Sunday, June 3, 2012

On Agents

      I've had three agents with various success. Always dealt with the AD after the agents got the assignment. Artists need to form a relationship with the AD and the people who are working with them. This is two-fold: your agent might not really understand the AD's instructions, or subtle comment. The agent isn't really equipped to hash out alternative ideas with them. Art is not a game of telephone. The other reason is that you will be working with staff members that you may end up working for. It also allows you to understand the way the business operates and how you interact while there. In some situations I acted like a professional illustrator, or like an idiot in the MAD offices. Friendships and connections cannot be underestimated. Especially the friendship part. I am still great friends with many people I met in the publishing field even though they never handed me a job. And, by the way, artists MUST get out of the house, interact with peers, and get some external stimulation. It's not a job, it's an adventure.
     An added bonus is that you occasionally get to meet your heroes. I'd turn a job at MAD early Friday afternoon and just hung around to see who else was turning in a job. "Good Lord! Jaffee just pulled out his new fold-in!"
     Being on-site also  allows you to interact with the production department. I'd make suggestions about what type-face might look good and the colors I would use to complement the art. I was at ACE once and the head production guy pulled me aside and said "I don't know if Frank told you this but your lilac background color won't look anything like this when it's printed." He was right. Lesson learned.
     Back to the topic of agents. Advertising. The cost to the artist is approximately 80-85%, so you must be careful about promotional items. I took out a full-page color ad in Workbook for a pretty penny and didn't get a single job from it. Glen Barr Jr. and I were talking about this, "Greg, just saw your new ad. Cool." "Any job openings over there?" "Hell no, if they want your style the Jr. AD will show me your page and tell me to copy it."
     Much better to target an audience. Find companies that do what you do best and tell your agent to contact them. I got a few jobs from my agent and really didn't want to do them but did. Just because you have an agent doesn't mean you don't have a say in what you do.
     Outside work. My agent and I always had an understanding that I could do assignments that I found without a fee. It was my work that got the job, not somebody selling my work.