When it comes to book illustrations, a lot of emphasis is put on the cover, naturally. But there are thousands upon thousands of books out there with insides just as beautiful as the outside.
It was a tough job but we’ve scoured the net to bring you 23 stunning book illustrations by artists from all over the world. Which is your favourite?
01. Ocean Dream
This beautiful book illustration is part of a series for a picture book by Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le. The imagery instantly transports you to a dream-like world, using bright, shining colours to show the contrast of light and shadow. Le also executes the under/above water juxtaposition perfectly.
This is the first children’s book from London-based illustrator Fx Goby and with his sister, writer Valentine Goby. Le mystère de Hawa’a tells the story of young Anmar and a girl with fiery red hair who one day notice each other from either side of the land of dust. The illustrations are packed full of gorgeous colour and inspirational character design.
03. The Divide Trilogy
Created for The Divide Trilogy way back in 2004, these designs bring illustrator Ted Dewan‘s imagination to vivid life. He regularly uses ink and china marker on embossed paper to add that extra special effect to all his creations. His work regularly features weird and wonderful creatures, and we can’t get enough of them.
04. Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde
Using graphite pencil and watercolour wash, illustrator Jill Barton created these purrfect images for a book entitled Puss Jekyll, Cat Hyde. Drawing since her school years, Barton is a pro when it comes to inspiring book illustrations. Here the eye colour was eventually changed to green for the book but we think it looks great either way!
05. Attempting Normal
These abstract illustrations were penned by Australian illustrator Andrew Fairclough for US comedian Marc Marons’ biography Attempting Normal. It’s instantly eye-catching and references aspects of the book using clever imagery and beautiful colour work.
06. Where the Wild Things are
Where the Wild Things are is one of the most well-known and best loved children’s stories, and it’s appreciated as much for its illustrations as its narrative, both of which were created by the late Maurice Sendak.
The talented creative not only had the gift of words but of images too. And he put both to good use in this classic book. Sendak’s attention to detail is apparent in the millions of tiny ink lines he added to show the hairs on the Wild Things.
07. The Arrival
Australian illustrator and author Shaun Tan is the man behind this incredibly detailed graphic novel. The Arrival tells the story of an immigrant who leaves his home in search of a better life for family purely through pictures.
We don’t even want to think long it must have taken Tan to draw just one of these intricate illustrations, let alone the entire book. The combination of photorealistic humans in various abstract environments shows off the true extent of his talents.
08. The Enormous Crocodile
With so many to choose from, it was hard to pick just one of English author and artist Quentin Blake’s genius illustrations. But in the end we opted for the gorgeous images that feature in Roald Dahl’s The Enormous Crocodile.
This beautiful picture book was the first that Dahl and Blake collaborated on in the mid 70s. The duo went on to work together for many years, with Blake’s distinctive art helping to bring Dahl’s much-loved characters to life.
09. Sylvester and the New Year
This gorgeous artwork comes from award-winning illustrator Emmeline Pidgen‘s second picture book, Silvester and the New Year. Due to short deadlines, Pidgen has had to adapt her working approach.
“Whereas I used to work mostly with gouache paints and traditional media, I’ve pushed myself further into using digital means to complete my work,” Pidgen comments. “I do always try to keep that sense of the handmade by using photographed textures, paintbrush splat stamps and such in the pages.”
10. The Snowman
Loved by adults and children alike, The Snowman was illustrated by critically acclaimed British artist Raymond Briggs. First published in 1978, Briggs created the picture book images using pencil crayons.
In an interview with the Guardian, Briggs commented, “The usual method is to draw in pencil, then ‘ink it in’, then colour it. But the inked line is always deader than the pencil line. The feeling has gone out of it. Using pencil crayon, these three stages can merge together. You can draw lightly in colour, then gradually make it sharper, clearer and darker, while colouring it at the same time. Furthermore, for this book, crayon has a softer quality, ideally suited to snow.”
11. Joseph-Armand Bombardier
Jacqui Lee is a freelance illustrator based in Calgary, Alberta. This beautiful image is from her children’s book, The Story of Joseph-Armand Bombardier, is about the Canadian inventor who pioneered the development of the snowmobile.
Using inks and watercolours to create her clean and minimal illustrations, Lee’s distinctive style is gorgeous and fits very well with the theme of her book.
12. Cloth from the Clouds
Artist Alison Jay has an unmistakeable illustrative style, which not only features in many picture books but has also secured her work for various high-profile brands, including BT and Crabtree and Evelyn.
This beautiful example is part of Cloth in the Clouds by Michael Catchpool. Jay also has her own picture book, Welcome to the Zoo, which was selected as one of New York’s Bank Street bookstore’s best books of the year in 2009.
Next page: 11 more inspiring in-book illustrations…