The Facilitator - Lara Chan-Baker

Friday, 30 September 2016

Lara Chan-Baker, a speaker at IA’s recent In the Know seminar and panel discussion, nurtured twin loves through high school and uni: writing and illustration. She’s managed to scratch both creative itches – though not in the ways you might assume – through varied roles the advertising industry and as an agent and producer at the Jacky Winter Group, one of Australia’s most highly regarded commercial art agencies.

“I slowly realised that whilst I’m very passionate about art I don’t necessarily want to be the one creating it,” Lara says. “That’s not where my strengths lie. But I love to be around it and I love to support it. My skills are in … contract negotiation, budgeting, logistics and things like that. So I found a way to use those skills to support what I love, which is illustration and commercial art.”

Lara joined Jacky Winter two years ago, initially managing artists’ portfolios and copywriting before becoming a producer – a role she describes as “a combination of everything I’d learnt in all these bizarre, weird jobs that I’d ever done.” Clarifying each client’s brief and finding the right artist for the job are critical. So too is clarifying objectives, budgets, timelines, legal issues and the expectations of all concerned, right from the start. “A producer’s job is all about facilitating,” Lara says. “It’s all about communication, and it’s about making sure everyone has what they need and knows what they need to know in order for things to move forward without a hitch.” 

Lara says demand for commercial illustration is booming, as are opportunities for artists to promote their work. “Illustration is being used very, very broadly,” she says. “Illustration is in vogue. And it’s being used across all platforms, so there’s a real opportunity to connect … your illustration work with an industry that interests you.” 
Naturally, competition for work is booming too. Lara’s advice to emerging illustrators keen for representation by an agency like Jacky Winter is to practice long and hard first, present your portfolio in a polished way, and ask established illustrators for advice on whether you’re ready before applying. “It’s good to maybe look at the other artists on a roster and see the level or standard that they’re at and aspire to it,” Lara says. “But if you aren’t quite there yet it’s probably not the best time to seek representation.” Those who have a portfolio knocked back should rework it thoroughly before trying again. “Don’t submit the same work six months later,” she says. “Take that as a push to make better work and make new work. There’s a reason it was turned down.”

For established artists, Lara advises making time for personal work alongside paid commissions. “It’s so hard to balance it, because you have to have a job, you have to pay your bills,” she says. “But the most successful illustrators that I see, and the most talented as well, are the ones that are constantly, constantly, constantly making work, whenever they have spare time. Like any skill, the only way to improve is to practice, practice, learn, practice, practice, learn, over and over and over.”

For more on Lara and the Jacky Winter Group click here.