Seven stunning book illustrations brought to life


Faculty: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
School: Cambridge School of Art
Category: Staff

1 March 2018

When it comes to book illustrations, a lot of emphasis is put on the cover, naturally. But we are here to spur on the ole’ rule of never judging a book by its cover... Because you’re missing out on all the illustrations inside too!

To reinforce the message, we bring you seven stunning book illustrations that will feature in this year’s MA Children’s Book Illustration show. These pieces join over 80 other graduate artists who represent some of the most exciting new talent in the world of illustration. Which one is your favourite?

1.  New York

A Franco-American designer, artist, and animator by day, and freelance illustrator by night, Natalie Labarre bring her characters to the fore by combining traditional print techniques of screenprint and risography, with cutting-edge digital practice. Her use of palette is precise and articulate, but clearly backs this up with a foundation of a good concept and solid character design.

'New York' illustration

2.  Chinese Opera Singer

Despite her new discovery of the digital brush, Viola Wang calls on her traditional figurative painting background using oil paint, when starting the process – maintaining a sense of physical connection with her drawings. Her work has largely embraced and advocated for cultural diversity and equality, winning her the Sebastian Walker Award for Illustration. Head to Head is one such collection, featuring a diverse range of human characters from a Swiss cow-her to a Kazakh eagle hunter.

'Chinese Opera Singer'

3.  Far East

Joseph Namara Hollis creates alternative worlds teeming full of intrigue, action and mischief. His dip pen and ink drawings, come to life with a bold, yet purposefully limited, palette. The subsequent use of digital collage using monoprint textures and other mark making experiments, then creates a contagious sense of joy, warmth and imagination in his work – justifiably why his piece became the identity for this year’s show.

'Far East' illustration

4.  Dreamscape

Rediscovering the joys of observational drawing and experimentation across various mediums, Signe Torp’s diverse collection is thought provoking and reflective. Expression is an important part of her work, underpinned by a strong desire to express something that feels unfamiliar and unpredictable: an atmosphere, an idea, a lost memory or perhaps a sense of longing. Her combined use of paint and ink drawing, alongside a subtle colour palette often focused in the blues and greens, is entirely engrossing.

'Dreamscape' illustration

5.  The Attic

The organic texture of Yulei Zhang’s use of pastel and colour pencil expresses a delicate emotion, giving a subtle, yet dramatic effect between light and shadow. As many of her pieces are night scenes, the base emotion of the story is melancholic – tapping into her own personal experiences and telling a story from a young girl’s perspective.

'The Attic' illustration

6.  The Tinys

Taiwanese illustrator and journalism undergrad, Rachel Liao champions the gouache painting technique in her collection – often using red and orange paint to form the main body and structure, and contrasting this with vibrant hues of blue. Initially inspired by the illustrations in Anno Mitsumasa’s book ‘Anno’s Math Game’ that features young children on a journey through basic mathematical concepts - twenty years later, Rachel’s collection is similarly overtaken with ‘tiny people’.

'The Tinys' illustration

7.  Miss Meng Jiang weeping the Great Wall

Bo Yang taps into traditional Chinese culture and philosophy through a combination of pen and watercolour, bringing seemingly opposite forces together – like yin and yang – in his characters and strategic use of colour palette. His monster-like soldiers are inspired by the infamous Terracotta Warriors, which contrast against the peace and tranquillity embodied by their antithesis, Miss Meng Jiang.

'Miss Meng Jiang weeping the Great wall' illustration

The MA Children's Book Illustration show is exhibiting at the Ruskin Gallery at Anglia Ruskin University from 22 February–4 March 2018. For more information, please visit


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