The SAA are very pleased to be supporting the World Illustration Awards by sponsoring The SAA Agents Award for New Talent.

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners: Shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards

The Spy Who Loved School Dinners, written by Pamela Butchart and illustrated by the very talented Thomas Flintham has deservedly been shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Awards 2015. Tom's illustrations complement Pamela's hilarious prose perfectly, so much so that another title in the series, Baby Aliens Got My Teacher, has also been shortlisted for the Red House Children's Book Award 2015. Good luck to both.

Thomas Flintham is represented by Arena



The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Our cinema tickets are booked for the long awaited, third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which is released in cinemas this month. John Howe has worked in New Zealand for over 5 years as concept artist on Peter Jackson's epic film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy adventure story, The Hobbit. Alongside Alan Lee, he has played a pivotal role in the creation of the characters and environments from pre-production all the way through to post-production, learning new techniques along the way.

As John returns to his studio in Switzerland, we're also looking forward to exploring behind the scenes in The Appendices of the recently released Extended Edition DVD of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

John Howe is represented by Arena

RHOSGOBEL2 copy.jpg

Mountwood School for Ghosts cover illustration by Alex T Smith


Toby Ibbotson is the son of award-winning author Eva Ibbotson and Mountwood School for Ghosts is his debut novel about ghosts going to school to learn a thing or two about being scary. The story is based on an idea conceived with Eva, and planned out in detail by the two of them before her death. Alex T Smith was delighted to be commissioned by Macmillan to illustrate this cover along with the reissues of four of Eva's well known children's novels: Which Witch, The Secret of Platform 13, Monster Mission and The Beasts of Clawstone Castle.


Alex T Smith is represented by Arena


World War One illustrated by Frances Castle


This month we have commemorated armistice day and this year is one hundred years since the outbreak of World War One. Frances Castle was commissioned by the BBC to illustrate a series of images to demonstrate to school children, what life was like in Britain during the Great War for the BBC Primary History website. She covered subjects such as the causes of the war, a typical school day and how developments in technology, communications and weapons during the war, changed the way it was fought.

Frances Castle is represented by Arena


Levi Pinfold’s Black Dog: Children’s Book Winner, AOI Illustration Awards 2013

Congratulations to Levi Pinfold whose stunning picture book, Black Dog, has won the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal 2013.

The judges describe the book as ‘A visual treat, full of mood and atmosphere, the beautiful illustrations are full of detail and perfectly in keeping with the story … A timeless, thought-provoking book about facing up to anxiety, fears, and the black dog that visits some of us from time-to-time.’
Black Dog has also won first prize in the Children's Book Category in the year's AOI Illustration Awards AND the picture books category in the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards 2013.
Levi Pinfold is represented by Arena

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

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

January 2023

Join the Society of Artist’s agents

but before you do, please read our criteria for joining here