March 26, 2010

The Rep Talent Relationship

This was the third year that I was invited to Mirko Ilic’s grad-student Illustration class at SVA. As in the past I first gave the overview of my career as an illustration agent and used examples of artists that I have worked with from our website. It was helpful to have sequential process shot of several jobs to reference. My associate, Michael Mrak, and I talked for several hours and answered many questions. I believe the topic of most interest to Mirko’s students as the relationship between a rep and an artist. How it develops and what are the ground rules, why one would have a rep instead of going alone etc. We tried as best we could to answer all of the questions.

To sum up briefly what I said: all agents have passions and lean towards certain types of art. I’m no different. When I’m looking for new talent, be he or she young or a veteran, I want to see great drawing skills within a context of a signature style. Once I see a body of work that is consistent and I feel is applicable in the market place, I begin to think seriously about the possibility of forming a relationship with that artist. I explain to the artist that we’re not miracle workers but we can mentor and work with an artist to target the work to the proper client base through an advertising and promotional campaign using all the electronic media available including our website. Blasts, the workbook, the ispot, behence and other online portfolio sites, and individual targeted promotions. The cost to an individual artist is reduced substanculy because of the ability to be part of a group and I believe that artist benefits from being with a well-known and prestigious artists.

I explained to them that we are responsible for negotiating billing, being strong advocates if there are problems during the process, collecting and dispersing monies and most importantly, guiding the artist to reach his or her full potential.

A rep-talent relationship is valuable to both parties because it allows the artist to focus on what’s important to them, while I deal with the business side of the equation. One of the benefits of having an agent is that we are somewhat removed from the emotional attachment that an artist has to valuing his work. Also, an artist tends to be reluctant to be confrontational with a client, but an agent can negotiate from strength. In short, a rep is subjective while an artist is objective.

And this frees up time for the artist to do what they do best, which is create great imagery.

I also mentioned that we have a mentor/intern program in which we are capable of taking 3-5 student artists per semester and helping them see what really goes on in the “business of art.” I pointed out that many of the questions that they didn’t have time to ask may be answered on my blog.

I really enjoy these give and take sessions. Not only do I learn a hell of a lot but it’s my way of giving back to a business that has been very good to me. Have PowerPoint, will travel.

Artists in a Nutshell

It seems we've discovered Lines and Colors at the same time as they found us... Scott Brundage and Rudy Gutierrez have both been featured there this week.

Cat person or dog person? Actually, I'm into fish.

This week's featured illustrator is Chris Gall

March 19, 2010

Back when I was a tadpole, men were men

This week's featured illustrator is C.F. Payne

Portfolio Reviews in San Francisco

Recently I returned from a wonderful trip to the glorious city on the bay, San Francisco. I was invited by Chuck Pyle, director school of illustration of the Academy of Art University. This is a regular stop for me. Chuck has had me out the past few years in May to review portfolios and talk with graduating students.

It entails a fifteen minute one on one with each student who elects to have his work reviewed. I try as best as I can in bringing my twenty-plus years of repping experience to the dialogue and I point out strengths and weakness in each student's presentation. This entails examining a student artist's portfolio, seeing if the images follow the credo "what problem does this solve"... no nudes, no pretty pictures, no landscapes just to show you can draw an outdoor scene, etc.

What the portfolio should contain are potential images that can show how the artist using his or her specific signature style solves a slew of problems such as editorial, advertising, books, children's books, graphic novels, etc. The portfolio of possibly 20 pieces should not look like trial and error student work, but be geared to a solution that may come up for a real job. I also try to give career advice in terms of direction and the path the artist may be strongest.

This is the first time I was invited to give a lecture to a cross section of illustration students on the who, what, when, where, and how of the rep/talent relationship. I told Chuck that it would be best if I could have a couple of my Bay area artists on stage with me so that we could have a back and forth dialogue about individual projects. The two artists I selected were John Mattos and Tyler Jacobson. At the lecture I went through my two websites, and, and John brought along a disk of a particular job that he had recently finished from Forbes Asia detailing a step by step progression from beginning to end of the job including my emails to him.

The presentation must have been a success since we were invited back. I am showing pictures that were taken by senior Akane Ogura, who I am happy to report will begin interning for me this coming summer.

On a more personal note, I went to a few killer pan-asian restaurants and was able to bring gifts for my staff at a wonderful emporium in China town and even had time to get over to Emeryville to look at cool cars at Fantasy Junction. Even the weather was on our side. Can't wait to go back in May!

March 8, 2010

Well color me primary!

This week's featured illustrator is Rick Farrell

Dr. Norman Borlaug (Murals and Current Events)

Who is Norman Borlaug ... and why should we all care?

I created AOGS to solve large-scale site specific problems through the use of great art. My mission statement from day one was to bring all types of art, including illustrations to contemporary venues. Barnes & Noble was the first client to see the possibility of using a fabricated mural. Gary Kelley's authors mural is now in over 900 stores throughout the U.S.

Gary Kelley works on a mural for the Univesity of Iowa

In 2008 I was contacted by Deborah Beckett, the Associate Design Director of Gensler Chicago, to source several of my AOGS artists to create artworks for a new structure under construction: The Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates. The blueprints for the rebuilt structure showed some very large interior spaces that begged for beautiful explanatory murals. If the client has a story to tell, illustration is still the strongest form of art.

The current building . . .

Doctor Borlaug has certainly flown under the radar for a guy who has won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honor. If you stopped 100 people in the street, I bet less than 5% would know his name. But if you said Miracle Rice and Wheat and told people that this was the man who had done more to fight hunger on the planet than anyone else and is responsible for feeding billions, the number of people who would start to put two and two together might begin to get it and listen.

I was educated about Doctor Borlaug through my association with the former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, Kenneth Quinn. Both Amb. Quinn and Dr. Borlaug are Iowans, and the Ambassador has dedicated the past ten years to bringing Dr. Borlaug's contribution to the fight against hunger front and center. He is in the process of transforming the former main public library in Des Moines Iowa into the The Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates, also known as the World Food Prize Foundation. That Prize is awarded yearly to the person most responsible for advancing the cause of reducing world hunger. In addition to being the location for this event, the Foundation will also serve as a memorial to Dr. Borlaug's memory, and an interactive center for new possibilities in agriculture.

Dr. Norman Borlaug, sculpted by John Collier