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Creative Mind Podcast Episode 23: Shari Warren on Art Licensing

On this episode of Creative Mind, artist and art licensing expert Shari Warren walks us through the business and creative side of art licensing.

If you have ever walked through any retail store whether it be a Bed, Bath & Beyond, a Home Depot or even a supermarket, the more astute artist will recognize an abundance of graphic elements and illustrations on the packaging, cups, tools, wall art, coffee mugs, and more. The more cynical artist will say, “I could have done that!”

Well, yes could have but you didn’t. And that is basically our fault. So much the freelance life of an artist and designer is chasing down work-for-hire, one-off freelance jobs. These are great but these are often buyouts and one-time payments. The thought of licensing your artwork, in the most layman of terms “renting it” to a company has never crossed our minds or been something we even thought was possible. This is where Shari Warren brings in her expertise.

The Deal with Licensing

Often touted, but not exactly wrong, as “making money while you sleep”, licensing is about selling your artwork to a client for a certain length of time, print run, product numbers or SKUs, and/or usages. Think of it as your drawing on a series of coffee mugs, coffee plates and coffee bean canisters. Without thinking too hard you can start to see that as an artist we are often leaving money on the table by not exploring the world with an eye toward trends and seasonal experiences.

As an artist and illustrator living in Northern California, Shari has a life-long passion to create artwork that makes people smile. “I use a variety of media, both traditional and digital, to create my work and love to experiment with different artistic techniques. That said, all of my artwork begins with good old-fashioned pencil and paper,” she says.

Her professional background is in the publishing and software industries working as an Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Art Director. Today, she devotes her career to staying up on current consumer trends and creating art collections for consumer products that I hope people will enjoy and buy.

Learning About Creating Art That Sells

At Academy of Art University, she teaches “Illustration for Consumer Products and Licensing”, a business and portfolio development class, where students learn how to research the retail market, identify current trends to create original art collections for licensing to companies, create a professional portfolio website and marketing materials, and learn about art business basics.

Topics covered include creating marketable art collections and product mock-ups for their portfolio to license to manufacturers and publishers who make consumer retail products and to create their own products. As well as evaluating their own illustration style and how it relates to specific product categories, customer demographics and how to “create art that sells”. 

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