New illustration agency targets artists from under-represented backgrounds

New illustration agency targets artists from under-represented backgrounds

Ellen Simmons, a former bookseller at Foyles, has launched an illustration agency for artists from under-represented backgrounds.

Simmons said she set up Illo Agency, which is based in London, because “representation within illustration needs to change”. “We are really pushing to represent a range of artwork by under-represented artists in order to tell their stories across mainstream media. Our agents are constantly on the lookout for fresh, authentic talent emerging from new voices.”

The agency already has 42 clients on its books, including Brooklyn-based artist Diana Scoenbrun and Ndumiso Nyoni, who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and its clients work in publishing, advertising and gaming.

“We are not exclusively one type of agency. We are more of an artistic community where an illustration style for every need can be found,” said Simmons, who was keen to stress that diversity should be normalised, not a “checkbox requirement”.

“We want to say goodbye to ‘diversity’, and hello to inclusivity,” she said. “Change needs to come in the form of commissioning culturally inclusive artwork across all mainstream media.”

Simmons currently has two junior agents working with her and the team is going to Frankfurt to meet publishers. “We are hoping to meet some like-minded clients that also want to see a change in the face of mainstream media. The best way for supporting this type of illustration is by commissioning it.”