Artist: Amarilys Henderson

Surface designer Amarilys Henderson presents her delightful portfolio, and talks about licensing and the business of art.


World Explorer Collage by Amarilys Henderson


ABI:  How did you get starting in the art licensing industry?

AH:  It’s funny how we receive a lot of pressure to decide on our focus at such a young age… and it’s also funny how looking back, the passion for this field seems so very obvious. I knew what I wanted to pursue while watching Disney movies. It was while watching Under the Sea for the fifteenth time that I came up with the courage to announce that that is what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what “that” was labeled in the career world, but I knew that there wasn’t much else I was interested in.


Carpe Beautiful Diem floral by Amarilys Henderson


I was an illustration major at the only college I applied to. We didn’t learn about surface design at the time, applications for illustration seemed to be focused on publishing, editorial or advertising work. I fumbled through freelance work in all three areas, but moved on to work as a print graphic designer.


Flippin Cold by Amarilys Henderson


Working as a designer helped me fine-tune aesthetic proportions, understand typography, and get into the habit of quickly grasping clients’ dreams. But after all that time focusing on a bang-up finished product that satisfied another’s hopes, I was left creatively frustrated.




I became intimidated by the empty page—so eager to create, but stifled by all of my inner critics. They had served me well enough at a nine to five, but were horrible bosses and worse friends when I’d want to create for enjoyment. It took newfound motherhood to get the gumption to silence those voices. No new mom has time for that!


Artist Amarilys Henderson


After creating and eventually sharing, years of nurturing this creative voice within me and accumulating a body of work, I heard about this surface design field that I am now in. Social media and Google searches are powerful tools. I acquired representation and really got to understand the industry by watching what clients wanted and what trends they were interested in pursuing.


Christmas Cookie Exchange by Amarilys Henderson


Illustration suites me. I enjoy translating trend into my style. I have a love for color and aesthetic that pops and expresses joy, fun, beauty—all those things we want to surround ourselves with. And my creative curiosity can often have a short attention span, pushing me to pursue a myriad of subject matter as fresh challenges.


Big Kid in the Big City Collection by Amarilys Henderson


ABI:  What different collections are in your portfolio?

AH:  My portfolio is diverse—I’m finding it’s both a strength and a weakness—as I am applying myself to focus on creating collections. Context is so important when someone sees your work. They want to be raptured into the reality you paint for them. Three surface design staples that I keep returning to are lush florals, crafted lettering, and holiday selections. They will always be in demand.


Birthday Cupacake by Amarilys Henderson


Painting flowers was a hidden talent I was delighted to discover in myself early in my career. Lettering is an interest of mine birthed from my design days. And I admit that I am that girl that listens to Christmas records in July without a single qualm. Currently, cityscapes and faces get me excited to get to my paints.


Find art for your people by Amarilys Henderson


ABI:  You’ve develop a number of ways to earn as an artist. What are they?

AH:  I’ve found that having a creative career works both sides of my brain and I use different avenues to make it work. My business arms are these: I license my work, sell originals, prints and products online, while teaching online through Skillshare. These three have been distilled from attempts and hard looks at my way of working.


Love lettering on desktop by Amarilys Henderson


I’ll often compare the enjoyment versus the compensation a certain route offers, keeping my work day fulfilling and all my own. What’s better is that these three feed into each other—one offers market research to the other while the third provides raw material for another—and they work together to provide different tiers of my business income. It’s a great responsibility to calculate the schematics of running your own business while nurturing your creativity, but I wouldn’t choose it to be any other way. And I haven’t.




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