Workbook Blog: An Interview With Artist Representative David Goldman (4)
talent, and we all believed the client just made a terrible choice, and we are so sure that my talent would be preferred by their clients worldwide, we would be willing to submit another image against the first assignment at a heavily reduced rate if the other artist would be willing to do the same. But this time around, when both images were submitted, they would test the images with their employees and end viewers, asking their opinions on which artist's work they liked better.
Not only did Renee love the idea, the other artist went along with it (not knowing what I was doing behind the scenes), and the client also agreed to do the test. The full story will be in my book someday, but we prevailed, and I landed the largest illustration project of my life. The artist I was representing and his wife were overjoyed; their kid's college educations are secured. The point being, there is always a way to jujitsu "no" if pitched properly.
What advice would you give anyone interested in becoming a professional illustrator, a professional artist's representative?
I occasionally consult with artists, have lectured at SCAD, done hundreds of portfolio reviews and looked into the eyes of myriad artists from around the world. There is a dream inside each of these amazing talented people I have met and a burning pilot light of creative passion that has been nurtured beautifully in every great
art institution across the world. Tuitions in the United States are at $30-65K a year to send a son or daughter to art school so they can meet some of the greatest minds in the industry who teach full-time, part-time, lecture and/or give seminars. They leave school after running up a $120-260K tab and now it's day one in the real world. Where to begin in 2018? The answer is directed at people whose hearts are set on becoming freelancers (not staff position illustrators). The advice I give them and their parents is for them to become learned in several areas of the art/design world and not pigeon yourself into one area. A substantial percentage of illustrators who are "just" illustrators do not make the living now that they made in the 80's through the early aughts: the industry has changed and styles have changed too. So, unless one thinks $30-60K a year is enough for you to be satisfied as a primary living (and for some that might be just fine), developing skills in animation, web design, teaching, print making, graphic design, infographics, signage, brand development, knowing CAD or InDesign may be your saving grace should your primary quest to make it as a freelance illustrator be enough for you in time. In one word: diversify.
I also advise freelancers to read major newspapers and magazines and understand what is going on in the world, as demonstrating major brains will heavily impact one's career. I advise them to practice communicating and pitching their ideas to learn the art of being persuasive. I also advise them to attend every industry function imaginable and meet art buyers whenever possible. I overemphasize one's need to learn and understand how to protect copyrights and verbiage in contracts, as ultimately this knowledge will severely impact one's earning potential. I advise them to create a great website/blog/identity and jump into social media with set goals and purpose.
If freelancing is too challenging financially at first,
I advise them to get a starting job in a field related to illustration, preferably with health benefits. I also tell them to be realistic going the freelancer route, as it sometimes takes many years to become known in the industry, without any guarantee of similar income from one year to the next. It takes a very special kind of person to endure the many rigors of maintaining a very special position in the world of freelance illustration ...similar to making it as an actor, musician, or dancer. There are no perfect ways to get there, nor to remain on top, changing your life with one major ad campaign that sets the world on fire and getting one noticed.
As for becoming a rep, apprenticing, interning and coming up the ranks is certainly one way to approach it. I have heard of a college course, taught in the New York City area, about becoming an artist representative, but I don't know if it is still being taught. Hence, I don't really know the answers here beyond my own experience. But I believe in the school of hard knocks with friends who are artists taking you under their wings is likely still a way to go, though I will say, the way is treacherous and not for the meek, inhibited, nor non self-starters.
The need to listen, learn about pricing, protecting rights, what fair is, how to negotiate, how to pitch and other key characteristics a representative must possess takes years to learn and perfect. A book I highly recommend you read is titled "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead" by the recently deceased Jerry Weintraub, a super agent and producer who has wonderful life stories to share and inspire you on your path to representing talent.