"In modern society,we are pressured to take the whole world upon our shoulders and hold tightly to all the profit. Instead of focusing on 'Can I handle this all on my own?' the real question for me was 'Do I WANT to handle this all on my own?' Life is short, and my art should be a tool in creating the happy life I want instead of a force weighing me down."
If you follow me on Facebook or instagram (or have seen the new header on the website), you have probably noticed that I announced a rather BIG piece of news recently: I have an agent! I am now represented by the UH-MAY-ZING Jennifer Nelson through her agency, Jennifer Nelson Artists. Holy Pancakes!
So why has there been radio silence on the blog about it? Well, I wanted to soak it up for a while before talking about it on the blog. Announcing the news is one thing, but being able to reflect on the start-up and initial experience is something that was important to me (and much more interesting to you, in my opinion). There are countless blog posts and articles about whether one should get an agent, how to get an agent, and the pros and cons of working with an agent. I know fellow artists who have been with their agents for years, while others tried it out for a while and decided it wasn't for them for one reason or another (maybe they did better working solo, or just found that it wasn't a good "fit"). What I find more rare online is the individual stories about artists crossing paths with their agents or how they decided to work with one. (Actually, there was a great article I read last year where an artist discussed in detail how she systematically reached out to agents and narrowed down the interested ones, but of course I can't locate it. By all means, if you know this post feel free to link to it in the comments!)
Update: Thanks to the wonderful Kimberly Carter for finding that post! Read it here!
My hope is that I can share my internal thoughts about working with an agent and how I knew I had found the "right" opportunity for me and my art. I won't be discussing private details about the arrangement, obviously, but will talk about why I wanted to do this and what the important factors were going forward.
First of all, Jennifer has an amazing background. She is an award-winning designer who helped mold some of the biggest brands before starting her own company, Pumpkin Pie Design, which has worked with clients such as Scholastic, Nickelodeon and General Mills. This led to a new role as art agent, which she had done for the last several years with one of the top art agencies in the world. Being the go-getter she is, Jennifer decided the timing was right to start her own agency.
Now, I'm not actually 100% sure who found who, which is amusing to think about (and just shows how organic opportunities can be). Jennifer was aware of me from my work in an online course, while I had become aware of her from various sources and started to follow her via social media. I reached out on Facebook when she posted as Pumpkin Pie Design looking for designers and illustrators for future projects. This led to a few friendly messages between us and the eventual inquiry about representation.
Everything was very hush-hush for some time. I finally got to learn more details after my wedding, including the other artists she was talking to, and MAN had she put together a powerful team! I knew I had been grouped with some amazing talent. (Much like in real estate where you never want to be "the best house on the block," I think you should be with talented individuals that make you feel challenged and in awe of their abilities...with just a touch of intimidation to keep you on your toes and working hard.) While the two of us talked on Skype for the first time, I felt absolutely at ease. Just like in her messages, Jennifer was warm, enthusiastic, and definitely knew her stuff. They always say that working with an agent is like a marriage of sorts, so you better get along with that person. With Jennifer, I was on the same wavelength, which was a huge plus. I felt like this was someone I could talk to, brainstorm crazy ideas with, and really just be "me." I have met people in the industry before who have come off as hard to read, but with Jennifer there was no sign of that. Awesome! So far so good.
Since it was a new agency, one unique aspect was the fact that all five artists were at the same point and could discuss what they wanted and hoped for in the future. We were basically helping to create the foundation of this new agency in conjunction with Jennifer, which meant there was not the sort of "take it or leave it" mentality some artists experience when approached by agencies or design studios. As we all discussed where we were in our careers, war stories of the past, and future aspirations, one thing I brought up was that this was more of a "quality of life" consideration for me, rather than just a decision based on dollar signs. Don't get me wrong, I knew Jennifer could get me more work and better projects for better pay. It's like someone coming up to you and saying "Hey! You can have that apple, or you can join me and get a HUGE CHUNK of this watermelon!" In modern society, we are pressured to take the whole world upon our shoulders and hold tightly to all the profit. Instead of focusing on "Can I handle this all on my own?" the real question for me was "Do I WANT to handle this all on my own?" Life is short, and my art should be a tool in creating the happy life I want instead of a force weighing me down. Last year I was giddy to be going to Surtex, making new art, and working with new clients as a result of all that work. However, my husband can testify to how stressed I was. Being a one-man-band is a ton of work. I am like most creative people in that my art is pretty much on my mind all the time, which means the associated business responsibilities related to that artwork are also on my mind All.The.Time.
And you know what? I'm more than happy to team up with someone who wants to find new opportunities for all of us and allow me to have a more pleasant, stream lined relationship with my artwork. Life isn't getting any simpler. As Keith and I start a new chapter together, I fully welcome having someone to help me navigate the waters of my career while life carries on.
The first month has been extremely exciting. I have been amazed how many clients and companies we are talking with, some whom I thought just didn't care for my work when in fact it was just much easier to get through the "communication jungle" with an agent leading the way with her machete of connections and contacts. Even clients with whom I have previously worked with, Jennifer just has a more immediate and intimate line of communication with them. It's like she has a Bat Phone. Seriously. A good agent is like having an ART BAT PHONE.
Who knows what projects we will be working on in a month, six months, a YEAR from now. I'm excited to find out! I hope this post sheds some light on what it's like to work with an agent and some of the issues one might consider. Thanks for reading!