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After recently noticing how flooded my Instagram feed is with gorgeous illustration work done by uber-talented ladies, it would be selfish to not share their work with you!

Below are five of NBGA’s faves, showcasing a range of mediums, style and subject matter- from sharply funny cartoons to the luxurious warmth of dreamy holiday scenes, ranging from the utterly simple to the complex, these women make work that is beautiful, irreverent, strange and familiar.

Joey Yu is a London based artist who makes illustrative work as well as collage, animation, and pottery. The color palettes of her drawings are often unexpected- beginning with a bold shade of paper as her background, she might combine magenta, tangerine and aquamarine blue in one composition, making her scenes of the everyday startling. Yu’s confident lines always convey a sense of movement- whether it be the rushing pace of a crowd at a crosswalk or the subtle gesture of an arm over dinner- the figures in her work seem to interact with each other and their surroundings on the page. And by looking at her work, one gets the sense that they interact with you too- all her subjects; friends, lovers and strangers alike, are recorded with a sense of intimacy, as if one were sitting across from them at a restaurant table, or eavesdropping on a poolside conversation.

Sara’s strange, smudgy and delicate drawings are eerily beautiful. The cast of her illustrations seems to be drawn from somewhere between a dream and a nightmare- think melancholy cats in party hats with uncanny human faces or childlike figures with animal heads locked in an embrace. Her artwork on her Instagram and sketch diary is playful, and doesn’t take itself too seriously; it has a sense of mischief to mirror the pixies, devils, and sprites which inhabit it. In her studies of stills from cult TV and Film, such as ‘Heathers’ or ‘Twin Peaks’, her combination of mediums- in a single drawing, one may note the use of biro, of graphite pencil and of black coloring pencil, for example- she captures the multitude of contrasting textures in her subject matter- sharply defining unkempt hair in a scribble of black, whilst a cotton shirt may be suggested in just a few fine lines and the softness of lips or the shadow of a browbone in a soft smudge of grey graphite.

María Medem’s surreal illustrations portray a polychromatic world, her figures wandering in landscapes that seem to exist before or separate from time. Influenced by Japanese aestheticism, Medem’s artworks are comprised of sequential images, illustrating an ambiguous narrative- like a comic from a dream, without any need for text. She works in flat, block colors in an intensely vivid palette of oranges, reds, purples, and blues, her work having an almost hallucinatory quality in its depiction of vast, untouched landscapes overlain with frames that show chronological motion- such as a butterfly beating its wings against the sky. These landscapes are often inhabited by lone figures, her illustrations capturing the way their bodies interact with the natural world, becoming an extension of each other as their breath holds up a single petal, or they rub rocks together to create a spark. One gets a sense of isolation looking at her work, as if these figures were the first or last human on earth- her illustrations capture the essence of being alone, in its potential for peace and for frustration.

Liana Finck, a frequent collaborator with The New Yorker, makes work which captures the neuroses, frustrations, and epiphanies of being a young woman in 2019. Finck has a looser, less self-conscious style than any other illustrator on this list- she herself said in an interview that ‘I think I was a real artist until I turned 11’, and the simplistic execution of her drawings combined with the rawness of her subject matter merges a childlike impulsiveness with a sharp wit, making her work consistently funny, poignant and often political. Her pen drawings, with short titles or fragments of dialogue, often effectively act as single-panel comics, illustrating some real or imagined interaction between Finck and the outside world. At other times she uses clever visual metaphors, or text and arrows alone, to make simple diagrams of the most complex of feelings. In doing so, in making these ineffable feelings tangible, she embraces discomfort and allows us to find comfort in the knowledge that someone else understands -and can express- exactly how we feel.

The women of Norway-based Isabelle Feliu’s (and NBGA favorite) illustrations live in a perpetual summer. Her gouache on watercolor-paper artworks, in a palette of blushing terracotta, sandy browns, and turquoise, betray the sources of her inspiration – traveling and nature. Her work truly does encapsulate the feeling of a getaway- there is a sense of languidness and of adventure in the pursuits of her figures- with their Matisse-like faces and smooth, fluid limbs; sun worshipping, reclining poolside, picking fruit or playing with big cats and lizards. Whether the landscape is a villa, a desert or a jungle, a sense of warmth and contentedness pervades all of Feliu’s work- and the unbothered, all-female inhabitants seem in no rush to be anywhere else.

Words by Emily Blundell Owers
Cover photo by Maria Medem
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