Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 23, 2018

ASK CAT – Keeping Current

On the third Tuesday Christina or Christy Ewers Tugeau of the Cat Agency will answer questions and talk about things illustrators need to know to further their career. It could be a question about an illustration you are working on, too. Please email your questions to me and put ASK CAT in the subject box.


We  have a very good and I think often asked (or thought) question this month about HOW an artist keeps her/his work ‘current’ and fresh…. and related, do we as agents ‘spot’ any upcoming illustration trends?  

I discussed this with my daughter and new current owner of The CAT Agency Inc., Christy Tugeau Ewers too because she’s the one mostly doing the conferences and NYC client visits now….so SHE hears the latest about what is HOT and what is NOT. As I write this i fact she is presenting at the Oregon Fall Conference, so I put her on alert! However, we both agree on the general best answers for this question. Our ‘take’ might not be as definitive and simple as you want in an answer but it IS the truth and the constant in our industry, and I suspect most creative industries.

By the time one NOTICES a trend, it is probably on it’s way out. That IS simple. It’s not always true, as a trend can expand, alter and become a bigger deal (like the strong girl/woman movement perhaps, and gender concerns, or the freer, spontaneous line and color styles we see more now.) So if you notice an interest in a direction subtly, you can pick it up and take it new places. Keep in mind however that the books out NOW were finished 6 months or a year or more before. With a new book you are likely going to work on, and then sell, and then get painted, it’ll be another year at least.  The tide has long gone out probably. Editors are always looking for the next trend…trying to START it. Our suggestion is the same as I’ve believed throughout my 25+ years in the industry… what YOU want to do and feel passionately about.  Be a Trendsetter! DO go to bookstores and study what is being done trendwise. Do see if any trends are an  interest of yours and you can bring something unique to this trend (subject, style, approach etc.). But do NOT RACE AFTER TRENDS! It’s near impossible to catch them.  I personally find ‘chasing’ leads to overkill of the subject, style, approach etc…… we tire of it!  Too many books using it.  Trend setting is much better. Keep in mind a style or idea of yours that wasn’t big earlier might just hit the mark later…. keep YOUR ideas live and growing.

Now, as to what we tell our artists to keep their styles current…. is the same we’d tell any artist. Again, PLAY! and try new things.  Again, go to the bookstore and conferences and study what is there….what is selling.

Look for repeat styles that seem to be ‘hot’…notice the trends…then play with them. This isn’t ‘chasing the trends’ so much as opening yourself to play and discovery, Trying new things to alter your work…staying yourself but freshening the look. We encourage this even when a style has been popular and selling for decades! maybe more then! The long term trend can move away some from ‘saturated’ painting styles, or too ‘static’ a line style, or too flat digital look, and can take an artist OUT of the selling market. I’ve seen it happen time and time again. This doesn’t mean the artist isn’t ‘any good any more.’ It means the market has changed and they are not sellable just now. We see it coming and will encourage a change….a lightening up of color and background; a variance of line weight; a spontaneity and feel of movement and action in compositions perhaps. These are all ‘hot looks’ just now. It’s great because it’s FUN!

We particularly love it when the artists we’ve represented for a long time experiment with new looks on their own. Often they worry that buyers will react badly to this change…. but we don’t give up the older look! We just add on the newer. We’ll show it separately on our site after the more well known style maybe. (you might notice this – look at the wonderful work of our Melissa Iwai!) This shows buyers that it’s a NEW look. It might be for them or not. But it shows the artist is trying to stay current and fresh. You don’t want TOO many looks on your site….and only after you have established yourself with a certain look. I find even quite different looks…like more ‘realistic’ approach after being stylized…. will still ‘look like the artist.’  Artists have a way of seeing, of working, that even with different mediums and styles will shine through.

Not all our artists over time have been able to change with the times…not all have needed to! But if the artist loses the ‘salability’ that an agency relies on and can’t change enough to stay current, we have had to part ways.This is ALWAYS hard as we get quite close to our artists. But they also understand the market and the need for an agency to stay current and finding work for their artists. Often this will encourage changes for them that HELP them in the long run too. We can’t take on NEW artists if we don’t make room.

We need NEW as well to keep the interest of our publishing buyers. It’s a business. an independent artist need to always remember that as well…. it’s a business. If your style isn’t selling then study, look, change, and find one that will! As illustrators you are creating for a buyer, not yourselves alone. But again I recommend you do what YOU want to do and then find a way to make it sellable. I do hope some of this has been helpful. It’s a tough question to pinpoint…always shifting! But LOOK at what is current always, PLAY and be YOURSELF. Have FUN!

Christina Tugeau
The CAT Agency Inc.

Thank you Chris for another great article. I am getting out my sketch pad to do some blind contour drawings. 

Please help keep this column going by sending in your questions.


Hope this illustration by Anait Semirdzhyan will inspire everyone to send in a question to Chris and Christy. Anait was just featured this past Saturday on Illustrator Saturday. Click her name to take a look if you missed it.

Send your questions to kathy(dot) and put ASK CAT in the Subject Area.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. love Anait little friend here…… LOL and DO send in those questions if you wish this ASK CAT feature to continue. I might run out of ideas!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As always—fanTASTic, wise advice. THANK you Christine and Christy 🙂


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