Monday, August 24, 2009

The more you know

...the less you need this blog.

This post was reserved for another boating adventure, but the weather had its way. In Surly Acres fashion, we indulged in the old entertainments: conversation, food, drink, and jigsaw puzzle.

You find out with whom you are truly compatible when you can work a puzzle together. And when you can make them a salad, but that's not what we are talking about just now.

We began to wonder, as we built a festival scene of Santa Fe, New Mexico, just how puzzle art is chosen. Our crew likes a busy scene with lots of side projects to give everyone a role to play (as opposed to pets, landscape, or those irritating piles of M&Ms or crayons). And as we talked about how there are certain subsets of puzzle art, we wondered whether illustrations are commissioned, or scouted, or just what...?

Asked. And answered.

Introducing Colin, the bloke who answers the mail at I imagine him as Michael York.

He gladly answers our questions and we pass the knowledge along to you.

"Originally, images were chosen from artwork and photographs that already existed and just happened to be suitable for jigsaws; this usually meant that they needed to be colorful – not too much sky and not too much sea! Still today there are manufacturers who produce most of their jigsaws from the Old Masters and most manufacturers feature some famous paintings in their range. From the manufacturers point of view this is the cheapest form of production because there are no royalties to pay."

good pick
bad pick

"Then along came artists who realized that paintings could have a dual use – provided that you painted something very colorful then you could sell the painting itself (along with prints by the thousand) and also collect a royalty from a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer. A sort of have your cake and eat it situation! Sometimes the artist is paid on the basis of an amount per jigsaw sold and sometimes there is a “One off” deal. Undoubtedly the artist with the greatest success in this field is Thomas Kinkade (the “Painter of Light”). To his great credit he hit upon the idea of producing beautifully vibrant and colorful pictures that are just perfect for jigsaw puzzle requirements."

My favorite Kincaid of all time
By the way, this is what Google offers if you enter"Thomas Kincaid is a whore" and click "I feel lucky."

"There is no doubt that the reputation of Mr. Kinkade has been greatly enhanced because millions of jigsaw puzzles are made of his paintings. The fact that one of his images ends up in thousands of jigsaw boxes all over the World gives an extra “Charm” and an extra financial value to each one of his paintings. The jigsaw world has been good to him, and in my humble opinion, his rewards are fully justified. He is so successful that he licenses his work to individual jigsaw manufacturers in each country and the rules are rigorously enforced on each manufacturer. For instance, in the UK the work of Thomas Kinkade is licensed to Gibsons Games but Gibsons are not allowed to sell the puzzles anywhere other than the UK."

Another blog about the franchise that is Kincaid.
How to become one yourself.

Please, Colin, continue.

"You also have companies such as Disney who do similar licensing agreements. We deal with a company in Japan who employs a full time artist to reproduce colorful Disney scenes for Jigsaw puzzles. Disney have to approve each one and then they take a royalty on each puzzle produced. As a bonus, the original painting can also be sold off. Here again only ONE deal is done by Disney in each geographic area in order that the chosen manufacturer has exclusivity."

My new Go-To baby shower gift

"I suppose that the above are a little exceptional. What typically happens nowadays is that an artist produces paintings that he knows might have a dual use – the artwork itself and the production of jigsaw puzzles from it. Some artists count on getting the most money from the actual artwork whilst others expect to make the most from jigsaw puzzles. No doubt the judgement of artist is colored by their own particular circumstances. Sometimes an artist will have a good rapport with a jigsaw puzzle company and “Make his living” by producing jigsaw puzzle images and regard the actual sale of the painting as a bonus. For other artists the reverse is true."

There is a sketch waiting to be written about jigsaw puzzle artists and hotel room artists arguing about the definition of selling out. Andy Warhol slinks in and declares them all amateurs.

"In short there are many different deals to be done with many different manufacturers. What is certain is that the modern artist is given the potential to earn a great deal more for his works if he courts the jigsaw manufacturers!"

Your takeaways:

choose one for your next small talk crisis.
Jigsaw Puzzles for Healing
Too much information about the saw itself
Online Jigsaw for your next conference call
For those who have seen it all
Gettin Jiggy


  1. "Picture Gallery with views of Modern Rome" jigsaw puzzle, a pleasant memory from when I was recovering from abdominal surgery. It must have been good, if "pleasant memory" and "abdominal surgery" show up in the same sentence.


  2. On-line jigsaws - oh, what fun! Now that I seldom have a conference call, there's a way to get thru them. I plan to cheat and do them just any old time! Too good.


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