I’m always on high alert, looking for anything that will help me grow as an illustrator. That being said, you can imagine my thrill when I found out that Artist Agent, Christina A. Tugeau, was coming to a nearby college to speak…and it was free!
I had learned about the CAT Agency several years ago, and stalked her website, looking for clues as to how I might improve my work in order to catch her eye. Perusing the list of incredible illustrators she represented, I soon realized that it would be a while before I figured out the magic formula….if ever.
Flash forward…her lecture (this past Saturday) was amazing and eye-opening, even for a veteran like me. Among the things I learned was that it’s as much about how you handle the business at hand, as it is about the talent you possess.
When assembling your portfolio for an agent to view, it’s important that it convey the fact that you know the steps necessary to get the job done. Include a storyboard or a dummy book to show them that you are familiar with page flow, book assembly, text placement, etc.
Character continuity is where many illustrators flounder, so you must somehow include a range of positions, movements and emotions for at least one or two of your characters. This will show off your capabilities and prove that you have what it takes to successfully carry a single character through 32 pages. Oh, and I have to follow up with the fact that your characters need to be unique and your style different from those that the agent already represents.
I also want to share the fact that your agent will most likely expect you to be a team player. If they’re going to do a great job representing you, then you have to be worthy of representation by doing the things they ask of you. Too many of us share the false notion that once you sign with an agent, you sit back and wait for them to get work for you. The TRUTH is, you have to keep working! Good agents will need you to keep the sketches coming, as they will be sending out promotional materials to publishers on a regular basis. If your not producing, you’ll become a hard sell. Who would want to rep someone who isn’t willing to grow and change things up occasionally?
Let’s talk about your website and blog. Yep, it’s required if you want to work with a great agency like CAT’s. Let’s face it, they’re both simple, basic tools that show and tell agents and publishers who you are. Your website should be straight-forward and user friendly. Don’t make them search through a myriad of fancy graphic gadgets and buttons to find your illustrations…keep it simple. One click, and BOO-YA! There they are.
Your blog is a different story. It requires you to string words together into complete sentences that make sense to the average reader. Don’t laugh! You’d be surprised how many people can’t do it! SO, if you’re not word savvy, what’s an illustrator to do…hummmm? My advice is to enlist a friend or relative and wrangle up those pesky prose. You don’t need to say much, as long as you post your illustration progress, experimentation, success and publications regularly. A blog shows everyone that you’re constantly working.
I have included at the top of this post, the illustration I created especially for CAT’s visit. It’s a bit different than my usual style, reflecting on the recent changes I’ve made in my life and my way of thinking about children’s book illustration.
I may never know what she thinks of it.
As she turned to the page in my portfolio, the shrill voice of a fire alarmed screamed in the hallway, distracting everyone with it’s reminder that life can change in an instant. Confusion prompted another page turn, and unconsciously…another. She did not see it, but I dared not interrupt once she was able to refocus and continue on with the best portfolio review I’ve ever received. I am grateful for the opportunity that was given to me, and I’m determined to make it count!