Five Questions with Illustrator Amarilys Henderson

Illustrator Amarilys Henderson

This week we would like you to meet Illustrator Amarilys Henderson.

What was the inspiration behind becoming an illustrator?

My interest in illustration sprang from being a childhood Disney junkie. It was The Little Mermaid that finally sealed the deal, making me declare, “I want to do that! ” That was animation, I was told. But once I realized how many drawings were required to make a single minute of animation footage, I set my sights on illustration. The illustration game was mostly in editorial or publishing realms while I was in college, at least that’s all I knew about, but learned about surface design about seven years ago through the blogs of my favorite illustrators.

What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

I definitely enjoy the thrill of new ideas that flood in when I’m presented with a new project. Those first sparks of creativity lead to momentum that I try to juice for at least a good three quarters of the project’s life. Receiving samples of the actual products my art is used on is an obvious perk! Opening a box of goodies showcasing your work is the best kind of mail. Of course, between the beginning and end of a project lie challenges and occasional hiccups. They can be frustrating or opportunities to triumph and learn.

Can you take us through your process, and elaborate on how long it lasts?

The way I approach a piece has largely to do with its output. Is it for a client? Is it a portfolio piece for licensing? Is it personal work? Each of those requires differing levels of research as well as different outputs. For instance, when a client commissions work, I’ll look for good photo references and scan at different intervals of creating the piece or even create pieces of the art individually and compile them in Photoshop so that we have greater flexibility in the future. But when a piece is for me, I’ll sit down to paint and create from beginning to end for up to an hour.

Some typical ways of working stay the same. I use minimal to no pencil lines. The first stage of the shapes of an object are wet on wet washes, meaning I wet the paper where I want color and then drop paint into them with a loaded brush. I love the fluidity of watercolor, as i’s most dynamic in this form when one can see bleeds of color depicting a subject, almost like a silhouette. Second and third layers of paint get more and more detailed, and more concentrated in color and shade. I always scan and often have to bring the scanned colors back to their original saturation.

What is the biggest misconception about your line of work?

I would guess that the biggest misconception about licensing gigs is that I make money hand over fist! Ha! I think that when people hear that you are working with big name clients, they have this automatic impression of big dollar signs. Each project is different in scope, demands, profitability and time. To be sure, the prestige and pleasure of working with large companies makes for a great experience and they do compensate well, but tha’s not what motivates seasoned illustrators. While many chase the carrot of greater paychecks, most of us are in it for a compiled sort of compensation, one that includes a level of satisfaction, the joy of making a living through your artwork.

What is your best advice for fellow creators about copyright and how to protect themselves?

I joined the Graphic Artists Guild and felt a level of solidarity being part of an association. I then sought to find a local attorney through their network recommendations. Simply having a lawyer that I’ve interacted with, his contact information in my back pocket, gives me a line of defense. I play the line of sharing versus withholding on social media. Ironically, though, I’ve found that being known on Instagram, sharing candidly about my personal creative hurdles, while also sharing my trade practices on Skillshare, has created a sense of camaraderie that neutralizes copycat syndrome. I’s perhaps easier to steal ideas from popular art but we hesitate to take cues from, or blatantly copy an artist, who we feel we’ve gotten to know. And as I network further, I’m sure I’ll find more comrades to fight the art thieves if and when that happens.

In recognition of the 2018 World IP Day theme established by WIPO – Powering Change: Women in Innovation and Creativity – we are honored to feature and support female creators during the month of April.

Are you one of our Individual Creator Members? Participate in our Creator Spotlight series! Please email us at And if you aren’t already a member of the Alliance, you can join today by completing our Individual Creator Members membership form!

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