America's best-known coastal artist, Paul Brent, is adding new collections, new licenses and a new consulting aspect to his business. Brent's idyllic watercolors of coastal life are perennial favorites.
"Coastal images continue to be very popular," says Ellen Seay, licensing director at Paul Brent Designer. "It really seems to be a category that isn't an in-an-out trend, and Paul is the best-known artist in this area. He has 20 years' experience in licensing and continues to produce fresh and new designs."
The artist has created several new collections available for licensing. New lodge-inspired fish signs feature four different freshwater fish (salmon, trout, bass and bluegill) set on a distressed-look lake. Seay says manufacturers are responding to the looks featured in this collection. "Manufacturers are gravitating toward textured, distressed looks, so we expect to see more of that," she says.
Brent has created a collection of insect designs in muted yellow and pink tones. "There are two designs in this group, 'flora dragonfly' and 'flora bumblebee,' which feature insects and flowers," says Seay.
"Tulip collage" and "amaryllis collage" are floral designs in red and orange hues. Another group of images features shore birds rendered in an earthy, muted palette on a beige background. In a fourth collection, sea horses are depicted in light blue and coral. The artist has also created a new collection of shells.
The collections are the newest additions to Brent's extensive portfolio of more than 3,000 images. He is an artist who has shown constant progression and change throughout his career. In describing his work, Brent uses the phrase, "one artist, many visions."
New licenses are continually being added. Most recently, his company has signed agreements with LPG Greetings for a line of greeting cards, C&F Enterprises and Gallerie II for a line of home accessories and Chesapeake Wall Coverings for wallpaper designs. Lifetime Brands is producing a licensed dinnerware line, and Dream Works Designs is bringing gift bags to market.
"We continue to add new licenses," says Seay. She says she is focusing on adding a bedding and furniture line, and the company would like to partner with a men's and women's apparel line, as well.
One new direction for Brent is consulting. Through his new Web site, www.askpaulbrent.com, he is offering webinars, consulting and portfolio reviews to artists launching their businesses. Through the Web site, one-hour webinars provide information on licensing, and participants can submit questions for possible selection in upcoming webinar sessions. The first webinar aired in March, and another is scheduled for June. After the live webinar, audio is available for a nominal fee.
"Having 20 years' experience, Paul is a great resource for artists entering the field," says Seay. "He is offering consulting and portfolio reviews to artists considering licensing opportunities. It's a unique service. No other artist in the industry is offering this, and it's a great opportunity."
Brent also is completing two e-books, "How to Keep Fresh in the Marketplace" and "The Designer Life Cycle," which will give guidance to artists beginning a career or growing their business.
Brent sold his first piece of art work in 1976 when he was creating pen-and-ink drawings of coastal wildlife with light washes of watercolor on illustration board. By 1978, Brent moved away from pen and ink to produce more detailed and volumetric paintings of the same subjects, mostly shorebirds and shells.
In the early '80s, Brent launched an action style of painting that featured a painted wash background with drips and splashes. Brent added salt to the wet flow of paint to add texture and depth to these detailed, almost scientific, renderings of tropical fish, birds, shells and flowers to create a style he called "watercolor montage." He later moved on to collage works.
In the late '80s, Brent's style evolved to scenic coastal landscapes and seascapes, a style he labeled "structured vignette." He entered the print publishing business in 1986, and his subjects extended to sailboats, fishing boats, landscapes and wildlife of the Southwest, hot air balloons, flowers and garden scenes.
Brent's work took another turn at the end of the 1990s, when he began to paint seriously in oil, first on tempered board that he hand gessoed, and later on canvas and board. His first oils reflected the transparent tradition of watercolors, but he soon moved in to richer layered paintings using oil paint.
His "Plantation Home" collection featured vibrant florals and tropical scenes, and the palm tree became his icon subject. His latest work once more has the feeling of collage as he works with both watercolor and oil to create images that are graphically composed with antique prints, stamps, textures, calligraphy and found objects.
Brent's work has continued to win fans in the market. He began licensing his work in 1988, beginning with bookmarks, bed linens and insulated barware and currently licenses his images to more than 70 manufacturers who produce such products as wall coverings, textiles, bedding, shower curtains, apparel, paper products, gift items, housewares, decorative home accessories and furniture.