The invitation to to join them came after an incredibly busy period taking our Write Off the World Show from London's Truman Brewery to Manhattan, where we'd taken over a whole chunk of Chelsea Market at about 5 weeks' notice; an unbelievable amount of space in an unbelievably central location for an unbelievably low cost. There is no way we'd get that space now, because a) it's been split up into lots of little eating parlours and b) the cost would be totally prohibitive to a two-man-band like us. But back in 2007, we had the whole space to ourselves, an apparently always-available-to-help site supervisor to pitch in with logistics, and a security guard who knew All The Right People. And we had determination in spades, together with helpers in the form of family and friends flown out for the occasion.
So, there were were; the show had had its raucous, whirlwind opening party with performances by Sage Francis and B.Dolan, Christine O'Keeffe Aptowicz, Taylor Mali and Shappy Seasholtz, the drinks table was halved, the freebies cracked into, the nibbles nibbled and the merch table had had a good going over. I'd already got a few clients in NYC, and had invited them along with Louisa St Pierre, who I'd known from AOI talks and from running Central Illustration - now overseeing Bernstein Andriulli. In she walked, a picture of poised curiosity, with the most elegant companion - an art editor at Vogue who had me glancing down anxiously at my bought-that-morning Forever21 dress - only to fight her way through a maze of hand-printed wallpaper covered in profanities, get shouted at by angry poets, and faced with artwork full of skulls, crying faces and lost orphans.
Amongst the raw energy and the politics, the sad stories and the reflections on death and humanity, she must have seen something she liked, for the next day I was in her office, chatting about plans, bags, Forever21 frocks, NY life and having an agent. I'd never had an agent before, having flown resolutely solo for 13 years, so I didn't say yes straight away - but by the time we left the city a week later, I had. I knew I was at the point where if I was to enjoy more work in the US, I needed someone to help facilitate that. Within a few months the folios were sorted, the postcards printed, and I was In The System.
I had joined the US's most prestigious illustration agency. A lot has changed in that time - trends and movements and fashions have continued their restless shift, agents have joined and departed, the company's moved premises, but I've blazed through a decade of work without seemingly taking a breath. From the initial green light to today, I've worked on a ceaseless parade of jobs from all corners of the USA and Canada, brought my book cover list up to over 400, and had the enormous privilege of working on projects which have seen us travel, make new friends and see the work appear in places we never thought it could.
I've hardly taken a pause for reflection, which has been both a good and a bad thing. The time has flown, and I've not once got to the end of the list - B&A are good at keeping the work coming. Many times I've described them as a 'weapons-grade' agency, because of their relentless pursuit of jobs, history of multi-pronged promotion and organisation. At times, juggling 15 jobs at once (my maximum so far) with as many art directors, it's felt like having 15 bosses in several time zones, overseen by the agents overseeing them, and that takes a lot of energy and administrative focus - you need to be horribly organised to deliver that many jobs in parallel without the wheels falling off. While 'side-projects' have continued apace, working that hard for this long has not come without sacrifice (TV, sleep, socialising, learning and playing have all been forsaken at various times), but I like the challenge.
I've been posting a few jobs on social media from the last 10 years of working with B&A, from the huge 72ft billboard in Times Square to the 3" black and white matchbook, the infamous Playboy cover and the classic novels, but there have been so many jobs in between I couldn't possibly post them all. I can only think of a single one which ended on what you could call a less than positive note - and even that wasn't terrible. I'm grateful and bewildered at the variety and pace of the work.
I don't know what the future of agency representation is, but I do know it will always be work, of the best and hardest kind. I'm staring into the future with curious, watchful eyes, and look forward to agency-style collaboration continuing, in whatever shape and form it may take.