Interview with Jeremy Wortsman from Jacky Winter

Based out of Melbourne, the Jacky Winter Group was named after the Australian Robin which shares the same initials as its founder, Jeremy Wortsman. Since its inception the agency has done a superb job representing Australian Illustrators, many have since gone on to find work internationally.
Jeremy’s work has been awarded by the Society of Publication Designers (US), and recognized in a wide range of international publications such as Creative Review, Tokion, Computer Arts, and more. Along with design partner Stuart Geddes, he was awarded the 2006 Premier’s Design Award, for his self-initiated project, Is Not Magazine.
We caught up with Jeremy to find out more about the Jacky Winter Group, and to see what makes a good illustrator.

Originally from New York, you moved to Melbourne mid 2001. What made you decide on Melbourne?
Like most other expats, I originally came here for a girl. I originally came to Sydney and didn’t really have the best experience there, but when I first came to Melbourne, I just fell in love with it as a city. It’s hard to explain, I just knew when I arrived that I would make the city my home. Of course, the immigration process was another thing altogether, as it seemed Australia didn’t want me! Luckily I am very good at gentle persuasion.

Beck Wheeler / Kawaii Album Cover

Beck Wheeler / Kawaii Album Cover

What advice do you have for any Illustrator wishing to be represented?
I get asked this question a a lot, and I probably sound like a broken record by now, but attitude is really important. Attention to detail as well. I can’t tell you how many times that I will get an email addressed to Ms. Winter. If people can’t be bothered to understand what we do and who we are, then it definitely does not bode well for a first impression. Illustration as a field has no beginning or end in some ways, and I think that there is a spot in this industry for everyone and anyone, if you are serious and committed to your craft. Taking steps to educate yourself and push your work further every day are really important here as there are very few higher educational pathways for people interested in commercial art. Specialization helps as well, especially if someone wants to carve our a niche for themselves. With such crossover now between ‘fine’ art, graphic design, and illustration, art directors have more choice than ever to choose people for work. You need to give people a reason to want you, which requires a long period development and education. Also, people shouldn’t be afraid to call and come by for folio reviews. It’s easy to send an email, but takes more effort to put a nice package together or hound someone on the phone. I’m not saying this works for every business, but it definitely gets my attention.

madeleine_stamer

Madeleine Stamer / Fierce Protectors

Dylan Martorell / Harvard Divinity Review, commissioned by Point 5 Design

Dylan Martorell / Harvard Divinity Review, commissioned by Point 5 Design

With a seemingly unlimited amount of talent in Australia, together with your own self imposed limit of 32 artists that you represent, it must be hard to decide on who to represent and who to pass on. What are some of the qualities that you look for in an Illustrator?
I think the first thing I look for is a unique expression of ideas. I like to think that I have a pretty good idea of what is out there internationally in regards to the industry, and I like to make sure that JW artists have an inimitable quality in some way. I want commissioners coming to us because they love that artist, because no one else can do what they do. At the same time, there has to be some potential of commercial application. I see so many folios of work that is sometimes too personal or disconnected to the commercial sphere, which is not to say that they are not great talents, but in our industry there are some people that I would just not feel confident in my ability to sell to our clients because of this. This is only one segment of the industry though, as there is very much a need for illustrators in storyboarding, visualisations, and rendering, of which
we will be addressing through satellite agencies, like we did with emerging artists with our new incubator agency ‘The Hatch‘. Other than that, interpersonal skills are very important. While we manage and oversee all the jobs, if someone is not easy to communicate with on a personal level, it would make me very reluctant to take them on and put them in front of our clients.

Justin Lee Williams / Pug-girl-lrg

Justin Lee Williams / Pug-girl-lrg

Paul Nolan / With Style

Paul Nolan / With Style

How do you go about matching the right illustrator with the right client?
In most cases, the client will come to us with an illustrator they want to use. With editorial work, this is 99% the case. Advertising is a bit more open. In most cases, a client will come with an idea, or mood board, or scamp, and in that case its simply finding which artist can pull it off. This is really hard in a curatorial sense in terms of who we represent, as we need to make sure we have as many stylistic bases covered so that we don’t turn down briefs. That said, I avoid trying to shoehorn artists into a brief that isn’t them.

How have the Australian illustrators you represent been received elsewhere in the world?
I think the international response to the agency has been very positive. Most other agencies across the world have been established for so long, that I think we are a breath of fresh air in some instances, We do regular editorial work for US publications such as Business Week and Playboy, and our very first agency commission was for The New York Times Book Review. We promote very heavily overseas, and offer clients a very unique talent base that is different to the work coming out of the UK and the US. For clients who can look past the time difference, we are able to sustain great relationships. There are also alot of Aussie expats out there as Art Directors / Creative Directors who are very keen to support the community. That said, I have also been surprised at how much local business we have secured. Its really a 50/50 mix at the moment.

You have recently launched “the Hatch”, a sub agency where you can focus on emerging and up and coming talent. Have you noticed any areas of difference with the younger Illustrators?
It’s really hard to say… Since the profile of the agency has become more visible, we receive at least one new portfolio every other day. It’s really difficult to turn people away, so The Hatch is really a
place where I was able to take these people on, and have it also separately managed internally. I think in terms of aesthetic differences, a lot of these artists are either still finding their voice in some ways, and representation offers them a unique place in the limelight so to speak, which I hope will in turn encourage them to keep developing and refining their craft. On the other hand, some of the folks are simply doing work that is a bit more out-there and hard to grasp commercially, however I feel so strongly about, that I felt they needed a place to reach a broader audience.

Bindi Booth / Peg Yardage & Collage

Bindi Booth / Peg Yardage & Collage

Matt Davidson / Child-care subsidising ignored by successive governments. (Sunday Age)

Matt Davidson / Child-care subsidising ignored by successive governments. (Sunday Age)

We Buy Your Kids / Every Breath Is A Bomb

We Buy Your Kids / Every Breath Is A Bomb

Who/what is inspiring you at the moment?
I know how cliché this will end up sounding, but really, everyone on board inspires me in new ways every day. There are some points where you are just looking at the work so much, that its hard to respond to anymore, and then something will come through that makes you see their
work in a whole new light and its just incredible. I am really fortunate in that every day I get to see the creative process in full bloom. Watching a brief develop from written ideas to rough sketches,
to a final piece, and then finally in the public sphere is sort of amazing. I don’t have kids, but I imagine it can be a bit like childbirth (especially with some of our more difficult clients!),
sometimes it can be tough and long, but when the end result is so great, you can’t wait to do it again :)

Links:
www.jackywinter.com
blog.jackywinter.com
hatch.jackywinter.com
twitter.com/jackywinter.com

comments

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