We are happy to bring you another Limelight Licensor feature article! We have a plethora of talented folks in the (ALSC) community and we are honored to introduce you to artist Varda Livney.
She currently lives in Israel and has worked on greeting cards, children’s books, gift bags, napkins, tissues, sheets, cream-cheese packaging, bank posters, and t-shirts!


Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us more about what you do in your professional art career.

I live on a kibbutz in Israel with my family and 1,000 other assorted people, dogs, cats, cows and olive trees. My house is right by the baseball field at the foot of Tel Gezer (a tiny mountain, which was the dowry from Pharaoh to King Solomon when he married Pharaoh’s daughter. Honest. You can look it up.)

For almost two decades my “day job” has been licensing greeting cards. I have written and illustrated over 400 cards for Recycled Paper Greetings, while spending my “free time” illustrating other things, including children’s books, apparel, tissues, sheets, gift bags, nightlights, and cottage cheese packaging (yes, really).

Q: What’s your art background?

Like many other budding artists, I got my start drawing on my bedroom walls at the age of 6. I later studied at The Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem. After graduation, I worked at an ad agency (thus the cottage cheese packaging mentioned above) and then at a fashion company, designing prints on apparel (and props for fashion shows) before deciding to join the Working in Pajamas Nation. I trotted around with my portfolio, sent off submissions by mail (and later email), and never looked back.



Q: How do you describe your style?

Whimsical, detailed, childlike and happy.

Q: How did you find out about art licensing and what did you do to break into the business?

I remember seeing the Vera name on sheets when I was a teen and thinking, “Wow, somebody designed this? I’d like to do that someday.”

Years later, I produced my own illustrated baby tees and quickly realized that I was spending much more time on sourcing and marketing than on designing. I decided to ditch the project and leave the manufacturing to others. I came across the book “Licensing Art & Design” by Caryn R. Leland, and “Artist’s Market”, and started submitting art to assorted companies. I then discovered Surtex, and made some connections there, including ALSC’s own Joanne Fink. I also met the Art Director of Recycled Paper Greetings at Surtex, and a few years later (!!!) managed to get a foot in their door through a mailed submission. RPG gradually became a just-about full-time job for me. This may not be typical for a licensing career, but I really enjoy having a big client who knows me well, with whom I can try out different styles and looks.

(Recycled was bought by American Greetings about 10 years ago, and seems to be slowly folding into the bigger company.)


Q: What motivates you to create?

It’s more an itch than a motivation. I am attracted to blank sheets of paper and rapidographs. I have drawers full of little doodles, and when it’s time to seriously work, I open the drawer, and there they all are, calling out “Pick me! Pick me!”.

Q: Can you tell us about your art-making process?

I draw by hand, and then either paint with watercolor, or scan and paint with Photoshop using my Wacom tablet (I still have PS CS6 as I am not a big fan of the subscription model). I just got an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil, and have been trying out assorted apps. I love the feel of actual paint, but I also love being able to recolor and fix things on the computer, although it’s quite a rabbit hole, as one can keep changing things forever.

Q: What would you consider to be key to success as an artist?

Being self-motivated, thick-skinned and persistent, all while managing to hold on to the joy of creating (easy-peasy, right?).



Q: What’s an achievement in your career that you are most proud of?

My hero and art director at Recycled, Gretchen Hoffman, asked me to do a design with a big baby head on it for Target. I did that design, and then sent 8 more designs in the same style. It became a group of 32 cards at Target meant for a 3 month summer promotion. The “Giggles” (later Giglets) Line stayed on the racks for 3 years, and a few of the cards are still selling, over 10 years later! It isn’t world peace, but still, an accomplishment.

Q: Who inspires you as an artist?

I’m inspired by lots of artists, some just because I love their art, some for their message, and some for the “empires” they have managed to create. Mary Engelbreit, Kathy Davis, Maurice Sendak, Charles Schultz, Todd Parr, Keith Haring, Chagall and Matisse, to name a few.

Q: What is the most valuable thing to you in the community?

Cherish. I am in awe of what she has created. And the nice people. And the challenges, the info, the Thursday night chats (even though I read them later, since they take place in the middle of the night in my time zone). I have definitely not taken advantage enough of all the great resources on offer at ALSC.



Q: What is one goal that you would love to achieve in the next five years?

To take advantage of all of the great resources at ALSC . :)
To bring World Peace through drawing bunnies.
But seriously, to find that sweet center spot in the Venn Diagram where bringing good to the world overlaps with making a living and with doing art I love.


varda's venn


About Varda Livney.
I am originally from the U.S. but now live on a kibbutz in Israel. I have designed and illustrated many things, including greeting cards (over 400 designs licensed to Recycled Paper Greetings), children’s books (for Simon & Schuster) gift bags, napkins, tissues, sheets, cream-cheese packaging, bank posters, and t-shirts. My forte is whimsical with a touch of quirky. I may not be the MOST talented crayon in the crayon box (you can be the judge of that), but my secret weapons are that I am versatile, deadline oriented, full of ideas, easy to work with (if I do say so myself), and I love what I do. So if my illustrations spark your interest, and if you are great to work with too, get in touch. Let’s spread some whimsy.

15 responses to Varda Livney ~ Peace, Love & Art Licensing

  1. Hi Varda, I am so inspired by your beautiful work!

  2. love your work and your profile, Varda! Just joined ALCS and I am still a bit fuddled navigating my way around (I am much better at making art than using my computer!). Would love to connect with you. Jill Krasner [email protected]

  3. Love your art story and lovely work! Great sense of humor too and especially like the Venn Diagram!

  4. I love your art and your infectious vibe! I felt my spirits lift just reading today. Thank you for putting your talents out into the world :)

  5. Varda, Thanks for sharing your journey! Love your art!

  6. How cool! You forgot to add designed at least 2 CD covers.

  7. Lovely work.. Chag Sameach kid.

  8. What a delightful interview! Love your art and your journey is amazing and inspiring!

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