Ed Balcourt, 2010
Ed Balcourt Artist and Artist Representative by Gary Lovisi Ed Balcourt is a living legend in the illustration field, both as an artist and as an artist’s representative. In a long career which encompassed over four decades, Balcourt represented most of the big-name illustrators. While the list of artists he represented is a veritable who’s who in illustration, the list of paperbacks, magazines, and movie posters he or his various artists worked on over the years numbers over 4,000. Today, at 88 years of age, Ed is retired—but he still paints, and he is a fountain of information about the golden days of the illustration business. Balcourt was a major force during the hey-day of the paperbacks, magazines, and movie posters, and it’s hard to overestimate the effect that many of his innovations had on the illustration industry. As an artist himself, Ed understood the unique challenges faced by the working freelancer. He was on the artist’s side, and he worked hard to create a better environment for everyone he represented. Because he maintained a high volume of work through his studio, Ed could afford to take a lower commission from his artists—25% instead of the usual 40%. This lower commission soon became an industry standard, and helped every illustrator in the field to earn more money across the board. Balcourt organized the use of a Group Health Insurance Plan for his artists—and he even kept artists on the plan after they left his studio. Ed was instrumental in getting the publishers to return original artwork, and in selling first rights only—so that his artists would be compensated again if their art was reused on another cover. 36 Illustration
On the publishing side, Ed pushed for the use of offset printing instead of the more expensive and time consuming lithography that was generally used on paperback covers of the time. The move to offset saved the publishers valuable time and millions of dollars. Innovations like these helped the artists earn more money, secured their rights, and enabled them to focus less on the business side and more on creating the great work we all enjoy so much today. Ed talks about all of this and more in the following article, compiled from interviews conducted between March and May, 2010.
Ed Balcourt was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1922. As far back as he can remember he was always interested in art. As a child he garnered praise from school teachers for his early drawings, and he says that really encouraged his love of art. At about 12 years of age, Ed realized there was a lot more to art, and began to look at it more seriously. Years later he went to a medical college to become a pharmacist, and with urgings from his father, continued his schooling with the aim of becoming a doctor. Ed remembers looking into a microscope and drawing what he saw there. “The teacher would come over to me and say, ‘Oh, look what Mr. Balcourt did. This is the way it should look.’ Then described it in medical terms. The teacher said I should be a medical artist. So I told my father what the teacher said and he said that’s not good because in the future they’ll be using photographs. He was right. Many years later, when I told my
A story on artist and artists representative Ed Balcourt, from Illustration Magazine #32.