V&A Illustration Awards shortlist features fairytales and refugee camps

V&A Illustration Awards shortlist features fairytales and refugee camps

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The shortlist for this year’s awards – which celebrates the past year in illustration across books and journalism – has just been released.

The V&A has announced the shortlist for its 2020 Illustration Awards.

The annual competition aims to celebrate the best work in student and published illustration over the last year.

This year, the judges for the published categories are playwright Bonnie Greer, CEO of the Association of Illustrators Ren Renwick and the museum’s director, Tristram Hunt. Sheri Gee, art director at the Folio Society and illustrator Yehrin Tong will judge the student categories.

For published illustrations, there are three categories; Book Cover Design, Book Illustration and Illustrated Journalism.


Cover design: Illustrating the “magical unreal” and more

Kustaa Saksi’s cover for The Baron in the Trees

Eleanor Taylor has been shortlisted for her cover of the Serpent’s Tail, by Vikram Paralkar. The fable, about a surgeon in rural India, has a jungle-themed cover which brings to life the novel’s “dustily realist and magical unreal” tone.

Another foliage-themed illustration has made the shortlist for book covers, with Kustaa Saksi’s design for Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees – an Italian novel about a baron’s adventures in a forest. The intricately rendered cover features hundreds of miniature leaves and creates a dream-like design.

A third illustrator, Eva Eland, has been picked for her work on When Sadness Comes to Call – a children’s book Eland also wrote.

Night Theatre’s cover, by Eleanor Taylor

Book illustration: the world of grim fairytales

Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ illustrations for Hansel & Gretel: A nightmare in Eight Scenes

Clive Hicks-Jenkins has been shortlisted for Book Illustration for his work on Simon Armitage’s Hansel & Gretel: A nightmare in Eight Scenes. The “dark yet humorous” story has appropriate illustrations; Hicks-Jenkins brings to life the “starving hyena of hunger which stalks the children” and other fantastical horrors.

Sandra Rivola’s work on Sophie’s World, and James E. Ransome’s illustrates for Kindred also make the shortlist.

Illustrations in Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaardner

Illustrated journalism: Twitter and the morality police

Ann Kiernan’s shortlisted illustration

Ann Kiernan’s watercolour work for Wael Eskander’s How Twitter is gagging and acting as morality police has been shortlisted by the Illustrated Journalism award. The illustration is a play on the social media platform’s blue bird logo, and depicts one blood-spattered bird breaking free of a cage.

Ben Jones’ illustrations for The History Behind 1984 by Dorian Lynskey and Gabriella Mussurakis’ work for All Change by Elizabeth Nichols are also in the final three.

Ben Jones’ illustration for The History Behind 1984

Students look to refugee camps and the night sky

Sally Dunne’s illustration

One of the students shortlisted, Sally Dunne from the Cambridge School of Art, shows life in a refugee camp. Home in the Kakuma Refugee Camp shows groups of people at the Kenyan camp, depicted in blue and pink pastels.

Another student illustrator, Ruo Hsin Wu from the Royal College of Art, has looked to sky for inspiration. Starring Night features alien-like sprawled creatures across a night sky.

Also on the shortlist for this category are: Kate Winter’s Lascaux, Laura Winstone’s The Catmolean Museum and Vyara Boyadjieva’s The Wave.

Ruo Hsin Wu’s Starring Night

Competition details

Yehin Tong, who won the Book Cover Award in 2015, says that the exposure has increased interest in her work from “all different sectors of design”.

There are also financial rewards. Winners of all four categories will receive £3,000, while the student category’s runner-up will also receive £2,000. An overall winner will receive an additional £5,000 and the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year prize (named after the V&A’s late former Director of Design).

Winners will be announced Tuesday 2 June.


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