes without a risk.
Artist Connie Haley of Haley Art & Design isn’t quite certain where she first heard that line, but she’s repeated it to herself many times as she’s navigated her way through the art world. For the past eight years, she has been licensing her work to manufacturers and publishers who use it on a variety of products, from greeting cards to home decor to giftware.
“All my art is created digitally, and the best way to describe it is that it’s sort of like digital quilting,” Haley said. “Sometimes I begin with a photo, or collage of photos, and turn them into a digital painting. Sometimes I make assorted patterns and background designs, then cut pieces and put them together to create an image.”
Haley began her career as the owner of an advertising agency, but discovered art licensing more than a decade ago when she began representing artists and photographers.
“When I started as an agent, I learned there was a whole licensing industry out there and it was fascinating to me,” she said. “I’ve always been an artist, and there were a lot of creative things I did when I was involved in advertising, but this was much more suited to me.”
When she first began creating her own art for licensing, Haley put a small portfolio together and brought it to Susan January, vice president of Leanin’ Tree Greeting Cards. They had worked together with another artist she represented, and when Haley showed her a small portfolio of about 12 images, January told her she wanted to build a greeting card collection of 40 around them.
“I was absolutely floored,” Haley said. “She took that leap of faith with me and we’ve been working together ever since.”
A farm girl from Michigan who now lives in East Texas with her husband and two children, Haley is a versatile artist with a constant need for progression. Regardless of the client, she demonstrates an understanding of the industry’s latest trends and the fact that each client’s needs are different. She’s created several collections that are very different from one another, as when her tastes and interests change, so does her art.
“I get bored with one design style after awhile,” Haley said, “but I always channel an abundance of creativity while keeping my clients’ needs in mind.
“When you’re working digitally,” she continued, “you can combine art techniques and materials that aren’t possible in real life. The creative options are endless, which is what makes it so much fun.”
Haley’s first collections were Freshcut Studio in 2003 and Paperheart Scrapbook in 2005. In her series of digital paintings simply called the Connie Haley Collection, she manipulates familiar images — making use of oils, watercolors and everything in between — to produce colorful, detailed artwork. Her collections also pair messages with art that draw on her respect for nature, her constant source of inspiration.
“I look for inspiration all the time, in everything,” Haley said. “We live in the country. When I’m looking for something new to work on, I’ll take my camera and just go outside. Sometimes even when I’m not looking or thinking about it, a color palette or pattern comes to mind. This often happens when I am trying to get to sleep at night.”
When it’s time to create, Connie approaches new ideas as both an artist and a pragmatic businesswoman, studying trends, going to gift markets every year and studying the trade magazines, publications and resources available.
“I enjoy this so much more than my previous career in advertising,” Haley said. “There, the measure of success of a design is how many widgets it sells. In this business, the measure of success for a design is how beautiful it is, or how much it inspires somebody. That, to me, is what art is about.”
Connie’s open approach to the creative process mirrors her business philosophy. She understands that the marketplace is fluid, and strives to be both proactive and responsive, anticipating a client’s needs while working diligently to accommodate deadlines and special requests.
“We like to have an idea when we put together a client presentation of what the client may be looking for, so that we can have something to show them that is as close to it as possible,” Haley said. “We want the manufacturer to know that we understand the product and what it takes to make it beautiful.”
Haley Art & Design has been fortunate to have long-term working relationships with several manufacturers, with each of those relationships unique in their own way. Haley said some have giant creative departments and others have no creative department at all. Some of them will bring specific projects and they’ll work to their specifications. The other part of the time, they’re busy coming up with imagery on their own, then finding the right company to license it to.
“Once we come up with designs, we work closely with our client,” she continued. “We enjoy working that way. Some artists create the image and then don’t want to do anything else with it. We work with the manufacturer to get the product right.”
“We’ve been doing this a long time and have created art for many products,” Haley said. “We can take direction from the manufacturer, or we can come up with something for them based on our own creative inspiration.”
“Creatively speaking, manufacturers are needing more product design and not simply an image,” Haley said. “That part is fun for me. It is a completely different creative opportunity.”
And it’s those creative opportunities that allow Haley to continually reinvent herself. Whether digital artist, advertising agent or retailer, the key to success is to move on and keep developing something different.
After all, nothing good comes without a risk.