Jon Cockley, Illustrators Agent
How do you source your illustrators?
They tend to come from all over. Most illustrators find us (we get around 3-5 submissions a day), but we’ve also found and approached illustrators who we’ve found online. We’ve also taken on one or two recommendations from our illustrators, which is always nice. There are a few other key places we like to spot illustration talent, but they’re top-secret.
Tom with the portfolios
How, initially, should illustrators approach your agency?
We have an online application process, which is our preferred method. While finding new talent is great, it can also be very time consuming. By asking prospective illustrators to email us (low-res) examples of their work, it helps make our job easier. Plus I’ve always stood by the mantra that, if your work can stand out as an attachment in an email, they’re doing something right.
Pop-up shop at The Frontroom (Cambridge)
How do you feel the agent and artist relationship works best?
Without wanting to sound cheesy, I think we have a pretty good ‘family’ feel to our agency. Perhaps this stems from the two founding partners being cousins (Frank being our grandfather)? We only ever sign people we’ve meet, as it’s important to build up a friendship right from the beginning. Some artists like to communicate via email, some prefer phone calls or Skype. It’s all about getting to know the artist and how best they work.
How do you feel the landscape of commissioning is changing?
Free pitching certainly seems more prominent, but that’s always been an issue. As an agency we have rules regarding this and never let a potential client take the piss.
When an illustrator approaches your agency, what are the first three steps you take?
Taking a look at their folio is the obvious first step. Before we sign anyone both Jon and myself have to be in agreement. Quite often we’ll have varying opinions on an artist, so it’s always interesting to hear Jon’s opinion. If we’re both in agreement we’ll arrange to meet the artist for a coffee. After that, if everyone’s still happy we’ll get the ball rolling and add them to our roster.
Our ‘family’ of illustrators – David Sparshott, Matt Saunders, Stuart Whitton and Stephen Cheetham
Working as an Agent, and being creative yourself, is a time consuming job. How do you keep your own creative work going?
Good question. Jon and I also have young kids, which further takes up our time. Outside of Handsome Frank I do a lot of travel photography and Jon DJ’s. Within HF, exhibitions are a great way of keeping creative – Pick Me Up 2013 was a huge amount of fun (and hard work) where we ran hands-on workshops with some of our artists.