Hey Jacky Winter!
14th April, 2009 by Brita Frost
Jeremy Wortsman is founder of The Jacky Winter Group, an inimitable illustration agency that represents 32 contemporary illustrators from across Australia. In 2008 he established the gallery Lamington Drive and more recently a second sub-agency, The Hatch. In 2006 he received the Premier’s Design Award, alongside design partner Stuart Geddes, for the coveted Is Not Magazine. Born and educated in New York, Jeremy has a unique perspective on Australian design and illustration.
Do you see illustration and design as entirely separate? I
think illustration is a very separate thing from design. I think
because so many designers have to work freelance and design departments
are so small, people rely on designers to have a wide range of skills,
and because of recent trends in illustration that are very graphic,
there is that cross-over.
In the classic graphic design of the 1950s and 60s there was a heavy element of illustration and that trend has carried over. There are also a lot of illustrators who find it very difficult to making a living from illustration and will turn to design as the next natural step.
Do you think illustrators make good designers? It’s tough. I don’t know. The skills are kind of universal, especially those skills that you learn as a designer such as how to deal with space and make a composition. I guess you are working with many different elements as an illustrator.
I think people who are trained in design make better illustrators, especially because of the commercial nature of illustration. Because there is no real training in illustration in Australia, as there is for design, you often get people who have a fine art background moving over to illustration because they think it will be a way to make money with their art, but they’re not trained in the client or business side of things.
I imagine that would be quite difficult, coming from a fine arts background, to pitch ideas to people or produce work to a brief. Well that’s what the agency does in a sense, it filters those artists who have more of a fine art interest into a more commercial stream. Say, about 30 or 40 per cent of the artists that we have on board are fine art orientated. I think that makes them more attractive to people who want to commission them and who want a unique output.
When you take on an illustrator what kind of qualities are you looking for? First of all the work has to be great. There has to be a level of care taken in producing it and there has to be a unique vision. At the same time there are people who are doing all those things who's work just isn’t commercially relevant. Or they are doing work that is just so personal, with such a personal style, that it would be hard for us as an agency to get them work. I think this is especially true of some artists who are doing graffiti or street art. The second thing I look for is attitude. Because there are some great artists out there but they don’t deal with clients well or they’re a bit too precious about their work. I need to be able to trust that when I give an assignment out the artist will take it on.
Is there much interest overseas in Australian illustration? There is. I mean right now most of our work is local. Our original goal was to get more work overseas. I think it’s still hard, people struggle with the time difference and more logistical things. They like to be able to pick up the phone and talk to people. Because of that, advertising commissions are probably a bit less in the States, we still do a lot of them, but editorial is probably bigger. And mostly in the States, less so in London where I think illustration is at its peak right now. There are stylistic differences between European and American illustration and I think Australian illustration is somewhere in between the two.
So you would say that Australian illustration sits somewhere between European and American styles? I think so, but I think it is also very different. Mostly because there isn’t the training here, so people take there influences independently, whereas, if you go to school in the States you’re going to be more influenced by your teachers and by your peers. In terms of how a style develops, in Australia it definitely seems to be influenced by the fine art side of things because there is more support for that here.
Do you think Jacky Winter will define an illustrative style? I hope not, but I think there’s a definite aesthetic to the agency.
So what aesthetic are you guided by? Well, it’s whatever I like really.
Which is the best way to be I guess. Yeah, it’s really important that I like everyone’s work. I mean I have to look at it everyday. I think that if it speaks to me, it’ll probably speak to our clients.
Do you think about taking on more overseas artists? That’s something that I am thinking about at the moment. Me and another agent in Sydney have partnered up and are looking to start another agency so that we can bring more talent to our clients here. It’s just a matter of, you know, we don’t want to compete with our existing artists. It’s a double-edged sword because the artists here, they represent a broad range of styles but it is not everything and art directors here, especially in advertising, they need a bit more range. So we’re trying to figure that out now, between bringing more people in and not creating competition for our own businesses.
interview by Brita Frost
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