Alan Baker and Illustration Ltd Agency

Wed 05 Aug 2015 by Amy_Rogers

The latest BIG event took place at the Marlborough Theatre.
Alan Baker had a horror-tale to tell. An American self-publisher called Meredith had commissioned him to illustrate a book about thankfulness. Meredith wanted the book to feature rabbits that resembled her family, so she sent Alan two hundred family photos to work from!
Alan’s American agent sorted out the contract. Alan began work on the first double-page spread. He created fifteen pencil roughs. Meredith then made comments and requests for amendments. There were then endless revisions, which was to become a pattern throughout the project. Illustrated textures, items and backdrops were altered, removed and then reinstalled before being altered or returned to their original state, at the client’s request. The author, the designer and Alan had three-way calls that lasted for two to three hours at a time. Meredith became angry if an illustration wasn’t exactly as she wanted, “This book is making me angry rather than thankful!” she said. There were around sixteen rounds of revisions for every illustration.
Almost a year into the commission a US attorney contacted Alan’s American agent. The attorney said that Meredith wanted copyright for all of the illustrations Alan had created for her book. She also wanted to copyright his style, saying that he could not create anything else that looked remotely similar to the artwork in her book. Meredith accused Alan of fraud because he had altered some of his own artwork -which featured on a stock illustrations website – for her book. The illustrations in question were things such as a biscuit and a kite, which he had collaged into his new illustrations.
Alan agreed to re-illustrate all the stock illustrations. However, he could not agree to stop creating illustrations that resembled his own style for other clients. At this point Meredith hired a London lawyer. She had paid Alan for most of his work and Alan’s agents (Illustration Ltd) kindly offered to pay for his unpaid illustration themselves.
Then Meredith’s attorney demanded all the money she had paid Alan ($12,100) be returned to her within fourteen days. If not, a writ would be served. As Alan had signed the contract as himself rather than as his company, his assets could be claimed if he lost the legal case. The American lawyers Alan contacted would only represent him if he put his house up as payment if he lost the case.
Alan reluctantly offered to pay Meredith back all his illustration fees to avoid the legal fees. There was silence for five months. Then Meredith demanded $33,100 instead, saying Alan owed a debt to a third party designer, two attorneys and for two years of book sales. Alan did not respond to this bizarre claim for two months. Then, on Christmas Eve he was ordered to attend court in January. There was an emailed file of details but it appeared to be corrupt. Alan Googled the person who had sent the email. The internet advised him not to open emails from the address it was sent from – it was a Trojan Horse virus.
Alan has not heard from Meredith for several moths now. She is a very rich woman and Alan believes she enjoyed the battle but has since lost interest. Here’s hoping she never regains it!

Our second speaker was Victoria Pearce, an agent from Illustration ltd. She helps facilitate things for illustrators and clients alike. Victoria previously travelled the world while working with a design consultancy for clients such as Aquascutum.
In 2000 Victoria went it alone as a photography agent with her friend Thea Stoner. The illustrator Jacqueline Bisset approached them about representation. Jacqueline’s work really took off, inspiring them to represent more fashion illustrators including David Downton. Victoria became passionate about illustration and in 2007 she joined Illustration Ltd. The agency promotes their artists in a variety of exciting ways. Every nine months they send out A5 ‘scrapbooks’ featuring articles, illustrator profiles and quality illustrations. They also host ‘Scrapbook Live’ events where their illustrators draw live. The agency has around 44,000 international clients! There are five full time and three consulting agents. The international team does portfolio reviews and chooses new illustrators together. They receive about 200 new submissions every month.
Victoria says that the commission the agency takes should fade into insignificance given the increased fee and work. They also help with accounting and negotiation and some clients will only work with agencies.
Illustration Ltd looks to see at least 30-40 examples of excellent work. They always consider commercial potential. Victoria says submitting illustrators can always ask for feedback on their work even if they aren’t selected.

Thanks to both our speakers!