We love birthdays – the cake, the gratuitous singing, the sadly-now-out-of-fashion birthday bumps. Nothing like a knees-up in our opinion – and we’re sure they’ll be celebrating in style down at illustration agency Folio, which has just turned 35. Founder Nicholas Dawe was good enough to take a few minutes to talk us through the highs, the changes and give a bit of advice to anyone trying to break into the industry.
Hi Nick, what would you say has changed the most over the past 35 years in the industry?
Undoubtedly the advent of computers in the last 15 to 20 years: not only have they added another, digital string to the illustrator’s bow, they have also completely changed the way of doing business, allowing artists, agents and ad agencies to work remote from each other and quickly with each other, increasing efficiency, allowing changes to be made more easily, and cutting down on errors.
This arm’s length working has also meant that agents must work even harder than before to build and maintain relationships – with clients, with agencies and with the artists themselves.
What things have stayed the same?
The enthusiasm of our illustrators – it’s still a thrill, even after 35 years in the business, for me to team up with creative minds and superbly skilled artists, developing work and expanding possibilities. At Folio we cherish the freedom to work independently – in contrast to many other agents, none of the artists who work with Folio work under contract; we feel this allows for greater flexibility and creativity.
You’ve worked with some massive names – which talents stand out in the memory?
To mention just a few – Syd Brak, with his iconic 80s Athena posters, now in vogue again; Paul Hogarth, the consummate illustrator’s illustrator, an inspiration to so many other artists; Tony Meeuwissen, who won the coveted D&AD Black Pencil award twice for his wonderful, detailed work; Michael English and his terrific airbrush oeuvre; Jason Brooks’ stylish and fashionable work, that continues to evolve – and so many more.
Do you always know when someone is going to really change the game, or do illustrators develop in different ways?
At the outset there’s often a sense that someone might be big, but it’s not infallible. I look out, first and foremost, for people who can draw, and who I feel have the potential to develop their own, unique style and evolve over a long period. But great talent always shows and asserts itself eventually – I see myself as a facilitator in this regard.
What advice would you give illustrators starting out today?"
Absorb all the influences you want, but aim always to develop your own style. Even when that’s done you can’t sit content, your work must evolve – fashions come and go in commercial illustration as in any other creative industry, so you must be prepared and able to adapt. You in your turn will influence others coming along behind you.