Sophie Melissa - SAA Associate Prize
Last summer, Sophie Melissa was awarded the SAA Associate Prize for New Talent in Illustration at New Designers, her prize was a six-month trial representation with an SAA member agent. Sophie chose to be represented by New Division and hasn’t looked back. As we catch up with Sophie she is in the midst of preparing for New Designers One Year On, it seems fitting that she’s come full circle and will be exhibiting her new illustration work at the show that launched her career.
Within a few weeks of launching her portfolio, New Division had secured Sophie’s first commission. Since then she has been continually working, even securing a regular editorial commission with luxury lifestyle title Square Mile magazine. She has also piqued the interest of advertising agencies, having been shortlisted for a digital campaign for McCann. Sophie says she couldn’t have imagined a better start to her career 'It’s been a really supportive experience and opened up a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It’s difficult leaving university and breaking into the industry so the opportunity has been great.'
Sophie had the choice of joining any one of a selection of SAA member agents who had shown an interest in her work; an overwhelming decision for a fresh graduate, but Sophie was quite firm in her choice of New Division. ‘When considering the different agencies, I looked at the types of artists they represented and who I thought could help me best to develop as an illustrator, New Division immediately stood out to me.' New Division’s Director, Claire Meiklejohn was on the judging panel at New Designers and was thrilled that Sophie chose to join the agency ‘For such a young artist, Sophie’s portfolio showed a real maturity. We were delighted that Sophie wanted to join the agency.’
New Division has form in launching illustrators to great success straight from college, so guiding Sophie through the first few months of her career is something Claire has experience with. ‘First things first, Sophie came to meet the team. This is something we feel is very important, as ultimately a successful representation will be based on the relationship the artist and agent have.’ Sophie agrees ‘It was really useful meeting the team in person, it was great to put faces to names and have a chance to get to know the agency personally. I got to understand how the agency works, along with getting help on developing and updating my physical and online portfolios.'
Sophie’s portfolio was launched a few weeks after the initial meeting and her first commission with Scouting Magazine soon followed.
‘The illustration for Scouting Magazine was a really wonderful introduction to client briefs. There was a lot of freedom visually and scope to develop a scene from the story.’ Sophie has since worked on several other editorial projects and is delighted to have secured a regular commission with Square Mile magazine, ‘It’s great to be working with interesting concepts and themes, such as politics and business, which I previously haven’t focused on and the tight deadlines help keep my work fresh and exciting.’
In her downtime Sophie has been busy working with Claire on developing her portfolio, in terms of both style and content. Claire views developing an artist’s portfolio as one of the key roles of an agent ‘we are at the coal face, so to speak, we are out with the books showing our illustrator’s work to clients and we can directly feed their opinions back to our artists. Some of the initial feedback on Sophie’s work was that it would be interesting to see her use a brighter colour palette. We shared this with Sophie and she has taken this on board producing some wonderfully vibrant, colourful samples.'
Claire has also pushed Sophie to explore new subject matters, encouraging her to work outside of her comfort zone. Sophie adds that it’s not just portfolio development that the agency has helped her with, they have also guided her through the process of creating illustrations ‘answering development briefs and producing roughs for Claire has helped refine my working process and helped me get used to creating work for others rather than myself.’
As Sophie is reviewing her work in preparation for New Designers One Year On she has had time to reflect on her representation so far. As well as learning about the process of completing commissions, the trial has also helped Sophie learn about working as a freelancer. ‘I’ve learned that it is often quite fast paced, and work varies from week to week, which can be exciting but also challenging. Sometimes I’ve had multiple projects on and other times not as much, so by also focusing on creating samples it helps me to balance my time.’
And what advice would she give to this year’s graduates? ‘Make the most of your time studying, work hard and meet deadlines. It really helps to set yourself projects that replicate the work you want in ‘the real world’ as this will make the transition easier.’ Claire’s advice to young artists echoes these sentiments, ‘Practice, practice, practice. You want your style and visual language to be as fluid as your handwriting. An artist once said to me that she draws every day, she likened it to being a professional pianist practicing her scales every day. I loved this thought, and would recommend all illustrators keep this in mind.’
With this thought in mind Claire has been really impressed with Sophie’s attitude and commitment to the trial and has offered Sophie permanent representation, which Sophie has happily accepted. Claire reflects, 'The SAA Award is a wonderful opportunity for young artists to dip their toes into the world of representation, whilst being guided by a helping hand. At every step of the way Sophie has been really enthusiastic and open to all my advice and feedback. She has shown she is really dedicated to her craft and has a real drive to make this a successful career. Her professional approach is to be commended and she is now reaping the rewards. We’ve loved working with Sophie and can’t wait to see what the next few years bring for her.'
To see Sophie's portfolio, click here.