Celebrating women illustrators

Published on: 20 August 2015 Author: Yasmeen Ismail

Children's author Yasmeen Ismail's latest picture book, I'm a Girl!, was published this month by Bloomsbury.

Yasmeen Ismail - I'm a girl

Yasmeen has taken time out to recognise ten women whose book illustrations have inspired her own work...

There are lots of great illustrators out there, and many are women. These are illustrators that have brought me joy as a child and some that are my contemporaries that I admire very much. Here are my top ten lady illustrators (in no particular order):

  • Tove Jansson: We all know her. She created the Moomins. And although her drawings are just perfect, her writing is smart and funny. The philosophy behind the Moomin stories makes me jealous. I want to write like her, but I know that I can't. So I just have to accept that she is the greatest and I am myself.
  • Posy Simmonds: has been my hero for a long time. Her graphic novels and books are drawn with such expertise. She is funny and well observed. One day I hope to meet her and gabble at her about how much I enjoyed Tamara Drewe. It's a must read. Please get it and fulfil your life now!
  • Gyo Fujikawa: Growing up I had a book called Come Follow Me by the great Gyo Fujikawa. A collection of short stories and poems about fairies and elves. Her illustrations are very distinctive and just bouncing with colour. I remember being absorbed and completely inspired by her art. I only re-discovered her when I became an illustrator myself. There was a moment of 'OH MY GOODNESS! I know those pictures.' It was like greeting an old friend that I hadn't seen for 20 years.
  • Maira Kalman: This smart, sophisticated New Yorker is so cool I can't bear it. Her work has an innocence that I love. Her colours are vibrant and pictures of her intrigue me. I want to have dinner with her and tell her that she's so cool, but I'm scared she'll yell at me... yeah, that kind of person!
  • Marta Altés: This artist is someone I know. I can't help admiring her work. I am her fan. Get all her books, and when there are more, get them too. She is so funny and has a delightful way. Her books are pure JOY.
  • Tor Freeman: I know Tor too. She is what I (and I have heard others say) would call a modern Richard Scarry. The work she does is so full of humour that I can't imagine she gets much done in between laughing. That said, she must have incredible abs.
  • Kate Beaton: HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHA If you can get your hands on Hark A Vagrant you will not be disappointed. Her artistic skills are only just (only just) surpassed by her hilarious writing. I have been known to have laughed so hard at her comics that I have had to kneel on the floor. She's really smart to boot. Wow. One day... I'll meet her and lay at her feet.
  • Janet Ahlberg: Purely for her illustrations of Burglar Bill. A book that has stayed with me since I was a very small thing. I love Burglar Bill.
  • Mary Blair: Take a look at her work for Disney. She has dreamt up artwork and styles for some of the best known Disney films to date. Her style is mid-century modern. Her colours are incredible.
  • Kanae Sato: For her clever and minimalist use of the page and negative space. A joyous artist. Her clever observations make her images sing.

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