In conversation with Christine Isteed, MD at Artist Partners

This month we are quizzing Christine Isteed from agency Artist Partners about her career as an agent in one of the most established agency in the UK


Please give a short summary of your company history and provide a bit of information about yourself and how you got into the business?


Artist Partners was founded in 1951- by Donovan Candler, John Barker, Arthur Rix, Betty Luton White and Reginald Mount who was the artistic director of the company.

The office was in a stylish Georgian building in Mayfair - Representing British and Internationally famous artists and designers and photographers such as :

Saul Bass, George Him, Patrick Tilley, Tom Eckersley, Herbert Leupin, Savignac Topolski, Heinz Kurth and many other artists .AP also had a very strong group of fashion illustrators like Aubrey Rix, Beryl Hartland, Alistair Michie, and figurative artists Susan Einzeg and Harry Hants, Ken Wynn and Ben Ostrick who worked across all fields of publishing and advertising. Later to represent photographers too Zoltan Glass and Adrian Flowers just to name a few. All their work shows very much the valued quality and heritage of illustration.

This was an excellent era for creative people as post war markets had expanded and their skills were being recognised and creative talents were appreciated as tools to advance the economy. Many of the AP artists were being used in the 1951 Festival of Britain on the South Bank near to AP’s new home in Waterloo.


Brian Sanders illustration for Woman’s Magazine 1960’s

Later in the swinging 60’s AP moved to Soho where things were always done in style, drinks parties every Friday with clients and artists , and commissions consolidated at the Studio Club later in the evening.

It was as close to the TV series “ Mad Men “ in décor and ambiance and culture as you could get.

Brian Sanders (Sandy)  has always been an integral part of Artist Partners from the early days. When he was a runner and assistant to the photographer Adrian Flowers, Sandy also learnt a great deal from the artists around him. He became a highly respected illustrator in his own right, as well as a director of the company. He was also very integral in the early formation of the AOI and acted as an external assessor at various colleges.

Sandy was the representative of Artist’s on the board, and looked after the artists interests. At that time AP had artists working on the premises, artists from all over the world, all wanting to be part of this dynamic agency and renting desk space within!

Illustrators were the new rock stars in those days , driving around in sports cars and very seriously aspirational. I joined AP in the 70’s as a young girl friday and all rounder, it was supposed to be a temporary job before I was to enter Fashion College. I was dressed head to toe in Biba and without a clue of how prestigious the agency Artist Partners was , and how vibrant and strong illustration was at that time….. For more information about this time and the artists represented by AP please go to our history page at the AP site…..

Since those early days I have worked as a director at AP with Virgil Pomfret, Chris Candler, Tommy Candler and Dom Rodi – until I became MD some 12 years ago…


David Roberts illustration taken from his illustrated edition of The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Graham and published by Oxford University Press


How would you describe your day-to-day role as an illustrators’ agent?

Gosh! where do I start ? Every day is different, servicing enquiries from clients, answering email queries, going through briefs and sourcing models and costumes for some artists. Social networking has to be posted with news, events etc, images to the websites to be updated. Contracts to be negotiated, orders to be perused, and paperwork and jobs to be inputted for each commission. Second rights which is a big part of our business as we do a substantial amount of publishing work, both children’s picture books and adult fiction, takes up a good deal of time licencing images to foreign publishers.

I am always researching for new clients, new niches in the marketplace to be aware of any advertising agencies, publishers and other client sources . Regular clients make up a good deal of our work, its nice to have repeat business so everyone gets used to dealing and working with one another. I used to be able to service my regular clients by personally visiting them on a regular basis with job specific folios or a general updates, but that doesn’t happen as much now due to time restraints on the commissioners. It’s a shame for our business which was so social, that we have lost the personal touch .

Our accounts system is efficient, I have a book keeper who keeps everything ship shape, and manages the invoices, the chasing of the monies owed, and general admin specifically in the accounts area of the business. The artists get paid as promptly as possible and they have total transparency of our system and invoicing. What we try to do is take those headaches away from the illustrators, so they are able to concentrate on the creative process.


Illustration by Sophie Tilley – her new character Nanette for a series of books to be published by Bloomsbury Books


What are the commercial advantages for artists represented by your agency?

EXPERIENCE OF FORTY YEARS IN THE BUSINESS , giving as much time as I can to each and every artist, guiding them in their careers, and setting them sample piece briefs in order to widen their talents into specific niche areas of the business. Pushing the elements of their work that is unique to themselves, and giving them the confidence to own their very own style, keeping it fresh.

Informing artists of any changes in our business, affording them the knowledge of new quirks or trends they should be aware of…. Promotion and advertising with minimal expenditure, representation in the US , and we are looking actively to broaden our exposure in other territories too. Watch this space……


Front cover illustration by David Frankland – Penguin Books


What other benefits can an artist gain from being represented by you?

I try and take the pressure away from the artist and negotiate contracts, rights and usages to the best advantage of the artists we represent. I am constantly trying to improve fees, rights and the general working practice.

We are a small agency that runs things in a personal and friendly way, always trying to secure prestigious jobs, and giving the artists as much mentoring and guidance as possible.


Advertising for Playstation “God of War” by Steve Stone


What are the benefits of networking within the wider artistic community?

I think it's all about knowledge. The more you know the more prepared you are for most eventualities. Working together to make the Illustration industry a better place is good for all concerned. Avoiding bad contracts, and being aware of problems with clients is always helpful to know. Artist Partners are a particularly social agency, we do like to get involved where possible with the AOI and the SAA and other associations, and especially art colleges, where we like to help in any way we can.


Painting : Christina by Sharon Pinsker


How do you help your artists to recognise their market and help them adapt to new ones?

I try and work hand in hand with young artists to give them the courage to try new subjects, techniques etc. You have to understand each artist has a different way of working, the style and personality of the artist, the time it takes them to produce work, his or her strengths, in order to find a market place that is suitable . For the more established artists, it's finding them commissions perhaps in a new field or genre and exposing their work in other markets. Knowing what they enjoy doing most and trying to blend the two together. When an artist then unknown came to me with a fashion portfolio I immediately told him I wanted to see his work illustrating children’s books – since that day he’s never looked back and he has been continually busy since then and is now one of the world's leading illustrators.


Book cover : “Daylight War” UK edition published by Harper Collins – cover digital image by Larry Rostant


What do you consider is the main role and responsibilities of the illustrators you represent to help you to build their career?

It has to be a two way relationship. The illustrator should obviously be pro- active and create as much new work as possible. Producing new samples and constantly pushing the boundaries in order to divert into other genres of illustration is very important. The artist should be excited about what they are doing and enquire about new processes and programmes digitally, or experimente in traditional painting in different styles. It’s a constant learning process and the more the artists learn in this digital age the better equipped they will be.


Front cover illustration for book entitled: “Enders” published by Random Children’s Books Cover image by Bob Lea .


What advice would you give to an illustrator looking for an agent?

For any Artist Partners submissions I ask the artists to send approximately 6 printed images, representational of his/her work with a SAE by post. I am happy to see folios of work once I have seen the samples, I feel we, as agents are best placed to give a good critic of artists work which artists find beneficial.

It is important that the Agent you eventually decide to represent you, truly understands you, your ethos and more importantly your work! It needs to be someone who you can totally trust, and work with as a team to achieve your goals. To respect and like one another is essential, it’s a tough business, and you need to share a close loyalty and bond between you in what should be a very special relationship.


New Artist : Shobhna Patel - Packaging Designer and Papercutter


Next month The Art Market

Arena in conversation


This month we are talking to Caroline Thomson, Director at Arena Illustration Agency about her role as an agent, social networking and what newcomers should be aware of when looking for representation.

Please give a short summary of your company history and provide a bit of information about yourself and how you got into the business?

Originally called Young Artists, we were founded over 40 years ago by John Spencer. The agency flourished under the care and expertise of Alison Eldred throughout the 70’s and 80’s, evolving into Arena in the 90’s. Alison handed over the reigns to Tamlyn Francis in 2000 and I became a co-director in 2005. I studied Graphic Design and Illustration at Norwich School of Art and did a Masters in Illustration at the University of Brighton. I freelanced as an illustrator for 10 years, Arena represented me during that time and then I joined the team as a rep in 2001. We have carried on the tradition that has made Arena one of the most respected boutique illustration agencies in the UK. We now represent 32 very talented illustrators, many of whom are also authors.


How would you describe your day-to-day role as an illustrators’ agent?

My day can be very varied which makes my job so interesting. It’s important that I understand how each of my artist’s work so I can schedule their time effectively. We have a hands-on approach at Arena and are very involved throughout the job, so some of my day is spent going over a brief with an illustrator or contacting clients, for feedback on roughs, quoting on new jobs, negotiating amendment fees or new contracts.

We take general portfolios out to show our clients. These showcase a selection of our illustrator’s recent work; pertinent to the client we’re seeing. We always tailor every portfolio, including individual artist’s portfolios to suit each publishing, design or advertising client. We also email PDF portfolios to clients who may not have time to see us personally

The website is often the first port of call for our clients, so I spend time writing various blog posts, updating news about our artists and updating their online portfolios. We also use social networking to great effect, spreading news as it breaks

Of course, it’s also important that we invoice regularly, so that our artists can get paid quickly.


What are the commercial advantages for artists represented by your agency?

One of the huge advantages of being represented by Arena is that we have a very wide client base to introduce an illustrator to. Our website and promotional avenues can give an illustrator great exposure in the market place. We tend to advertise in a variety of places, and we send out smaller, one off promotions targeted at specific clients on our database. We obtain higher fees for our artists, thanks to many years of collective experience in quoting on a day-to-day basis.


What other benefits can an artist gain from being represented by you?

An illustrator can get on with creating, whilst we get on with business of promoting them, sorting out the brief, negotiating fees, contracts and invoicing for the jobs on their behalf. Contracts can be a minefield and again, it is our experience of seeing many that helps and enables us to negotiate better advances and rights.

We feel we have a reputation to look after, so when we take on an artist it’s important that they share our sensibilities and want us to help them build a career, we’re there to listen to them and understand the goals they want to achieve.


What are the benefits of networking within the wider artistic community?

We liaise closely with other SAA member agents on a regular basis which gives us a wider network of fellow industry peers, with similar ethics who are willing to give advice, support and share important information. The SAA have a representative on the Pro-Action committee, which was established to improve the rights of artists, it petitions companies with questionable business practices and contracts.

We have close links with various Universities, giving their students an insight into what we do and the commercial world of illustration.

We’re also members of the AOI and offer advice to their members and involve our artists in many of their events and competitions.

We take advantage of Social Networking, which has opened up new avenues for us within the wider artistic community.


How do you help your artists to recognise their market and help them adapt to new ones?

Knowing your illustrator’s market and adapting to new markets is very important in this technological age so we try to understand their strengths and weaknesses and help them develop their work throughout their career. We pass on any feedback we receive from our clients to our artists, advising them about possible directions to experiment with when they are producing new samples. We also encourage our artists to participate in events, talks and other socially aware activities to broaden their knowledge of the industry and engage them with their peers.


What do you consider is the main role and responsibilities of the illustrators you represent to help you to build their career?

Like all relationships, the one between an illustrator and their agent needs input from both sides. It’s a partnership that with nurturing will hopefully last many years. We like to be updated regularly with an artist’s latest speculative samples. Personal work can really feed into an illustrator’s commercial work; we actively encourage it and think it’s essential to an artist’s career. An artist must be able to develop and progress their visual language and it’s our job to help them do that.We insist that our artists are punctual with deadlines, organised and industrious, we both have a reputation to maintain. The reality is that a lot of commissions can expand and be delayed, so we also have to be flexible. We have to schedule an artist’s work time, so we need them to keep us up-to-date with any holidays, teaching, family responsibilities or part-time work they have arranged.


What advice would you give to an illustrator looking for an agent?

The illustration world is highly competitive, there are more illustrators coming out of University every year with the expectation of getting commissions. Those that succeed have to be very single minded and tenacious irrespective of whether they are seeking representation or not.

Choosing the right agent is a good start, many specialise or have strengths in certain markets, and so a freelance illustrator must do their homework before choosing an agent to approach. They need to understand the market their work fits into and find an agency that serves the same market. It’s vital to get along well with the agent as they will often be an illustrator’s support, quality control, sounding board and often their agony aunt – all rolled into one. It’s important to take time to decide on a suitable agency and not to rush into an agreement that you may not understand. An agent should be able to answer all questions with transparency; this is a relationship that must be based on trust.

Agents get so many samples sent to them, so an illustrator will need to present their work with professionalism. It sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you how many samples I’ve opened that are poor quality copies with no covering letter and no contact details. Most agents have some indication on their websites as to how they accept submissions, and who to send them to. Always follow these guidelines. If they’re sending work by email, ensure that they send low-resolution jpegs only, so they don’t fill up an agents inbox.

From our point of view, we’re not looking for a “jack of all trades”, but someone with an original visual language who stands out from the crowd. We prefer to take on new illustrators whose style doesn’t clash with anyone else on our list as we feel that it would be a conflict of interests.

Approach agents who belong to The Society of Artists Agents, a member run, trade organisation with the broad aim to promote the use of illustration and to unify and improve the working practices between illustrators, agents and clients.

mm n128

Next month, Artists Partners

Lizzie Mary Cullen scoops the AOI Gold Design Award

One of the "design industry’s young leading lights" (Design Week 2011) Lizzie Mary Cullen continues her trail of awesomeness by scooping the Gold Design Award from the Association of Illustrators (AOI) exhibition,
The winning piece is called ‘Lightwells at Somerset House’ and is a piece commissioned by Somerset House for the launch of their new venue last
Lizzie Mary Cullen is represented by Phosphor Art

StoryWorlds Exhibition

Tomislav Tomic and Philip Hood have also some beautiful artwork for Templar's 'StoryWorld' series. For the first time their work will be showcased alongside the other contributors to the series including Matilda Harrison's illustrations, at The Illustration Cupboard's Summer Show. Running from Tuesday 17th August to Saturday 11th September, the show offers both fans and newcomers the opportunity to explore the ornate and detailed artwork from this series.

Philip Hood and Tomislav Tomic are represented by Arena

Arena presents: Jonny Duddle’s “The Pirate Cruncher”

Arena is proud to announce the publication of Jonny Duddle’s first picture book, The Pirate Cruncher (Templar). Singled out as “a great swashbuckling adventure from a great new talent” in the Bookseller’s Autumn Highlights, this treasure is not to be missed.

Open Jonny's portfolio here

The launch of the book will also be the central theme of Arena’s Pirate Party, being held on Saturday 17th October. This one-day event is part of the annual Big Draw Campaign “to get everyone drawing”. As well as talking about his inspiration for the book, Jonny will be joined by actors to read the story aloud and lead a drawing workshop.

The Big Draw event will include, book signings by four of Arena’s illustrators, a workshop on “How to draw a Pirate ” by Matthew Buckingham and a demonstration on illustrating sea monsters by Adam Stower. Ongoing acitivies will range from pirate caracatures, doodling eye patches and a collaborative Under the Sea Mural.

All visitors will receive pirate goodie bags with the essentials to make their own pirate picture book and treasure map.

Local Stratford charity, Discover (a children’s story-making centre) will host the day in their Pirate Ahoy! interactive exhibition with treasure chests, a huge pirate ship, and a dead man’s cave.

To join Arena's children's book illustrators for an exciting pirate adventure contact Racheal Brasier at Discover, 020 8536 5555, or Justine Alltimes at Arena, 0845 050 7600.

jony duddle big

Artist Partners – Free Running Ad

Free Running Ad and poster image

image produced by John Harwood represented by Artist Partners
Art Direction – Mark Reddy – Adam Tucker
Agency BBH

Brief to produce image to publicise the Barclaycard World Freerun Championship being held in London in August.

The Creative Director at BBH Mark Reddy, commissioned an image by 3D artist John Harwood to produce an image of the highest calibre that would depict icons of London ranging from a sofa to a building in construction which also illustrates the ethos of the sport
– an image depicting the art of freerunning as an innovative sport.

Free running is a form of urban acrobatics in which participants, known as free runners, use the city and rural landscape to perform movements through its structures. It incorporates efficient movements from parkour, adds aesthetic vaults and other acrobatics, such as tricking and street stunts, creating an athletic and aesthetically pleasing way of moving. It is commonly practiced at gymnasiums and in urban areas that are cluttered with obstacle

see more artists from Artist Partners here


July 2018
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