New EIF Board member elected for 2021

At the recent October Board meeting of the EIF Nurgül Şenefe of Turkey's Illustrators Platform was elected to the Board.

AOI were re-elected as President of the organisation and FADIP (Eli Perez Fernandez), Svenska Teknare (Treasurer, Nille Svensson), AI (Stella Di Meo, Paulo Rui), Grafill (Lene Renneflott), Design Austria (Sonja Stangl), IO (Anna Karina Birkenstock) continued as Board members.

Marlies Visser joined EIF recently representing Illustration Embassy and BNO in the Netherlands.

Follow @illustratorsplatform and


Varoom magazine – the Intimacy issue

2021 issue, cover image by Hannah Buckman

The AOI has published a new edition of Varoom illustration magazine. From paranoia-tinged pandemic editorial for the likes of the New York Times to the body-based illustration of make-up artist Athena Paginton, the latest issue of Varoom looks at intimacy in the last year of image-making.

While our access to places and to each other has been curtailed and cut off, illustrators have been giving us new perspectives on domestic scenes, visualising rich inner worlds and helping us to stay mindful.

Designed by Fraser Muggeridge studio and with a cover illustration by Hannah Buckman, Varoom 42 is a fascinating look at illustration and intimacy.

An essential platform – It’s Nice That

Deconstructing Definitions

Ngadi Smith reflects how her work speaks to social issues such as racism and representation, as well as feminism and gender roles.


Thomas Cooksey, Vogue, 2018
Painting Faces

Alix-Rose Cowie interviews make-up artist Athena Paginton on the most intimate canvas of all and fusing fashion with activism.

Showing Emotionality

Billie Muraben meets Sophi Miyoko Gullbrants whose work for editorial and Dame Products, a sexual wellness brand based in New York, has a constant lean towards intimacy.


Cristina Daura, for Bitch Media, 2020
Austerity Graphics – The Paranoid Style Returns

Walker Mimms on the ‘intelligent confrontation’ evident in the US editorial realm imagery reflecting the rear of the pandemic, featuring the work of Cristina Daura, Yann Bastard, Bráulio Amado, Molly Rose Dyson, Baptiste Virot.

Cloud Watching

Illustrator of the picture book on wellbeing for children, Your Mind Is Like the Sky, Laura Carlin describes the challenges of creating the images, the materials she uses and the characters as devices.


Muhammed Sajid, 2020, Face off- Emotionless series
Masking Up

The face mask has become a hugely potent symbol for the times, synonymous with the global pandemic, but also an age of masked protests worldwide. Tristan Manco explores how these elements surface in the work of Spanish artists Escif and Sam3, and Bangalore based Muhammed Sajid.

Optical Unconscious

Luise Vormittag talks to Leanne Shapton about the uncanny atmospheres and curated ephemera of her recent book Guest book: Ghost stories illustrated with a mixture of watercolours, photography, diagrams, and other fragments of visual matter.

Joe Schlaud, Everyday Kama Sutra
Indelible Allure

Ritupriya Basu investigates new approaches to ancient Sanskrit text the Kama Sutra, a guide to pleasure and living well, talking to Malika Favre, Akshita Chandra, Joe Schlaud and Victo Ngai.

Warmth in Rock

Paul Gravett meets Marion Fayolle whose unsentimental, surreal graphic novel on the illness and death of her father, Tenderness of Stones, is her first with words.

Order your copy here


Introducing the AOI Mentorship scheme 2021

After a successful and highly well-received pilot, the Association of Illustrators are delighted to introduce their 2021 mentees!

This year we expanded and welcomed 15 mentors who are generously sharing their time and expertise with our community. Among them, we have (for the first time) 3 agent mentors who are supporting creatives interested in becoming agents themselves.

We know that we need diversity in all areas of our industry, and the Mentorship scheme addresses this goal. Coordinated by the AOI, the (free) programme is designed to further support and guide under-represented illustrators directly and intimately.

The 2021 mentorship is now fully underway. Meet the mentees!


Madeleine Allcock

Madeleine is mentored by Illustrator Camille Medina.

Madeleine: "I am delighted to be part of the mentorship programme. Camille is fantastic, helping me to work on my confidence, navigate the world of freelancing, and level up my portfolio. Her perfect balance of encouragement and truth have helped me spread my wings as an illustrator, and I'm starting to hear back from potential clients. For years, I was too scared to pursue my dream of illustration. I'm not letting fear hold me back anymore."

Camille: "This is now my second year of mentoring in various settings and I find the whole experience extremely rewarding. What I love most about it is the dynamic between mentor and mentee where both individuals can learn from each other, and the fact that through listening, asking questions and the sharing of experience a person can come up with their own solutions and strategies for moving forward."

Follow Madeleine and Camille online:
@madeleine.allcock | @camillesland


Gianne Amparo

Gianne: "The AOI Mentorship has been great so far- Owen Davey, my mentor, has given me some insight into his own illustration practice along with drawing tips during our sessions. A couple of weeks after starting, I signed on with a literary agent which was an unexpected surprise! It's given me the boost to motivate my work and to keep on drawing."

Owen: "I'm super pleased to be able to be part of this initiative, which is actively trying to encourage diversity and inclusiveness in the creative world. The illustration industry needs to be equal. It needs to be fair. It needs to be inviting and compelling to anybody and everybody who wants to make art. For the industry to truly thrive, it needs to share and represent the voices of individuals from all sectors of our societies."

Follow Gianne and Owen online:
@gianneillustrates | @owendaveydraws


Emma Carpendale

Emma is mentored by Illustrator Laura Hughes.

Emma: "I feel very privileged to have been selected for the AOI mentorship scheme, and to be mentored by one of my favourite children’s book illustrators has been a dream come true. Laura is a fantastic mentor; her experience in the industry and passion for illustration shines through. She has helped me define my strengths as an illustrator, encouraged me to try new things and from this I’ve started to create new work that I’m proud of. Even though I’ve only been on the scheme for a couple of months, I can already see huge improvements in my work and greater confidence in my abilities."

Laura: "Mentoring with the AOI has been hugely rewarding so far, and I’ve really enjoyed working with Emma over the last few months. She is enthusiastic, hard-working and is a brilliant illustrator! 

In the early stages of my career the help and direction of others was invaluable, so it’s a real honour and a privilege to be in a position where I can now help others too."

Follow Emma and Laura online:
@emmaillustrates | @laura_a_hughes

Yellow Tiger

Yellow Tiger is mentored by Illustrator Jenni Sparks.

Yellow Tiger: "This amazing opportunity has already given me confidence to create work highlighting challenges I face as a single parent, and Jenni's insights and experience have helped me to plan a path to the illustration career I want."

Jenni: "I am finding the AOI mentorship program a really fantastic experience as a mentor - getting to know Rachel and her work has been a wonderful experience and despite me having more industry experience, seeing her attitude and approach to things has been a breath of fresh air. It’s been fun brainstorming ideas together and has even inspired me to up my game a bit!


Follow Yellow Tiger and Jenni online:
@yellowtigerdesigns | @jennisparks


Leanne Coelho

Leanne is mentored by Agent Caroline Thomson from Arena Agency.

Leanne: "My experience in the mentorship with the guidance of Caroline Thompson has already helped me start to forge a clearer path to a successful children's illustration career. The goals I set out to achieve are well underway and it's exciting to see the development in my work that is helping me find my creative voice."

Follow Leanne and Arena online:
@leannecoelhouk | @arenaillustration


Julian Gray

Julian is mentored by Illustrator James Albon

Julian: "It's been amazing getting guidance from James as a more experienced illustrator, and I'm really excited to develop a graphic novel with his help. The artistic exercises he's set me and the feedback I've had has already led me to take new approaches to scriptwriting, character design, and storytelling." 

James: "It's hugely interesting working with Julian as an AOI mentor, and seeing how he goes about developing his many exciting ideas for graphic novels. His fresh and insightful approach also gives me a valuable perspective for reflecting on my own illustration process."

Follow Julian and James online:
@juliangrayart | @jamesalbon.illustration



Monsie (Monika Jurczyk) is mentored by Agent Ryan Claydon from JSR Agency.

Monsie: "With the help and guidance from Ryan, I hope to gain confidence in the business side of illustration and venture into the world of advertising." 

Ryan: "Getting to know Monika and her work these past months has been an amazing experience. It's a real pleasure to help build Monika's portfolio, and navigate new areas of work for her. The world of advertising lacks diversity and inclusivity - especially the artists they commission - and the key decision makers are likely to be privately-educated and have studied at university. Helping a self-taught illustrator to navigate this hierarchical world, and hopefully get her portfolio seen and commissioned, is extremely rewarding."

Follow Monsie and JSR online:
@iammonsie | @jsragency


Kateryna Kyslitska | Wind on Paper

Kateryna is mentored by Illustrator Willa Gebby.

Kateryna: "This mentorship is a huge boost of energy and confidence for me. Willa is brilliant: the support, insights and information I am getting from her are priceless. We managed to set up a plan and now I am not feeling that lost as I was before we started. It is still a long and scary way to go, but I am having high hopes on the outcome!" 

Willa: "I'm self-taught, so everything I have learned over the last 10 years has come directly from the illustration community. I became a mentor with hopes of feeding back into the community that has been so essential to me. I've really loved connecting 1:1 with Kateryna, especially during these isolated times. It's fulfilling, but also really revealing, as I'd often be wise to listen to my own advice."

Follow Kateryna and Willa online:
@windonpaper | @willagebbie


Kulay Labitigan

Kulay is mentored by Agent Matthew Shearer from Berstein & Andriulli

Kulay: "Really grateful for this mentorship program. The exchanges with my wonderful mentor who takes time to listen and make sense of my meanderings, allowed me to have challenging conversations with myself. Inspiring me to revisit the realms my practice has chartered, which helps me discover hidden gems shining in the shadows of what I think I do. Not only that it is important for me to reach my artistic goals, but it is spiritually essential to keep me going and staying creative."

Follow Kulay and Bernstein & Andriulli online:
@kolor_lab | @BAreps


Sandy Leong Sin U

Sandy is also mentored by Agent Caroline Thomson from Arena Agency.

Sandy: "Mentor Caroline has given me the latest information about being a professional illustrator; she even introduced the difference between eastern and western markets. She encouraged me to expand the possibilities of my illustration. I’m trying to create various aged characters which I rarely did before, such progress has opened a new lens for me to explore and challenge myself.


Follow Sandy and Arena online:
@sandyleongsiunu | @arenaillustration


Kevwe Okiti

Kevwe is also mentored by Illustrator Marcus Marritt.

Kevwe: "Having a mentor means a lot to me, because I can have a direct conversation with a professional Illustrator to help me have a successful career in the industry. The experience has been great so far; it's increased my drive and it's helped make improvements to my portfolio, personal work and wherever possible. Thank you so much Marcus Marritt and The AOI."

Marcus: "I have long been an advocate of the AOI and all the organisation does to support the industry. Once I knew of the mentorship programme I jumped at the opportunity, to contribute in supporting and offering advice to someone earlier in their own journey as an illustrator. I am learning just as much from Kevwe as I hope he is gaining from this programme."


Follow Kevwe and Marcus online:
t | @marcusmarritt


Cecile Simonis

Cecile is mentored by Illustrator Cat O'Neil

Cecile: "The mentorship has been truly amazing so far. I was hoping to get help in changing the focus of my illustration practise towards entering the world of publishing and editorial illustration. Coming from the very different field of selling my illustrations through galleries and shops, I wanted to know how to approach the relevant people, how to present my work, how to pitch an idea, etc.  Cat is helping me with very practical tips and advice and has been incredibly generous with her time and knowledge. I benefit hugely from her sharing her experience and answering all my questions. I am also getting great advice and tips on publishing from her husband, James Albon. I can't quite believe my luck and I really can't thank them enough."

Follow Cecile and Cat online:
@cecile.simonis | @catoneil.illustration


Kyla Tomlinson

Kyla is mentored by Illustrator Jacqueline Colley.

Kyla: "Having Jacqueline as a mentor has been invaluable. Being able to talk through creative challenges, getting an objective take on personal artwork has given me much needed energy and a new appreciation in what I do and how I do it. I'm loving every step of this!" 

Jacqueline: "The mentorship experience has been great. We have different career paths in illustration but so many of the same struggles, so carving out regular time slots to talk about those obstacles (and brainstorm solutions as well as getting fired up about out central drive to make work) has been really fun. I always enjoy connecting with a fellow creative mind!"

Follow Kyla and Jacqueline online:
@kylatomlinson_artistanimator | @jacquelinecolley


Margarita Turbinina | Maggie Roman

Margarita is mentored by Illustrator Adriana Bellet (Jeez Vanilla).

Adriana: "“Having come into illustration in my late 20s and without formal education to back my new pursuits, my career would not have taken off without the help of the people that gave me my first opportunities - with little to assure them I would be able to deliver-; those that took the time to explain how the industry works when I was completely lost and confused; and those who held my hand and told me it was going to be OK when I was about ready to give up. So being able to share some of the hard learned lessons from my early days (and not so far removed) in the industry in hopes that someone (Maggie) might skip the heartache seems to me the absolute best way to pay it forward. Also, is there’s anything more fun than getting to geek out on all things illustration with someone that loves it just as much as you do?”

Follow Margarita and Adriana online:
@maggie_roman_illustration | @jeezvanilla


Valeria Weerasinghe

Valeria is mentored by Illustrator Dave Bain.

Valeria: "I am very happy to be part of this program and to have the talented Dave Bain as my mentor. So far Dave has given me some great advice, the work we've been doing is very specific to the goals that I have set for myself and this is something that I was really looking for in a mentorship."

Dave: "Mentoring an illustrator, like Valeria, who is passionate about her practice and striving to improve her portfolio is incredible to be part of. For me, being a mentor is as much about listening and understanding as well as relating your own experience and advice. Navigating the world of illustration can be daunting - so building up a network of key knowledge via mentors and industry organisations is such a good way to chart these waters."

Follow Valeria and Dave online:
@valeeeria | @davebainuk

AOI would like to thank all 2021 Mentors and Mentees for your kind words.

Meet the 2020 Mentees here.

Learn more about the AOI Mentorship and our 2021 Mentors here.

The AOI Mentorship scheme is one of the many benefits offered by the AOI. Find out more about membership today.

New White Book of Illustration in Spain

This New White Book of Illustration in Spain (Nuevo libro blanco de la Ilustración Gráfica en España) is intended to be a concise guide for those who practice the profession of illustrator. It presents, in a simple way, the most relevant aspects of the exercise of the profession: for example, how to defend the copyright of works, how to interact with the client and with the Administration, or how to know the operation of the different markets related to illustration.

The New White Book seeks to be useful both for those people who are starting in the profession and for the most veteran illustrators and illustrators.

Its wording is endorsed by the Spanish Commission of Professionals of the Observatory. The Commission is made up of relevant professionals from different fields - illustration, artistic direction, publishing, legal - with an important professional and personal career: Horacio Altuna, Pablo Amargo, Elisa Arguilé, Arnal Ballester, Ulises Culebro, Ricardo Esteban, Manuel Estrada, Isidro Ferrer, Forges, Miguel Gallardo, Pablo Martínez, Max, Albert Monteys, Elena Odriozola, Javier Olivares, Carlos Ortín, Miguelanxo Prado, Mariona Sardà, Rosa Serrano and Javier Zabala.

The New White Book of Illustration in Spain is in Spanish. Download NuevoLibroBlancoIlustracion_web

Working Well - Good mental health

We have all been living through difficult times since the pandemic struck, and we are aware that this can be challenging for our mental health.

At least one in six workers experience mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Awareness and support to retain and grow good mental health in the workplace is increasing. However, despite some resources there is still a gap in awareness and provision for creative freelancers.

Working Well - Good Mental Health and Creative Freelancers is a resource around mental health and creative freelancers produced by the AOI, in partnership with the UK's Society of Authors and Association of Photographers. You can download it from the title link.

This resource aims to throw a light on some common issues encountered by creative freelancers. It suggests some practical strategies if you are concerned that your wellbeing is slipping. It’s not the solution but it’s the start of the conversation. The resources are UK based, but the resource has many useful general tips and suggestions for dealing with feeling overwhelmed, imposter syndrome, creativity and emotion and more.

Illustrations by Charlotte Ager

The World Illustration Awards 2021 Call for Entries

Open for Entries! Delivered by the AOI in partnership with USA-based Directory of Illustration, the World Illustration Awards build on a 45-year tradition of the AOI organising juried survey competitions.

This high-profile competition is judged by distinguished professionals from the global illustration industry.

Commissioners value the Awards for identifying current trends and finding undiscovered talent, and illustrators value the connection and sense of community participating can bring.

Illustrators, commissioners, agents and tutors are invited to submit work created, commissioned or published since January 2020, until the deadline into the ten categories of the Awards.

Entries need to be made via the online application form.

Over the years, many shortlisted and winning illustrators have received significant, career boosting exposure through the awards. See the Awards and Prizes for 2021.

The Illustrator's Ninja Guide

Most illustrators are freelance professionals. And freelance creative artists are mini-companies. In addition to your creative work, you have to handle business plans, negotiate projects, prepare quotes, contracts and invoices. You must have a firm understanding of the rights involved with your artistic creations, to protect and be able to exploit them. You also have to operate in a complex market and protect yourself from abusive practices. Freelance illustrators need ninja training and skills. Which is where the Ninja Guide comes in.

The Ninja Guide is being made available via the European Illustrators Forum (EIF) as a resource for all to reference. EIF is a network of national associations of illustrators in European countries, providing a platform for contact and meetings between all European groups.

This is a small advocacy guide for freelance illustrators: it considers the main hazards and problems facing the profession today and how to address them. The Guide was created by our friends at AGPI in Spain who face the same issues as we do across Europe, and they made this Guide as a response. It contains a number of texts which are solely relevant to Spanish law and systems (including areas on tax, social security, arbitration, registers of work and certain contract terms), however it is a great overall guide covering freelance situations many will recognise.

The Ninja Guide is also for art students, freelance creative artists, clients, friends of illustration, and, above all, those people who are starting out in the profession or wish to do so.


Download the Ninja Guide in English here:

English version print July 2020

The Ninja Guide is an adaptation of “A Guía Ninja do Ilustrador”, first published in 2016 by AGPI – Asociación Galega de Profesionais da Ilustración
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

EIF member responses to Covid

Coronavirus has had a serious impact on freelance creatives, and over 2020 illustrators and the EIF organisations that support them have risen to the challenges that the pandemic has presented. We asked the EIF member organisations to give a short description of what they had been doing over summer 2020 to help illustrators.

All organisations explored shifting what had been physical meetings and events online, and these were successful, even bringing increased audiences in some case. EIF members campaigned to their governments over support for illustrators, and some were able to offer support via funds. Resources were created to help illustrators with the situations that the pandemic brought, including for mental health. And there has been a general sense that it has been really positive to try out new ways of approaching what organisations can offer. Read on for more detail from several EIF members:

 Kuvittajat Finland

  • 10060 Euro fund for illustrators distributed and will be another fund in Autumn, but need to decide what that is used for.
  • Gallery exhibitions moved online and saw an increase in attendance and purchases.
  • Online events including podcasts and Lisk Feng masterclass, and other workshops.
  • The Spring meeting for members was not possible so moved to Autumn.
  • Survey – done in April and repeaedt in August to check what the outlook is.

IO Germany

  • Release new publication for new starters on how to work in illustration (free for new members or available to purchase).
  • Organised seminars and webinars online.
  • Frankfurt Book Fair - looked to establish an online meeting point for illustrators.

Grafill Norway

  • Moved to an online platform for events – webinars and streams.
  • Awards show presented online, which was a real success, not only for the showcase but also the social element with a DJ and afterparty, much larger audiences than previously.
  • Grafill Illustration group made a zine illustrating how they have experienced the impact of lockdown.
  • Mental health talk took place online.
  • Politically working with other artist organisations to make sure government support is beneficial to members.
  • Survey run, and will be run again to see if there is any change – appeared that there was no real change in summer results.
  • Updated website to communicate what was happening.


  • Engaged with government to work with creators institute to address the tax challenges for creators in Spain.
  • Moved illustration festival Irudika to an online platform for October.
  • Basque Gov paid illustrators to make a book.
  • Worked on campaigns supporting creators rights.

Svenska Tecknare Sweden

  • Moved annual meeting online
  • Competition has a new remit, exploring if this can be physical, or if it can be online.
  • Magazine moved to online, which has benefits, not least a fresh approach
  • We should do things differently more often to try things out.
  • Did a survey and will do a follow up
  • Crisis Fund established of 10,000 Euro, also open to donations. One round done before summer and another in Autumn.
  • Interpreted the official actions to reinform members about what is important.
  • Made a financial guide available to members which is available more widely
  • Remind people about the importance of contracts – and sense a feeling members want to get more organised as a result.


  • Continued to meet Membership helpline response deadlines
  • Established a Covid-19 resource page with up to date, reliable information. Resources included a two week plan to focus illustrators.
  • Launched the Spotlight on Series featuring an illustrator weekly
  • Launched the mentorship scheme and developed and launched member Exchange, an online connection tool for members.
  • Presented a well received mental health guide for creative freelancers
  • Established regular agent meetings in partnership with Society of Authors
  • Developed ongoing webinars, resources and articles which address current needs and trends.
  • Launched a Diversity and Equality scheme of work
  • Developed the Folios pages, and increased the promotion of selected folios
  • Surveyed members to understand the impact of Covid-19
  • Wrote to the Government championing the needs of illustrators


Illustration by Derek Brazell

World Illustration Awards Showcase

The UK's Association of Illustrators, in partnership with the Directory of Illustration, have launched their first ever online World Illustration Awards Showcase. Hosted on The AOI website, the Showcase offers a range of ways to look at the 200 shortlisted projects. Exploring trends, processes, media, and styles there is something for everyone, from the illustrator looking for inspiration, to the commissioner searching for talent.

“This curated view from our AOI Awards Team and invited industry specialists offers a rich and exciting way to explore the diversity and creativity found in the shortlist. We welcome the world to be inspired by illustration as never before!” says Ren Renwick, CEO of the Association of Illustrators

In December 2019, The AOI opened the call to illustrators to Be Ambitious, Be Seen, Be Celebrated. An incredible 4,300+ entries from all over the globe were submitted. The 200 shortlisted projects represent illustrators from over 30 countries across the world from India to Ukraine, to Chile, offering styles and ideas from a global perspective.

The Showcase features curated content created to explore the major trends and themes of illustration today. One highlight is the use of personal stories as inspiration, another is seeing how illustrators work to briefs from major global brands such as Netflix and Facebook. There are plenty of ways to explore the shortlist to find what you are looking for and enjoy some surprises along the way.

© illustration by Kati Närhi

Galleria Kuvitus Finland presents exhibitions online

Galleria Kuvitus is the only gallery in Finland to focus on the art of illustration in all its forms.  Maintained by the Finnish Illustration Association Kuvittajat. the exhibitions are professionally juried and curated by staff or guest curators to present a variety of artists, styles and illustration techniques.
The gallery is set in the premises of Kuvittajat in Helsinki.
During the COVID_19 crisis the exhibitions happen online at according to the following calendar:


Liisa Kallio
21.3. – 30.4.2020
The solo exhibition Tunto features charcoal drawings by the illustrator Liisa Kallio (b.1968).
The main theme of the exhibition is the sensation of touch.

Kati Närhi
8.5. – 18.6.2020
Kati Närhi's (b. 1973) solo exhibition is related to the new book, Ei mikään (Nothing), written and illustrated by Närhi herself.
The illustration style of the author's edition is inspired by Victorian prints.

Miila Westin
14.8. – 19.9.2020
Miila Westin's (b. 1987) solo exhibition presents Finnish mythological creatures and colorful modernized illustrations based on them.
The work is based on her dissertation from 2020 for the Master of Arts degree from Aalto University.

Apila Pepita
25.9. – 30.10.2020
Apila Pepita's  (b. 1991) colorful pastel toned works focus on the topics of gender diversity, feminism and sexuality.

Ville Salervo
6.11. – 12.12.2020
Ville Salervo´s (b. 1979) digital illlustration series Deus Ex Machina shows different "god machines" that have somehow influenced human history and the present state of the world.

Reka Kiraly
16.12. – 23.1.2021
Reka Kiraly's (b. 1977) solo exhibition will open up the illustrator’s work process for everyone.
It consists of ink drawings and sketches from notebooks, drawings on paper rolls and interactive paper puzzle and 3 actual books.

The illustration is by Kati Närhi