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V&A Illustration Awards 2020

The V&A Illustration Awards, supported by the Enid Linder Foundation and the Moira Gemmill Memorial fund was established in 1972. Following its mission to promote creativity, ingenuity and imagination, it has become the UK’s most prestigious annual illustration competition. The Awards celebrate excellence in student illustration and three categories of contemporary practice: book cover design, book illustration and illustrated journalism.

“The V&A Illustration Awards celebrate outstanding creativity by working artists, who use the fierce power of illustration to illuminate all the complexity of contemporary human experience. The winning entries speak perfectly to the V&A’s founding mission to support artists, embed design in everyday life, and showcase imaginative brilliance”, said Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A.

V&A Illustration Awards 2020

The Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year and the Illustrated Journalism Award 2020: Ann Kieran

With the goal is to evoke a visceral connection to her art, her illustration captures the transience of opinion. The Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year and the Illustrated Journalism Award for the year has been awarded to Ann Kiernan. Selected from over 800 entries, Kiernan’s winning illustration was commissioned by Open Democracy to accompany an article by Wael Eskandar titled ‘How Twitter is gagging Arabic users and acting as morality police’.

Using bold and energetic inks, she symbolises a Twitter update that has broken free from a pencil-drawn cage in her winning piece. Swift, curt brushstrokes, an eerie sense of foreboding and a tiny spot of lingering red  is used to drive home the message that the escape is temporary. The bird getting shot is an eventuality. The fluidity and drive of her brushstrokes create a sense of urgency that impressed the judges who praised her “inventive use of the well-known corporate logo”.

V&A Illustration Awards 2020

Book Cover Award: Eva Eland for When Sadness Comes to Call

Sadness has the absurd duality of approachability and dread. The saturation of sadness we experience is often a result of how we engage with the pliable emotion. Eva Eland, in her book cover for ‘When Sadness Comes to Call’, creates an adorable, lonely, almost inviting image of sadness. Considering the book is for young readers, the non-threatening, endearing portrayal of sadness was admired by the judges.

V&A Illustration Awards 2020

Book Illustration Award: Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes

Written by Simon Armitage, the book strips words down to a minimum. The book of poems began as a puppet opera in which Hansel and Gretel are reimagined as modern-day refugees. Within the confines of self-awareness, it probes you to evoke viciously effervescent feelings. The illustrations follow suit. As it overwrites the age-old story for the present day, it uses muted expressions and toned-down colours to push the readers to discern the emotions themselves. The juxtaposition of fantasy and reality through the powerful illustration was admired by the judges.

V&A Illustration Awards 2020

Student Illustrator of the Year Award: Sally Dunne for Home in Kakuma Refugee Camp (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art)

While the colours are vibrant and pastel-tinted, Dunne’s drawings skip the details. It is almost as though she is commenting how before the never-ending wait for the normalcy we call home, the details fail to matter. All you remember is the uncertainty of displacement. The Kakuma refugee camp, a difficult reality, is affectingly portrayed in her piece where a young brother and sister collect water to bring home to their mother. Her use of the colour palette and shadow were admired by the judges.


The competition has been running since 1972.


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