Nine Women Illustrators You Need to Know Now

February 12, 2016

SVA’s current  “Women in Illustration” exhibition features work by female MFA Illustration as Visual Essay alumni who have recently authored or illustrated books and who, in the words of the curators, “are all acknowledged forces in a world once thought to be male dominated.” Here’s a look at the nine artists featured in the show that are taking the illustration world by storm.

animals200Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live and How We Can Make Their Lives Better (Artisan, 2015), illustrated by Lisel Ashlock (2009) and written by animal advocate and former veterinary technician Tracey Stewart, explores the secret lives on animals and the kindest ways to live alongside them. Painting on birch panel, drawing with pencil and watercolor or working digitally, each project Ashlock does is executed with a sensitivity and celebration of the natural world.

girl200Not That Kind of Girl (Random House, 2014), the bestselling book by Lena Dunham, creator and star of the HBO series Girls, was illustrated by Joana Avillez (2012). Dunham says Avillez’s drawings for the book are “a gorgeous combination of old-fashioned and modern, and really express the feminine strength that was my goal” in writing her story. (Read a Q&A with Avillez on what it was like illustrating the book here.) She is also the author of Life Dressing: The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, a fashionary tale of two real-life women who live to dress and dress to live.

cow200Actor David Duchovny’s debut novel, Holy Cow (Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2015), features a cover illustration by Natalya Balnova (2013) that captures the book’s charismatic, wisecracking narrator, Elsie Bovary. Balnova’s clients include Chicago Review Press, Harper Collins, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and many more.

card200A Big Surprise for Little Card (Candlewick, 2016), illustrated by Anna Raff (2009) and written by Charise Mericle Harper, tells the story of a library card who mistakenly attends birthday card school. Her washy, collage-based illustrations have won praise from the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, and the ever-so-critical elementary school set.

thunder200Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future (Random House, 2015), by National Book Award finalist Lauren Redniss (2000), is an illustrated journey through the diverse and extreme forms of weather that occur all over the world. Redniss’s writing and drawing has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times, which nominated her work for the Pulitzer Prize.

memory200The Book of Memory Gaps (Blue Rider Press, 2015), by Cecilia Ruiz (2012), is a collection of darkly humorous short stories that examine our curious and capricious unconscious. It was considered one of the most intelligent and imaginative books published in 2015 by Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings.


From ‘The Book of Memory Gaps’ by Cecilia Ruiz

swanbook200Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham collaborated with illustrator Yuko Shimizu (2003) on A Wild Swan and Other Tales (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), which reimagines popular fairy tales. Cunningiham on Shimizu’s work in Wild Swans: “I can’t quite imagine writing another book without illustrations. I can’t, for that matter, quite imagine writing another book without Yuko’s illustrations.” (Read Cunningham’s full statement here)

mom200A Year Without Mom (Groundwood Books, 2015), by Dasha Tolstikova (2012), tells the story of a 12-year-old Russian girl’s turmoil after her mother leaves Moscow for the U.S. in the early 1990s. “A perceptive story about change, aloneness, ambition and, ultimately, resilience.” – New York Times


From ‘A Year Without Mom’ by Dasha Tolstikova

sweater200Sweaterweather & Other Stories (First Second, 2016), by Sara Varon (2002), is a collection of 17 pieces— including short stories, info-comics and paper dolls—all connected by journal entries. Varon was a recipient of the 2013 Maurice Sendak Fellowship and an Eisner nominee in 2014.

“Women in Illustration” is on view at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, 209 East 23rd Street, New York City, through March 3. For more information, click here.

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