An Interview With Artist Representative
A great overview of where the business has been and where it's going...a must read for anyone in the business or thinking of a career in illustration. Sharing David's 38 years worth of knowledge and experience.
How long have you been an artist representative, and how did you get started in the business?
May 1sr, 2017 is the start of my 38th year as a rep. After a few years touring the country (1974-1976), in a great cover band that included this then-unknown guitarist from Carle Place, Joe Satriani, I came off the road and had a series of very unfulfilling jobs beginning in January, 1977.
A dear friend who was the local "phenom"
photographer at my high school, Paul Margolies,
asked me if I would consider representing him.
I was then in the garment district selling piece goods in NYC and hating my boss, so I made a deal with Paul to give me a desk, a phone,, x-amount a week advance draw, and to teach me what a photographer's rep does. I knew absolutely nothing, but I could sell and tell a decent joke.
Does your group work a particular niche within the market and if so, how would you describe it? Do you think it's important to have a niche?
Over the decades as I transitioned from representing photographers to solely representing illustrators, the concept of repping niche talent was born very organically at first.
I started representing an art director at Bozell & Jacobs named Norm Bendell in 1983. He had about six different styles at the time and asked me to carry his work around with my photographers.
His book was much lighter- my first indication I
loved representing artists more than the other
five. It was a style somewhat along the lines of
many of the New Yorker artists. A couple years
later we were called up to meet Joe LaRosa who awarded us nine ads for Perrier. This was life changing for both of us. In time, Bendell became so huge and coveted worldwide, we were billing over $200k many years in a row at
his peak, approaching 400k one year. I was turning away more work than he could handle, as the major agency focus groups were overwhelmingly always selecting his particular style over every other humorous artist. So, with Bendell's encouragement, I thought I'd take on more humorous talents, which I did and was able to successfully able †o turn buyer's minds in their direction when Bendell wasn't available.
This was my first attempt at niche, which I ultimately abandoned due to meeting a young artist down in Silver Spring, Maryland named James Yang, thanks to a mutual friend, Jerry Tortorella. As I helped to develop Jame's career,
I realized the conceptual world of illustration was something that really excited me on a personal level. I moved away from humorous talent and merged into the world of brilliant conceptual minds illustrating the world's most difficult topics. This, then became my next niche of sorts and was the focus for my second decade as a rep. I can't say if it's important for
a rep to have a niche, though many do, and I assume it works for them, because they've repped mainly children's book artists or humorous talent forever and survived.
Eventually I had the the privilege to ascend into the worlds of book publishing, licensing, creating TV properties and our own brands. Places that I never imagined I'd be exploring in 1980. When the memoir is published this entire progression will be revealed.
How do you decide to take on a new artist? What requirements do you have?
This is my favorite question I've been asked over the years, and the answer has never changed.
I come from a psychology background. I'm a musician who composes music and performs to this day, but I have no background whatsoever
studying art. I am an artistic fish out of water, an outsider with strong business instincts and basic intuitive interpersonal sensibilities. Hence, the first two qualities I look for in a talent are his/her ability to communicate verbally in an intelligent manner, and more importantly, how much i like him or her as a person. The final two criteria are: if their work speaks to me on a gut level and
demonstrates brilliant conceptual thinking and if our visions are aligned for the direction they are seeking for their careers long term.
The requirements I have are the same as I would have for a lifelong friendship: 1] Be a person of your word, follow through on what you say, do it when you say you're going to do it-never miss a deadline. Never give less than 110% to a project. That person giving you a $400 spot illustration as an associate art director today will someday be the creative director somewhere else giving out $3-50k projects. Make great first impressions. Appreciate every project knowing it's going to be one more cobblestone as you build out your road to success. 2] Wake up each day with a great passion to develop your career. Work hard >