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10th July 2018

An interview with illustrator Joe Lillington

Joe Lillington has been represented by Arena Illustration for two years and in that time has emerged as a go-to illustrator for historical non-fiction publications for children.

The influence of Medieval manuscripts on Joe’s recent work is evident in the detail and depiction of figures and landscapes, often drawing reference from the work of Pieter Bruegel who’s work he greatly admires, Joe’s illustrative style has equally been shaped by his childhood love of the Asterix graphic novels by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo which first triggered his love for history, characterisation and strong narrative.

His forthcoming book Ancient Warriors created in collaboration with Iris Volant and published by Flying Eye Books hits the shelves on the 7th August. We took some time out to get a creative insight in to the way in which Joe works and where he finds inspiration.



Joe Lillington NEW



Ancient Warriors Illustrated by Joe Lillington




ARENA: Your work heavily references periods in ancient history, accurately recreating environments, fashions, weaponry and scenes from everyday life, how important is reference development work for non-fiction books? And do you spend time visiting museums and galleries sketching?

JOE: Reference is definitely very important when working on non fiction because you are always aiming the be as accurate with what you are depicting as you can. However it is time consuming and with some facts are still debated so it can be tricky to get things right, also, depending on the project, you only have a certain amount of time to spend of research so you just have to do as much as you can.

I try to draw a lot from museums and I do take a lot of photos, but it can be hard to find the exact reference you need and again, with time restrictions, books and the internet are also a really useful resource.


ARENA: Is there a particular period in history which you are particularly drawn to and why?

JOE: I find the early medieval period interesting because you’ve got the end of the Roman Empire and then the beginning of the Middle Ages. With the fading Roman influence and lots of smaller Kingdoms, I think that it’s a fun time to set adventures and can lend itself to a lot of atmospheric settings.

ARENA: Are there any periods in history which you think would make an amazing children’s book but which hasn’t been fully explored yet?

JOE: I think something pre history where modern humans and Neanderthals were around at the same time would be really interesting but difficult as there’s not a lot of concrete information about what it was like!

ARENA: Tell us a bit about your daily work routine and do you have any tips for how newly graduated illustrators can utilise social media platforms to promote their work?

JOE: I start with emails and checking what work I want to get finished that day. Then do a few hours work, when I feel I need to take a break then I take the dog for walk, then usually work through afternoon and sometimes evening until I’ve got what I needed to done. I also aim to do a little social media everyday but I don’t always manage!
ARENA: Tell us about your proudest career moment so far?

JOE: I feel proud of my new book Ancient Warriors because it is definitely the longest and biggest project I’ve done so far. It took a lot of work over many months to complete so it’s really nice to have it finished and produced so beautifully by Flying Eye.

ARENA: Ancient Warriors publishes with Flying Eye Books in August featuring famous battles, weapons and great leaders from various periods in history, Was is there a spread which you are particularly proud of and perhaps one which you found tricky to get just right?

JOE: The Shaolin monks spread is my favourite. I’m really pleased with the two central figures and I think the surrounding composition also works well showing the battle and setting the scene. I think this time period in China is really exciting visually so it was a fun one to work on. This spread also went through a couple of different colour versions and so it’s satisfying seeing it finally finished and in print!


ARENA: Tell us about three illustrators you follow on Instagram that we should keep an eye out for?

JOE: I really love the work of Linnea Sterte whose recent book Stages of Rot was beautiful. I like Alexis Deacon’s Instagram because his work is great and he also posts sketches and works in progress which I love to see as they help you understand his way of working and thought processes. I’m also a big fan of Sam Bosma’s work and books and again he posts works in progress to Instagram which are really interesting.

ARENA: What was the best piece of advice you were given as an illustration student and what useful piece of advice would you give new graduates?

JOE: I remember someone saying to try and have five or six different ideas for projects or stories at different stages of development on the go at the same time. That way, you can dip in and out of each, depending on what you are doing with other work at the time. I think that that many is something great to aim for. It’s good to be developing your own projects as you never know what opportunities might arise for different things at any time.

My advice would echo that and also just to keep drawing a lot because even after a day or two not drawing you can feel out of practice. Just by doodling and sketching you will generate the ideas you want to develop.

View Joe Lillington’s updated portfolio HERE, For creative insights and sneak peeks follow Joe on Instagram HERE and pre-order a copy of Ancient Warriors HERE 




3rd July 2018

Frances Castle Journeys of Discovery

Spot the Mistake Journeys of Discovery created by Amanda Wood, Mike Jolley and illustrated by Frances Castle publishes with Wide Eyed Editions on 5th July.

This lavish, generously proportioned hardback provides readers with an immersive, puzzle solving experience with a variety of red herrings, misplaced props and out of context objects cleverly hidden within each spread.

Frances created her striking scenes using an iPad Pro in a vivid pallet of colours showcasing periods in history including Marco Polo’s journey to the East, Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark exploring America and Aldrin and Armstrong’s voyage to the stars amongst a number of other landmark historical moments.

Journeys of Discovery Cover


Each of the 10 puzzle spreads is followed by a page revealing the hidden mistakes and exploring the fascinating historical facts relating to that period in history.  There are also 10 sneaky mistakes hidden on the front cover including a rather fancy looking poodle and a snazzy baseball cap.

This book and its partner in the series Lands of Long Ago bring history to life in an engaging and visually distinctive way, readers will re-visit this book over and over again, perfect for budding detectives and youngsters hungry for knowledge.

Here is a small selection of some of our favourite spreads from the book and also a sneak peek at Frances’s development work for the Americas page.


STM - Journeys Layouts from Quarto.indd


STM - Journeys Layouts from Quarto.indd





STM - Journeys Layouts from Quarto.indd


STM - Journeys Layouts from Quarto.indd


Frances’s Arena Illustration portfolio can be viewed HERE, You can also keep up to date with Frances’s work on Twitter HERE or you can visit her website HERE.


Grab your very own copy of Spot the Mistake Journeys of Discovery HERE 

28th June 2018

Levi Pinfold illustrates Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 20th Anniversary

This month Bloomsbury Publishing launch a stunning new celebratory collection of Harry Potter house editions, to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets These editions feature delectable illustrations by award winning illustrator Levi Pinfold. Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slitheryn and Gryffindor are all represented in their dedicated house colours with the hardback editions wrapped in house colours with lavishly gilded dust jackets and coloured edges.



Each of the house editions includes a Hogwarts school map drawn by Levi and a unique illustration of each house’s common room, exquisitely drawn in line with pen and ink with breath taking attention to detail. We’ve featured the Hufflepuff Common Room illustration here.





Chamber of Secrets – Hufflepuff Common Room


Each edition also has their house elves depicted.

Levi-Pinfold_House Elves_Hufflepuff

Chamber of Secrets – House Elves


Unique to these new editions are four fascinating annotated house crests which explain the various images incorporated into each emblem and their significance, such as peacocks denoting power, resurrection and immortality, or snails signifying perseverance.

Chamber of Secrets -  Hufflepuff Crest

Chamber of Secrets – Hufflepuff Crest


Hufflepuff House Edition cover symbols;


Bee and ants for industry and hard work

Spider for labour and prudence and a reference to Aragog.

Beech trees, representing tolerance.

Door to the Chamber of Secrets (main motif).

Dobby, denoting the value of service.

Mandrakes grown by Professor sprout.

Dove to show consistency.


You can view Levis’ complete portfolio HERE or visit his website HERE 


Grab a copy of your own House Edition HERE


25th June 2018

All Hail the Hemperor! Tomislav Tomic Beer Campaign Launches.

San Francisco based agency Erich and Kallman have created an animated launch campaign featuring artwork by Tomislav Tomic for their new HPA beer The Hemperor from New Belgium Brewery




The quirky animated shorts, being rolled out for digital and social, were directed by 1stAveMachine’s award-winning Animation Director, Will Samuel – a series of detailed collage cut-out animations, with their style sitting somewhere between Tolkien and Monty Python’s holy grail.  Taking the humorous path, the spots focus on the beer’s unique pungent aroma resulting in the line ‘Behold the Dankness’.



The Hemporer created by Erich and Kallman, is a regal-looking character donning a leafy crown, a statement necklace and a long bushy moustache.

Tomislav Tomic was commissioned by 1stAveMachine in London to create backgrounds, banners, lettering and frames for the animations to match the existing fine etching style logo.





Director, Will Samuel commented: “The Hemperor is a strong, playful, benevolent ruler of all things hemp so from the start I wanted to show off his kingdom in a truly spectacular light. The style of animation was directly influenced by the design. I think the cutout, stop motion effect enhanced the comic nature of the scripts. Using well-timed, simple, yet crafty movements, I found was enough to imbue the character with plenty of emotion and life.”

The illustrated background components were then combined with the logo to create a series of highly entertaining short animated ads. check them out HERE




About Tomislav:

Tomislav Tomic lives in Croatia. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Zagreb, 2001. He loves making picture books and had already had work published when he was in high school.

His exquisite, intensely detailed pen and ink drawings, based on the renaissance engraving style, perfectly illustrate tales of magic and fantasy with an appeal to adults and children alike. His beautiful engravings were featured alongside the work of John Howe, in the bestselling novelty book, Wizardology (Templar) and many other ‘ology’ titles. He recently illustrated the Harry Potter library books including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Other clients include, Macmillan, Royal Mail (Mythical Beasts stamps) Bloomsbury, Scholastic and Museum of London.

Find out more about Tomislav’s incredibly intricate work and view his portfolio HERE


19th June 2018

Levi Pinfold Wins The Amnesty CILIP Honour

Congratulations to Levi Pinfold for winning this prestigious honour at the CILIP Carnegie and Greenaway Awards 2018 for the wonderful book written by A F Harrold published by Bloomsbury.


The Song From Somewhere Else Paperback cover artwork

The Song From Somewhere Else Paperback cover artwork




Levi says…“While working on the pictures for The song From Somewhere Else I was routinely struck by how important kindness is for a person who can only see shadows and a world in black and white. Amnesty International’s amazing work encourages us to work hard towards caring for each other and I feel truly honoured that our book has been recognised by such a vital and life-preserving organisation.”



The Song From Somewhere Else artwork by Levi Pinfold



Amnesty and CILIP, the library and information association, are working together to raise awareness of human rights through outstanding children’s books.

All titles shortlisted for the prestigious CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are now eligible for an extra commendation: the Amnesty CILIP Honour, for books that best illuminate, uphold or celebrate human rights.

‘Stories are central to Amnesty’s work and we have a long and proud history of promoting children’s literature to help shape a better world. Good books have a unique ability to inspire empathy, raise awareness, broaden horizons and empower young readers to stand up for themselves and others. We hope this Honour and our human rights explorer resources will make it easier to find books that help children find out about core values such as truth, freedom and justice.’

— Nicky Parker, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Publishing


In each category, Carnegie and Kate Greenaway, the panel look for books that:

Celebrate the values of freedom, truth, justice and fairness

Contribute to a better understanding of any one or more of our human rights,

as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

at and the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Levi Pinfold was awarded CILIP Amnesty Honour at The British Library on 18th June.

“I’m just going to say a few thank yous if that’s ok, because this kind of thing doesn’t happen on it’s own. First of all, I’m going to say thank you to my friend and all round excellent fellow, A F Harrold, who has been unfailingly open and generous throughout the whole process of making the book. He’s the kind of guy who’ll change a sentence to suit a mistake in an illustration. Huge admiration from me.I owe you a hot chocolate.

Thank you to CILIP, for putting the weird and the wonderful into the hands of kids. If I hadn’t had access to some of the more out-there books as a boy, I wouldn’t have had a reason to pick up a paintbrush to make sense of it.

Thank you to all the young, intelligent readers of fiction. Keep reading the things you like,the cool books, the weird books, the funny books, the spooky books, and the illustrated books. If you keep reading because you like it, the world will open up to you and your imagination will take us into a golden Age of Enlightenment, peace and tolerance.Leastways that’s what I think. Plus, if you keep asking for cool stuff, we get to make it and read it too.

To my fellow illustrators in the room… Thanks for being so inspiring. It can be a lonely profession, but seeing amazing work always stokes the fire and keeps it burning. Thanks to all the people working like crazy behind the scenes at Bloomsbury, and to my wonderful agents doing the same at Arena.

And finally thank you to Amnesty, the incredible work you do makes me think we all might just have a chance. I think learning about the depth and complexity of another person’s world should start pretty young, so thank you for articulating how important books are for all of us, this makes me want to do more and do better.”


AF Harrold’s book The Song from Somewhere Else features in Empathy Lab’s

2018 Read for Empathy Guide.

You can read A.F.Harrold’s guest blogpost HERE he says,

“You can never know what is happening inside another person’s head, or heart. But the characters in books, in your favourite books – they open up and share themselves with you. You can hear their thoughts and know them, a little. And perhaps, by knowing them, a little window will be opened into the lives of your friends and family, into the strangers and people you see in the news. Just knowing that window exists is one beginning of empathy.”


The Song From Somewhere Else artwork by Levi Pinfold

The Song From Somewhere Else artwork by Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold Portrait

Levi Pinfold