When an Art Rep Puts the Agency Before the Artist

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(Image and article by Thomas James)

[UPDATE: In an effort to test how deep Illozoo’s desire to block link’s to their artists’ own sites and profiles goes, I used my Illustration Friday Instagram account to tag a few of their artist’s Instagram profiles in some of Illozoo’s Instagram posts (they already blocked our Illustration Age account after we released the story below.) And sure enough all it took was a handful of tags and Illozoo blocked the Illustration Friday account. It seems like Illozoo REALLY doesn’t want their artists to be found anywhere but on their official agency website.]

Let’s be clear from the start.

There are a lot of respectable artist representatives out there who see their relationship with their illustrators as a balanced collaboration of sorts, where both parties work together on promotion, negotiation, and many other aspects of business, and that’s exactly how it should be.

If you have an art rep, they don’t own you (unless you signed a really horrible contract). You still operate as an individual illustrator with your own name, your own website, and control over your own work.

Every once in a while, unfortunately, an art rep might cross the line by seemingly keeping the credit for themselves, and that’s just wrong.

Last night I was going through my Instagram feed and came across the profile of the Illozoo Illustration Agency, and noticed that they weren’t crediting the illustrators they were posting about by name, but instead was referring to them as an “Illozoo artist”, nothing more. Sure, they used to credit their artists by name, but it seems that about 31 weeks ago they made the conscious decision to stop naming their illustrators altogether.

No. They may have an arrangement with you, but they are NOT ILLOZOO ARTISTS.

They are illustrators who not only deserve respect (and credit) for their work but they also arguably provide more value to the agency than the other way around.

An illustrator without an art rep is still an illustrator. An art rep without illustrators is nothing.

My suspicion was that Illozoo would much rather send potential clients to the agency’s website, rather than the artists, because that would mean they get to take a commission on any project an illustrator received (in my previous conversations with Illozoo’s founder they stated that they only take a commission on work that comes through their official site). I didn’t want to believe that this was the case, however, because I happen to like Illozoo but this feels like an art rep blocking an artist’s own business.

In an attempt to give Illozoo the benefit of the doubt, I asked outright in the comments of one of their Instagram posts why they weren’t crediting the artists by name, and the response I got was troubling.

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“They are all Illozoo artists. Anyone can see their work on our website.”

So the agency chose to not take this opportunity to give the artist credit, but to once again refer to him (David de Ramón, by the way) as an “Illozoo artist”, and suggested we visit their official agency website instead.

Wrong answer, and sorry but the sweet little happy emoji doesn’t make it any better. All it would have taken is simply typing the artist’s name to prove me wrong.

To be fair, Illozoo credits their artists by name on their Facebook page and Twitter account (most of the time), but in those formats they can still include clickable links back to their official website. After the exchange above with them, however, I can only suspect that they chose to stop mentioning their artists by name 31 weeks ago because they can’t include links back to their official site (or anywhere) on Instagram, so the danger is that if a client sees an artist they like on the Illozoo Instagram feed they might choose to look them up on their own, and that’s bad for the agency’s business. (In my past conversations with Illozoo’s founder he pointed out that if an artist gets work through Illozoo, they get a cut. If an artist gets work on their own, they keep the entire fee.)

But it’s a shady business move that doesn’t respect their artists.

Since our Instagram conversation last night, Illozoo has indeed added artist credits to their past posts, although they’ve blocked Illustration Age from following their feed and deleted our conversation with them entirely (another seemingly shady move as opposed to coming clean, but not surprising). We are however glad that they have decided to change their policy on this, so that’s a good thing.

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As I mentioned above, most art reps understand the ethical and fair way to promote their illustrators while still promoting their agency, but this is clearly an example of what not to do. If you’re an artist with an art rep (or are looking for one) ALWAYS be sure that the relationship is fair on both sides and that the agency respects you enough to say your name instead of only theirs.

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Categories: Opinion

Author:Thomas James

Illustrator. Wanderer. Adventurous Creative. WebsiteTwitterFacebook

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21 Comments on “When an Art Rep Puts the Agency Before the Artist”

  1. Michael Brugh
    August 15, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    Good for you, Thomas! I appreciate your tireless efforts on behalf of illustrators.

    • August 15, 2015 at 9:16 am #

      Thank you, Michael. This needed to be said.

  2. August 15, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    That’s really bad form on them. I hope this is the exception and not the rule, these days. Good job Thomas!

    • August 15, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

      I do think it’s the exception. So far ALL other art reps I’ve seen credit their artists by name, because they understand that it’s important to have an equal relationship with their artists based on trust and respect, not based on making a buck.

  3. August 15, 2015 at 7:36 pm #

    Good job mate!…that’s poor form indeed

    • August 15, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

      Thank you for reading. There are so many issues like this that people are afraid to talk about publicly for fear of endangering their careers.

  4. Calvin
    August 15, 2015 at 8:33 pm #

    it would be amazing if you can review all the illustration agencies that are worth illustrators to approach with our work. I only know a few reputable ones. Thanks for this article :)

    • August 16, 2015 at 9:09 am #

      That would be quite a challenge because I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, but I have posted some articles in the past about what to look for in an art rep. This is probably a good time to dust those off and revisit the idea this week. One thing that’s so important is finding the right fit rather than signing up with any rep who wants to work with you.

  5. August 16, 2015 at 6:54 am #

    Awesome article Thomas.
    Thank you for defending the illustrator rights!

    • August 16, 2015 at 9:10 am #

      Thanks Magoz. This scenario was just so ridiculous that it demanded attention.

  6. August 16, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    Thanks so much for sharing this!
    It’s important to be well informed and aware of all the unfair tricks that can be played on you.

    If anyone is interested here is an article addressed to writers, but useful to illustrators about Agent Fees: https://www.sfwa.org/fees/

    And in that same website this Thumbs Down Agency List: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/thumbs-down-agency/

    • August 17, 2015 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks for sharing those resources, Diana. The more educated we are the better empowered we are to protect ourselves.

  7. August 16, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    Thanks for sharing Thomas. This is definitely a good spotting on somewhat shady practices which almost seem to cross over into a grey area, especially for illustrators who are relatively new and who are dealing with the learning curve as well. It’s helpful to hear a more experienced illustrator call out what exactly is good practice and fair in these situations. Thanks for speaking up!

    • August 16, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks Derek. I keep thinking “How are the artists supposed to feel when their rep is actively blocking them for their own profit?”

  8. August 19, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    I really learned a ton from this article and from “30 Things to Watch Out For in an Art Rep” – big thanks Thomas!!

    • August 19, 2015 at 11:10 am #

      That’s great Nani. That’s part of the motivation, to help educate illustrators about what a good art rep relationship looks like (and doesn’t).

  9. August 19, 2015 at 12:35 pm #

    So shady and sad. I work for an agency, as well as do freelance, but our agency would never try to take full credit for my or other’s work. Art reps scare the crap out of me because of stuff like this.

    • August 19, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks Spencer. I agree. This is exactly the kind of thing that scares people out of working with a rep, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

  10. August 21, 2015 at 4:19 am #

    thanks for the post. really helpful (came from the helpful rep tips one)

    • August 21, 2015 at 8:39 am #

      Glad you got something out of it! Thanks for reading.

  11. September 24, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    So glad when people are standing up for Illustrators, we all are responsible for doing so. Looking for a Rep myself, I noticed more than a few out there seem to think Illustrators who do comic book stuff are not Illustrators and seem biased against them. We and myself are not one trick ponies, and I hope to find someone soon.

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