Founded in 1972, the V&A’s annual illustration awards honour professional and student artwork, with prizes celebrating great book covers, book illustrations and illustrated journalism. Past winners include Quentin Blake, graphic memoirist Nora Krug and children’s book illustrator Yasmeen Ismail.
This year’s winning projects were selected from over 800 entries, and include a modern retelling of a classic fairytale, a charming children’s book cover and a powerful image depicting social media censorship.
Irish illustrator Ann Kiernan received the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year award and the Illustrated Journalism Award for an image created to accompany an article on Open Democracy, which claimed that Twitter is silencing Arabic users and “acting as a morality police”.
Kiernan’s artwork takes inspiration from Twitter’s infamous blue bird logo, depicting a tweet that has been released from a cage only to be violently shot down. Judges praised the “fluidity and drive” of Kiernan’s brushstrokes and the sense of urgency in her image, as well as her inventive use of the now ubiquitous symbol.
Eva Eland won the Book Cover Award with the cover art for her debut picture book When Sadness Comes to Call, which sees an unsettling emotion take the form of an unexpected house guest. With its hand-drawn text and charming image of a child staring up at Sadness (a soft green creature which spills out over the edges of the page), the book’s cover manages to feel warm and inviting rather than frightening, echoing the story’s sentiment that sadness is nothing to be feared.
The Book Illustration Award went to Welsh artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins for his collaboration with poet Simon Armitage. Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes sees the famous Brothers Grimm fairytale reimagined as a modern-day story about two refugees. Art directed by Laurence Beck at Design for Today, the illustrated book is filled with imaginative artwork that combines playful characters with darker scenes and symbols.
Cambridge School of Art student Sally Dunne received the Student Illustrator of the Year Award for her series depicting life in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp, which is home to over 196,000 refugees and asylum seekers. With a skilful use of light and shadow, Dunne’s artwork aims to reflect both the vibrancy and sense of community in the camp, and the difficult realities of life for those who have been displaced and left awaiting an uncertain fate.
Fellow Cambridge School of Art graduate Vyara Boyadjieva received the Student Illustrator of the Year Runner-Up Award for The Wave, an image from an illustrated picture book inspired by the Bible’s Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Each of the four award winners will receive £3,000, with Kiernan receiving an extra £5,000 for the Illustrator of the Year prize, while Boyadjieva will receive £2,000 for the Runner-Up prize.
Three projects also received highly commended in the student category: Kate Winter’s Lascaux, a picture book which explores humankind’s desire to tell stories through pictures; Laura Winstone’s book The Catmolean, a feline-themed celebration of ancient crafts, and Ruo Hsin Wu’s Starring Night, which imagines stars as small holes in the sky, used by giants to observe life on earth.