Dave Tabler, USA, management of illustration site

October 1rst, 2008

Partfaliaz interview Dave Tabler

Dave Tabler is the man running Theispot, one of the three major illustration Internet sites. Theispot is a high-profile portfolio tool attracting lots of art buyers every month. A place where artists may display or license their work for re-use in the Stock section.

All rights protected.


Can you introduce yourself and the ispot and tell us how long have you been in the business ?
Theispot posted its first portfolio in December of 1996. There was very little online competition the first several years, as most directories were in book form. The site now hosts assignment Portfolios for approximately 1,000 illustrators worldwide, as well as rights-managed Stock collections made up of over 20,000 images.

Theispot is a stock agency, would it be right to say the search engine is a major key of the site ? How does that work ? I guess it is frequently up-loaded ?
As noted above, Theispot does much more than sell stock; the Portfolio section, which is artist direct, generates fresh assignment work for our subscribers- an 18-image Portfolio costs $650 per year. And yes, good search IS the heart of what makes the site work so well. Both sections are completely searchable via artist’s name or keywords selected by the illustrators themselves. Follow-up guidance is provided by theispot to ensure that image presentation and keywording are on target for maximum efficacy and return on investment. We encourage artists to update their Portfolios with new work regularly to attract new clients and keep the old ones interested.

I think it’s important to state that the Theispot stock area does not use a traditional stock agency model. Simple editorial uses are licensed through an on-site pricing calculator and payment system. More complex licenses are negotiated individually based on specific usage. The artists are consulted on pricing and details; all contracts, invoicing, payment retrieval and image delivery are handled by theispot. The idea is to maintain a venue where illustrators’ archives continue to generate income in a way that supports their assignment pricing and careers.

Illustrators are encouraged to build deep Stock collections over time whenever they have work to add, paying a one-time fee of $15 per image to upload, including high resolution archive for delivery to clients. On the anniversary date, the entire collection is renewed for a flat rate of $250 for the year. Artists keep 75% of license fees paid for their images


The Portfolio section

What are the main changes you had to deal with during last ten years as a leading site in the illustration market ?
When we started the site, art directors relied much more heavily on traditional print sourcebooks to find illustration. That’s completely changed! Today’s art directors grew up with the web and are entirely at home searching online. There’s nothing mysterious or odd about it, as there once was, and it is a far more efficient and up to date method of finding and contacting the right illustrator than any print venue could possibly be.

The market for illustration is much more global than when we started. Because of email, PDFs & JPGs, art directors are able (and willing) to work with artists wherever the artist is based. We began as an American site with American artists, hired by American art directors. Now the site has artists from 26 countries and thousands of design professionals come in from all corners of the globe each month to find them.

How many portfolios are you presenting this year ? Is there an important artist turnover ?
The site has remained very stable with about 1,000 artist portfolios for the last five years. We track turnover very carefully, as that tells us if we’re running the site correctly or not, and the renewal rate for that same five year period has averaged 76% per month. The result is that Theispot is made up of industry heavyweights with the staying power to be in the business for years, as well as a healthy mix of exciting new artists. The Stock part of the site has expanded steadily to more than 20,000 images, as our clients grow their collections and new artists sign on.


The Stock section

Do you work mostly with the news, advertising or book industry? And are you also in business with illustrator representatives?
Because we’re a general illustration site, we cover all three of those markets, and many more, quite comfortably. We’ve always supported theispot with dozens of ad pages in prominent design magazines such as Print, Communication Arts and Eye; the result is a broad base of site users from all different industries. Our subscribers are often thrilled to find themselves working in industries that they never thought to approach on their own- it’s our job to make that connection.

As to illustrator representatives, 61 rep firms currently show some or all their artists on the site. Theispot itself does not represent any artist or artists on the site, as that would be an obvious conflict of interest. Rather, we are a valuable promotion tool for reps to employ.

What about style? Do you sometime refuse registrations because of inappropriate style or give artists advices about style?
Both. One of the reasons we haven’t automated sign-up to Theispot is so that we’re able to maintain quality control on the site. While we very much seek to encourage emerging artists, we don’t want theispot to become a haven for students or hobbyists; an overly automated sign-up opens up the site too much to those groups. Theispot is a highly regarded business-to-business venue and part of our job is maintaining that level of professionalism. Once an artist is on the site, we rarely ask them to remove specific portfolio pieces unless we feel strongly that their presentation would benefit from the editing.

The “art talk” is a forum but with not much replies, why not a “public voice” to make it more interactive?
All chat forums are a product of their participants. When we first debuted Art Talk 10+ years ago, it was one of very few places that illustrators could gather to compare notes and discuss the industry together. It was lively, argumentative (and sometimes out of control!) but it was never part of the “business end” of theispot. It was more of a gift to the illustration industry at a time when communication was desperately needed. The growth of the internet now allows people to form their own tighter, smaller communities. Art Talk has evolved into more of a showcase for subscribers’ work, although the chat capability is still there and it may well change further at the will of its users.

Any projects for the future ?
Always! I promise to keep you updated as we roll them out.