Illustration portfolio advice: 7 things agents look out for in an illustration portfolio

Illustrators and animators eventually reach a point of curiosity about agency representation. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, applying to agencies for inclusion on their roster can be a daunting task. At Illustration Ltd, we receive an extremely high volume of requests for representation from artists all around the world, and our success stems from a careful method of selection.

Here’s 7 simple tips to help you stand out from this rather large crowd.

7 things agents look out for in an illustration portfolio

7 things agents look out for in an illustration portfolio

1. SKILL

You need to be an amazingly skilled artist. We’re looking for a high level of competency in your chosen technique. You don’t have to be tertiary educated in your field but you do need to be an expert and your work needs to be impressive. You must display your ability to complete illustrations in your style, with absolute proficiency. This is why students are rarely offered representation; because these things take time.

2. ORIGINALITY

Present work that is new and exciting. Whilst we know all artists to have a unique flair, as an agency we’re seeking fresh ways of expression. Do what you do and do it well. Copying currently trendy illustration styles is viewed very negatively, and showing us what special talents you have to offer is always preferred.

3. COMMERCIAL VIABILITY

Agencies are responsible for marketing you to a range of potential clients and it’s important for clients to envisage your illustration style working in concert with their brand. Whilst creative boundaries can be more flexible with editorial and publishing work, it’s imperative that your style is likeable and accessible to most. Avant-garde can be alienating and divisive.

4. COHESION

You may be experienced in a variety of illustration styles, but is that appropriately reflected in your portfolio? Ensure your style is identifiable and include work that shows a consistent aesthetic in your areas of specialty.

Illustration portfolio advice

Illustration portfolio advice

5. EXPERIENCE

Evidence of previously published work, creative projects that you’ve worked on, collaborations with other brands will strongly support your application. Agencies love to see that you know how to work with clients, and successful past projects and working experience says that loud and clear.

6. WEB PRESENCE

Show us that you’re a self-starter with a solid web presence. Sharing your work on Instagram, updating your Facebook followers, selling prints of your personal work, regularly updating your web site portfolio, and proving that you’re already thinking professionally, auger well for your application.

7. ENTHUSIASM

Agencies love illustrators who want to work, who are keen to try new things, and who want to have a go. Making a living out of being an artist is not easy, but maintaining a positive mental attitude as much as possible, being friendly and helpful, and meeting possibilities with a smile can make all the difference in who we choose to represent.

Good luck in your applications! It’s important to remember that even if you don’t have an agent to represent you, that you continue working on your artistic practice, building your portfolio and getting as much experience as possible. It can only help!

How do I apply for representation?
To apply, please view our members page where we have provided links to each member's website.

Due to the extremely high volume of applications we receive, it is unfortunately not possible to respond to every applicant. You can be certain however, that if we feel we can represent your work we will be in touch.
If we decide to work together, we will send you our Welcome Pack which provides you with all of the information you need. This will include direct contact details for a member of Illustration staff who will be on hand to help you with assignments and other queries at all times.

Our thanks to Angela D'Alton at Illustration Ltd for writing this article

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Image credits

Top image by Patrick Boyer
Bottom image by Lisa Beta

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