Mela Bolinao has spent more than a third of her lifetime as an artist's rep! And since she looks as fresh as a daisy, that must be less than five years or so.
Mela had been a pre-med major before switching to fine art and then after attending her first SCBWI event, she was amazed that children’s book illustration was something people could do for a living and she wanted to be a party in the process. She currently represents about 60 artists, finding them work in the juvenile illustration world primarily in the categories of trade publishing, textbook, stationary, games, editorial and advertising.
What's great about our business of kid's illustration as opposed to adult editorial or advertising? There is still a need for illustration in the world because we provide something unique and special, and how incredible and inspiring to work with and for children.
Mela delves into the artist/rep relationship:
“Having an agent is basically the same thing as getting married, you are there for the good, the bad, the frustration, the depression, for all of it.”
First thing Mela must have for a good client/agent relationship: open communication.
She wants to know all of her clients’ strengths and weaknesses, "the illustrator must tell the agent what they want, don’t let your agent mold you without your input."
How can you improve and grow? Know your favorite illustrators, those at the top of their game and figure out why you love them and how you can capture some of their moxie...
OR if you want my advice (not sanctioned by Mela):
Dig a really big pit/camouflage it with leaves/set out some tempting bait on top so you can capture these star illustrators, thus removing the competition? (F Your I: both Marla Frazee and David Wiesner are suckers for CHEEZ-ITs).
Be open to critique from someone (OTHER THAN YOUR MOM) who can make your work better, like your agent, a critique group, or conference critiques (like we have at the summer conference!).
Mela sees part of her job as growing her illustrators’ talents, she loves to see new samples from her artists, she loves it when her clients meet deadlines. Mela shares some of her clients’ work. MB produces a lovely, full-color themed catalog of featuring her artists (like the AWESOME JANNIE HO), everyone gets a page, and she sends these out every three months or so.
Final words from this workshop give you a good sense of what it would be like to work with Mela:
“I’m your protector! I may be very small, but I can be really tough sometimes.”