Book illustration has been an obsession of mine as long as I can remember. Though considered mostly the domain of children, there are so many artists whose work transcends the age gap, turning a simple story into something that can be enjoyed by adults as well. Here are ten of my very favorite illustrators who are working today. Hopefully they inspire you as much as they do me.
Jen CoraceHer impressively-wrought watercolors at once evoke the peace and pathos of childhood. She has a large catalog of gallery work as well, that highlights her wonderful sense of composition and color.
Shaun TanShaun Tan’s most impressive work, The Arrival, is somewhere between a graphic novel and a silent movie. It is the story of immigrants, and tells the story wordlessly, relying on fantastical imagery to convey the feeling of being an outsider in a new world. Though this story relies on soft graphite drawings, his other work is done in almost every medium under the sun and is very experimental.
David Weisner Davis Weisner’s work makes use of his realistic, classically American style to portray fantastical happenings in a convincing way. This image is from June 29, 1999, a story about the day giant vegetables fell from the sky. Another wonderful book, Tuesday, tells the tale of a certain night when frogs took to the air on lily pad flying carpets.
Teagan White I recently discovered Teagan White’s work, but she is rapidly becoming one of my favorite artists. Her soft, warm watercolors recall sunny summer days outside, and her animals are alarmingly cute.
Oliver Jeffers I just love how oddball his characters are. The landscapes are spare and modernist, and the creatures are loaded with charm.
Carson Ellis I couldn’t not include Carson Ellis, arguably one of the most popular illustrators working today. Her work is detailed and naive, while incredibly sophisticated. She has done a lot of work for The Decemberists (she is married to Colin Meloy) and is currently working with him on The Wildwood Chronicles, a series of lovely adventure books.
Renee French’s work, though soft and delicate, is still probably not for kids. It reminds me of the cutest, fuzziest horror movie. Most of her pieces revolve around some sort of body horror, or the discomfort of something just off the screen.
William Joyce These days William Joyce seems to be working mostly on concept art for films (he designed the characters for the recentish movie, Robots) but I’ll always love his work for the characters in The Leaf Men and Dinosaur Bob. His plasticine, atomic age renderings make insects and tin soldiers just as real as the humans that inhabit his books.
Toni DiTerlizzi His work is really wonderful. The Spiderwick Chronicles is a YA book-turned-movie that features some of the most beautifully-wrought, dark fantasy art. He excels in character design and elaborate environments.
Isabelle Arsenault This Canadian artist’s work is so soft and lovely and sad. She has illustrated several books, my favorite of which is Virginia Wolf. In it, a young Virginia (though not the author) is depressed over the bleakness of life. She overcomes it by using her imagination to light up the darkness.
Who are your favorite illustrators? I love learning about new artists- post yours in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out!