Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell! –An Interview with Sheila Meehan

1 11 2013

J’net Smith Question: How did you get into the licensing business?

Sheila Meehan Answer: I worked at Landmark Calendars in the mid-80’s and headed up the greeting card and gift division. As the smaller division of a larger company, I had to do everything from creating content to selling, so it exposed me to licensing images. I loved the mix of art and business and it eventually evolved into working for a small art licensing agency and then on to work for a larger one representing Peanuts, Felix the Cat, World Wildlife Fund and more! Eventually I worked back into art licensing as Director of Licensing at Marcel Schurman/Papyrus. When that division closed, I opened my own agency in 2002.

J’net: What was your biggest hurdle to get where you are today?
Sheila: I started in this business when really no one was licensing from individual artists. I had to educate manufacturers ALL the time on why they needed to pay royalties to artists for their work. I called it Licensing 101!

J’net: How has your business changed since you left Marcel Schurman (now Papyrus) and went out on your own?
Sheila: I think that the business has become much more competitive as there are a lot more players out there now in terms of artists and agents. The recession hit and there was a slow down at the manufacturing level but I see that on the rise again. I don’t know if it will ever be the same, but those of who are still working have learned to roll with the changes!

J’net: What is your favorite part of doing art licensing?
Sheila: I love the collaboration with the artists/designers. We are literally growing new ideas utilizing their art skills and my knowledge of product and manufacturers. It’s a lot of fun and seeing final product is the very best part.

J’net: What’s the biggest ‘from the trenches’ tip you can offer to newcomers to art licensing?
Sheila: Be committed to a style and keep current on trends in color, design and manufacturing. Educate yourself by attending shows, talking to other artists and agents, look at blogs and media and apply what you learn to your art. I guess that is more than one tip!

J’net: What advice would you give artists who are at that intermediate level, with some good success, but who want to expand their reach and create more income?
Sheila: Sometimes it takes another eye to look at your work to see where new potential lies. It may be as simple as reconfiguring your presentation to branching into another style that you want to explore. I love this phase of an artist’s career as they are savvy to the business but likely just need a fresh perspective.

Sheila Meehan, Meehan Design Group

Sheila Meehan, Meehan Design Group

J’net: In art licensing today, what do you think the biggest challenge is: For yourself? For the industry?
Sheila: For myself, staying motivated. It can be tough to keep the artists motivated when doors are closing, but staying the course is the only way to get ahead. As a manufacturer, finding the right fit amongst all the talent that exists out there would be really challenging!

J’net: What is the most important thing you do for your clients as an agent and/or consultant?
Sheila: I hope that it’s that I listen to what they want to achieve with their licensing program and advise as to the best course of action. Creating a collaborative has been important in my relationships with my clients/artists as it takes the effort of both parties to be successful in this business.

J’net: Sheila, I am excited to be hosting and working with you on your new course ‘Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell!’ We have talked about collaborating for some time now, but I’d like to have you to share why you think portfolio development is so important.
Sheila: This particular subject is the #1 request I get on the consulting side of my business. I think that it’s important that artists understand how to present their work as it makes sense for product development. Artists come from all areas – advertising, book, gallery – and the transition to licensing isn’t for everyone. This class can help them assess their work to see if it is right for product licensing.

J’net: What makes this course different from others available in the marketplace?
Sheila: I am not sure that others are giving artists real tools and steps to getting to an end product (portfolio). I don’t know exactly what is offered out there, I only know that I have been on all sides of this business and have a good idea of how to go about this process!

J’net: What will you cover in the course?
Sheila: I discuss the development of everything from identifying your market to themes and ideas for developing your work into collections so that you can create for a body of products, not just wall art or greeting cards. I will show visuals of licensed products to consider designing for and show portfolio pages from my own artists. I will show the progression of an idea to final product. I explain researching manufacturers and sending out your work.

J’net: Who should take this class? And what can they expect as a result?
Sheila: I suggest that artists who know what licensing is and have a body of work that they want to format for licensing purposes take this class. Also anyone who has a solid style that is proficient in some sort of design program and is curious about how to build a portfolio that they can use to market their work to manufacturers or attract an agent. This process will start the artist thinking about how their work is applied to product and the design process surrounding that. The result should set them on a course to create a meaningful portfolio of work that will get them started in this business!

Quick Answer Section
J’net: What’s your best advice about:


  • Agents? –  Pick one you can talk to and one that listens. This is a business arrangement that is a long-term and you should be able to communicate well!
  • Other art licensors? – Be friendly with them! We are all in this together. Information sharing about all aspects of this business can be invaluable!
  • Manufacturers? – Know who sells to your target market and produces products that make sense for your work.
  • Retailers? – Frequent retailers as much as you can to get familiar with what is on the shelves, formats of products, price points, packaging – everything you absorb will help you in the product development process.
  • Promoting what you have done? – Do what you can with the means available. Social media has grown, but as an agent the best way to grow a program is to choose a reputable manufacturer.

Note: Sheila’s online webinar – Developing Marketable Art Licensing Portfolios that Sell! will be held on November 7th, 2013

The course will teach you how to:

  • Develop a marketing plan (build a road map for where to direct your efforts)
  • Organize your art (choose images that work for product based on trends and themes and developing collections)
  • Put art on product (using templates or prototypes).

The goal is to:

  • Build thoughtful collections leading to compiling a meaningful portfolio.
  • Provide visual examples (more than 50 slides) of how a collection is developed, portfolio pages that work (and some that don’t!), what should be included in presentation materials and finally, how to market your work effectively.

Key Requirements:

  • Computer skills in Photoshop, Illustrator or similar program
  • A body of artwork
  • Desire to work in licensing either on your own or with an agent

For more information and to Register, click here. If you cannot make the time/date of the live event, a complete audio and PowerPoint presentation will be provided to registrants.



2 responses

4 11 2013
Sara Chapman

What TIME is the webinar? And how long?

Love, Sara

Sara L. Chapman 206-439-3337 Seattle, WA

5 11 2013

The class is this Thursday, 11/7. It will be approximately 2 hours, from 12 noon PST/3 pm EST til 2pm/5pm. Thanks for asking. Here is the link to the complete course description and schedule.

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