the jacky winter group
Designer, publisher, artist representative and all round nice guy Jeremy Wortsman has just begun The Jacky Winter Group, making good on an old dream. Jeremy's fantasy of corralling some of the most talented illustrators this country has to offer under the banner of an agency is no longer something he has to imagine, it has suddenly become very real. Representing artists like Dylan Martorell, Cailan Burns, Lillian Piri & Tin and Ed, Jeremy's Jacky Winter Group has just produced it's first Field Guide and Jeremy himself has embarked on his first overseas trip in order to spread the good - and in his opinion, largely unsung - word about Australia's nascent illustration community. R&D caught up with a very excited Jeremy on the eve of his trip. See end of the article for individual artist links.
R&D:Jeremy welcome to Research & Development:
JW:Thank you. Its quite cozy. Do you mind if i put my feet up?
R&D:Let's get right down to brass tacks, why now for something like Jacky Winter?
JW:Its an idea that I've had kicking around for ages and things just happened to come together in a way where I had a window of opportunity to start my own business and I just went for it. Doing Is Not Magazine really opened my eyes to how important self-initiated work is, and how move more fulfilling it can be to have more control on your creative output in general. Illustration is something that I am very passionate about, and have since come to know many illustrators and artists on a personal level. Everyone wanted to make a living being free from the 9-5, yet struggled with promoting themselves internationally and handling the legal and financial stuff. At the same time, most of my friends from art school in New York had moved into more senior positions and were contacting me looking for new talent. It just seemed a perfect fit of my professional experience as well as my networks that consisted of artists and those who commissioned art.
I think Melbourne is such a wonderful incubator for creativity that I really want to help support and nurture those people who make it that way. I think forming the agency is a positive step in that direction.
R&D:What is it about Australian illustrators that has inspired you so?
JW:Its just a very unique visual landscape in many ways. I think alot of people bemoan the fact that there is a perceived lack of an Australian Identity, but as an outsider, I feel that its lack of a clear-cut identity is actually an identity in itself! There is just something special in the quality of work that I think is born from this sort of cultural sampling that seems to spring from geographic isolation. This is of course in addition to the rich palette of symbols and imagery that are inherent to the place. I mean, thats scratching the iceberg though.. there are so many other factors at play.
R&D:Talk us through some of the artists on the roster.
JW:Oh my god, I really couldn't pick one or even a few. I know it may sound like an easy way out, but I would have to write about each one, and I would be here for hours. Each artist that I have invited to represent I have done so out of a pure enthusiasm for their work. Each individual produces work that has a special quality in some way that I find really speaks to me. When presenting folios, I really just get fired up because I am so proud to be working with such a talented group of people, I just want to expose them to as wide an audience as possible. I think the common thread is that each one rests delicately on the line between fine art and commercial illustration, and I'm really excited to explore that space, especially as that line gets blurred more and more every day.
R&D:We had to get around to it eventually; What is the significance of the beautiful Jacky Winter bird?
JW:Funny you ask. One of the people I share an office with recently left a cd on my desk by Phil Gionfriddo, who is going by the name Jacky Winter for his solo work. I cant decide if I want the CD to be great or awful, but I cant bring myself to listen to it yet. Its such a depressing coincidence especially after spending months agonising between two different names.
When choosing a name, I wanted it to have a serious side, to compete on the same levels as other agencies, which are typically named after the agency's founder. I also wanted it to be a bit playful. The Jacky Winter is a native Australian robin, and I really liked the visual metaphor of flight because I am helping Australian Illustrators find work overseas. When I discovered that the bird shared the same initials as me, it all came together. Even if birds are the new wolves, I love the name. From a design perspective, it also let me set up a strong identity for the print promotional that I am doing, the Jacky Winter Field Guide.
R&D:You relocated from New York six years ago and haven't looked back, throwing yourself into everything from publishing (Is Not magazine) to freelance graphic design, teaching and more recently, artist representation. Can you tell us a little bit about how you've gotten to where you are and why Melbourne/Australia is a good home?
Thats the million dollar question really. I have tried so many times to put my finger on why I love Melbourne so much, but I just knew as soon as I came here that this would be my home. People always ask me why I left New York to come here. I guess the grass is always greener, but most times I am actually really anxious, because things here sometimes seem so perfect, that the mere thought of them changing or having to let go of them depresses me! Its something about the scale, and the houses. The way people decorate. Nicholson Baker calls it 'Foyerism'.Ê I just love discovering new pockets of homes and flats. I really never had a plan of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. It sounds corny, but I just kept following my passions, and I like to think that I did those with the best intentions, and using the best methods. I never let money be a factor in anything, even when I didn't have any. I would always find a way to make something, and be as professional as possible in all my encounters, which I feel is crucial. As I said before, I think Melbourne is really a place where anyone can make anything happen if they really want to do it. I like to think that I am pretty well traveled, and I can't imagine living anywhere else.
R&D:There are other agents for Australian Illustrators, what do you feel is lacking that Jacky Winter can offer?
JW:With the ease of global communications, it really doesn't matter where they are located, any agency is a potential home for an Australian Illustrator. I think most agencies in general tend to represent artists that have more 'safe' styles that could be considered 'commercially viable' Of course I have a financial interest, but my foremost interest is in working with amazing people on both sides of the commissioning process. I hope that my artists offer something genuinely new and exciting to those that are responsible for shaping our visual landscape. I also feel that there is a general lack of support locally for emerging artists who are interested in commercial illustration as a career, and hope I can be a positive force to developing a relevant professional resource.
R&D:Each year you will be producing the Jacky Winter field guide to showcase your talent, can you give away anything about the first one?
JW:Yes! Illustration and Ornithology have very strong connections. Each year (or bi-annually if possible) the Field Guide will visually reference a different Australian bird book. Graeme Chapman of QLD has been ever so kind in giving me permission to use certain elements from his 1969 book, Common City Birds, from the Periwinkle Book Series, Australian Birds in Colour. While I didnt want the design to overshadow the work, I really think its a beautiful thing, especially considering what most other agencies put out there. Apart from printed selections from everyone's folio, each artists did their own interpretation of the actual Jacky Winter bird. I hope to be giving most copies away during my international roadshow that I am going on next month to promote the agency,Ê but hopefully there will be some left over to sell online or in shops to recoup some of the costs. My goal was to produce something, that as an art director, I would want to keep as an object, but also have a functional aspect. I think with how I have approached the binding and printing, this has been accomplished. Its just about finding that line and playing with it I guess!
Check out the beautiful Jacky Winter Group website for more information and of course, lots more wonderful images.