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13th November 2018

Welcoming Matthew Land to Arena Illustration

This month we are beyond thrilled to welcome amazing new illustrative talent Matthew Land to the Arena family.

Matthew has an exquisite skill for creating characters so full of life that almost appear to move on the page. His use of perspective adds a flourish of cinematic flair and his subtle carefully selected colour palettes emphasise the great skill and craftsmanship in his work, we are delighted to be representing Matthew and look forward to sharing his illustrations with you over the coming years.


“Matthew’s illustrations have a classic feel of the Golden Age, but he gives a fresh twist which immediately attracted us to his work. His obvious love and vast knowledge of children’s fiction reflects in his visual storytelling beautifully.  His soft watercolour and detailed line work gives a timeless and magical quality to the worlds he creates and the characters which inhabit them. We think his work will appeal to a broad range of publishing clients, from picture books to older fiction. Matthew’s aesthetic and love of pattern and design would also lend itself to a broader range of work. We’re excited about the prospect of exploring many different projects with him in the future.” Caroline Thomson – Arena Illustration


Matthew on joining Arena:

“I am humbled, excited and chase-my-own-tail-in-circles happy to be represented by Arena. I have been aware of the tip-top quality of their illustrators since university and through into my career as a Bookseller, my bookshelves are full of many of the projects/work I’ve admired that have come about from the partnerships between Artist, Arena and Publishers.

A number of my all time hero illustrators are represented by Arena, so when I was asked if I’d maybe like to drop by for a meeting with them it meant a great deal to me.

It only all became real to me last week when my portfolio went live and I saw my name on the list of their illustrators (I was all of a sudden bathed in light and surrounded by hallowed music), I am looking forward and grateful for whatever happens, and I hope to do them proud.”


Here for your delectation and delight are a few carefully selected pieces but you view Matthews full portfolio HERE





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Dracula by Matthew Land

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About Matthew

Matthew grew up on a dairy farm somewhere in the Welsh hills and in spite of his great love and appreciation of the outdoors he steered clear of a career in the family business (mostly but not completely because he doesn’t digest dairy well). Instead he read and drew almost compulsively and has continued to do so because he never especially wanted a proper job.

He graduated from University College Falmouth in 2012.

Wanting a change of scene Matthew moved to Edinburgh and worked as a children’s bookseller in Blackwell’s Bookshop, which then took him to Oxford and rekindled his passion for fiction and storytelling. Matthew has picked up his pencils again and for the time being is back in Wales, currently skulking in the studio he’s rigged together in his grandmother’s attic.

Matthew is influenced by heroes from the golden age of British book illustration, including Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter and William Heath Robinson. He utilizes ink linework and watercolour and a touch of digital tweaking to breathe life into his unusual characters.

In his spare time Matthew is ticking National Trust properties off his ‘to visit’ list from which he draws a lot of inspiration and detail, and because of the gift shops.




6 Fascinating (Lesser Known) Facts about Matthew Land:

My Great Grandmother, illustrated children’s books in the time when typewriters, the postal service and Tipp-Ex were the norm, so I feel way less bad about not taking on the family farm.

I broke my arm at my brother’s christening because I wanted to monopolise some of his attention.

All the picture books from my childhood have my five-year-old scribbles in the margins, because I loved repeatedly drawing the elephant pyramid scene from Dumbo just everywhere.

When I am illustrating I am absolutely also snacking with my other hand, mostly because my metabolism will be representing team GB at the Olympics.

My aesthetic swings on a scale somewhere between wartime evacuee and librarian chic.

I am approachable in an ‘excuse me do you know where the train station is?’ way, and a ‘here’s my deepest darkest secret’ way, when really I am especially good for neither.


You can find Matthew on Instagram and Twitter alternatively you can visit his website HERE


If you are interested in finding out more about Matthew’s work we would be delighted to hear from you, drop us a line at info@arenaillustration.com 



5th November 2018

New work and in conversation with illustrator Frances Castle

This week we’ve spent some time in conversation with illustrator Frances Castle looking at her current projects and finding out more about her passion for collecting treasures, her inspirations and a sneak peek at some stunning unpublished work.

Frances is currently developing her own full length graphic novel entitled Stagdale, using a clever vintage colour palette. Based in the 1970’s, this is a tale of mystery and intrigue as 12 year old Kathy finds herself in the sleepy village of Stagdale amidst her parents divorce. Stumbling upon a diary written a generation earlier by a young Jewish boy escaping Nazi Germany, Kathy embarks on an epic journey to re-discover a mysterious lost jewel.

Stagdale written and illustrated by Frances Castle

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Stagdale written and illustrated by Frances Castle

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Frances illustrated these fabulous posters as part of the Upswing festival showcased across London this summer promoting a series of events based on the theme Women: Work and Power, which have included discussions, exhibitions, theatre, music and more. 




In conversation with Frances Castle:


You are a keen collector of all things vintage, which three of your treasures would you save in case of an emergency?

Over the years my partner and I have bought a lot of stuff in junk shops and markets. It is hard to pick out one thing, but at the moment it is probably my two bicycles, one was built in 1954 and the other 1969. They are from an era when bicycles of their type were handmade, in little workshops up and down the country – which is hard to imagine now. I guess if there was an emergency I could escape on one of my bicycles which would be handy.


Your work continues to evolve and change as you experiment with new techniques, which have been your favourites and what will you experiment with next?

I like to keep trying new things out, one of the reasons I started my little record label (Clay Pipe Music) was to give my self a place to experiment when designing artwork for the sleeves. Initially I wanted to do more work away from the computer and play around with print making. That has had to change a bit as the label has grown, and I’m doing bigger runs and vinyl LP’s. Later in the year I’m doing an LP for singer Sharron Kraus based on some Welsh folk tales called the Mabinogi I’m really looking forward to doing the artwork for that.


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Which Children’s classic would you most like to illustrate and are there specific illustrations from books which you remember?


I think it would be very hard to illustrate something that is already a ‘classic’ – especially if the illustrations are already well known, (a bit like how remakes of films are never as good as the original). I think I’d be happier leaving the classics alone and to try to illustrate something new.

I still have the copy of Miroslav Sasek‘s ‘London’ that I had as a child, I never got rid of that. I loved Richard Scarry – I think I was drawn in by the detail, and the fact that it was American made it fascinating to an English child. Also Ladybird books where the illustrations were really real looking, I loved pop-up books – I had a pop-up Wizard of Oz where the whole of the Emerald City stands up in the centre pages. I also had a copy of Struwwelpeter which had belonged to my Dad as child, it was in my book case but I was too scared to get it out and even look at the cover let alone open it up.

Do you follow the work of other artists in your field and are there particular favourites who we should keep an eye out for?


Yes I’m always looking at other artists work. In recent years I’ve become interested in the work of British print makers like Bawden and Ravilious and their contemporaries. I love the books that Nobrow put out, and the artists St Judes promote, I’m always looking for interesting comics to read, and like to dig around in second hand book shops for old illustrated books and magazines. I’ve admired the work of people like Paul Blow, Adrian Jonhson, and Jonathan Burton for a long time, newer illustrators Eleni Kalorkoti and David Doran are both really good.



Follow Frances on Instagram and Twitter and view her updated portfolio HERE



As the nights draw in do look out for our haunting autumnal postcard featuring the cover illustration from Between Worlds; Folktales of Britain and Ireland.  If you are not on our promotional material mailing list and would like to be please drop us a line with your details info info@arenaillustration.com

Between Worlds postcard illustrated by Frances Castle

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1st November 2018

Drawing Europe Together including work by Neal Layton

On our desk this week a very important addition to the bookshelf! Drawing Europe Together (Published by Macmillan) featuring a  stunning illustrative contribution by Arena Illustrator Neal Layton.


This is a passionate and heartfelt exploration of Europe and what it means to many of the people who live and work within its borders. The book brings together forty-five renowned illustrators who, through their drawings and accompanying words, share their vision of Europe in this beautiful and timely collection, with a foreword by the British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year 2018, Axel Scheffler.


Inspired by the Drawing (for) Europe exhibition which took place at the Institut Français in London in 2018, Drawing Europe Together showcases the original artwork from the exhibition as well as never-before-seen illustrations from additional leading artists. This celebration of contemporary illustration is a unique and timely piece of publishing promoting positivity an unification in times of uncertainty.



Neal Layton Illustrator-009

Read more about the project HERE and view Neal’s full portfolio HERE, You can also follow Neal on Twitter and Instagram



30th October 2018

Explorers on Witch Mountain with Illustrations by Tomislav Tomic

To welcome in the spooky autumnal delights of Halloween we’d like to invite you on an epic pumpkin filled adventure in Explorers’ on Witch Mountain by Alex Bell featuring stunning illustrations by Tomislav Tomic.



This is the follow up to The Polar Bears Explorers’ Club also published by Faber and Faber, which was recently nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2019. In this new book, Stella Starflake Pearl is eagerly anticipating her next expedition. Suddenly disaster strikes when Stella’s father, Felix, is snatched by a fearsome witch. Stella must bring her magic ice princess tiara to Witch Mountain or she will never see Felix again! But no one ever returns from Witch Mountain . . .

Stella, Ethan, Shay, Beanie and reluctant Jungle Cat explorer, Gideon, set off into the unknown. They will face chomping pumpkin patches, vampire trolls, poisonous rabbits, outraged vultures and deranged broomsticks in their quest to rescue Felix.

Tomislav’s exquisite, intensely detailed pen and ink drawings perfectly illustrate this magical and fantastical tale.





Read a lovely review of Explorer’s on Witch Mountain over on the A Little But A Lot blog

A brilliant adventure taking Stella to an island with terrifying teddy bears, witches and witch hunters, poisonous gingerbread houses, and of course, her trusty friends. I love this series. They’re so much more than just adventure stories – there’s a massive punch of meaning. Felix gives some bloody brilliant advice in these books. I utterly devoured this. It’s safe to say I can’t wait for book 3!”

“Explorers on Witch Mountain by Alex Bell illustrated by Tomislav Tomic is as wonderful & thrilling Polar Bears Explorers Club! It bursts with adventure, danger, friendship, courage & the most imaginative creatures!” – Sophie Anderson Author of The House with Chicken Legs 

You can view Tomislav’s portfolio HERE 

Explorers’ on Witch Mountain publishes on the 1st November order a copy HERE




26th October 2018

Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train with cover design by Euan Cook

Get ready to be chilled to your very core with this spooky offering from Horrible Histories author Terry Deary with a magnificently creepy cover illustrated by Euan Cook.



WARNING: Only read further if you dare…

Presenting Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train… A mysterious tower. A girl trapped in a glass case. A stolen phone. A door to a secret world. Gruesome, ghastly and glorious. All things considered, things weren’t going too well for Boy in Wildpool. Not only are the police looking for him, but the worrying Arfur Loaf is on the warpath too. He can look after himself, can Boy, but going to Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld to lie low for awhile might be the worst decision he’s ever made.

No – getting on the Terror Train – that’s the worst decision he’s ever made. Now Burke and Hare are after him as well!

All Boy has to do is get back to his own time, escape the Terror Train and rescue the girl . . . all before it’s too late. That’s enough for any boy in one day.

Terror Train features Euan’s exquisite vintage fairground style hand lettering and super-spooky spidery silhouette, this book is bound to jump off the shelves when you least expect it.

Peruse Euan’s newly updated portfolio HERE or get to know him even better by checking out our Q&A HERE 

Terror Train is published by Scholastic – Find out more and order a copy HERE 




With Halloween fast approaching do look out for our bone chilling autumnal postcards featuring an illustration by Frances Castle.

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