News - The V&A Illustration Awards

caged blue birds with one flying away

This year's V&A Illustration Award winners have been announced. Have a look at the winning artworks...

Press Release

The V&A Illustration Awards were established in 1972 and have since become the UK’s most prestigious annual illustration competition. Free to enter, the Awards celebrate excellence in student illustration and three categories of contemporary practice: book cover design, book illustration and illustrated journalism. This year’s shortlist was drawn from over 800 entries and previous winners of the Illustration Awards include Nora Krug, John Vernon Lord, Sir Quentin Blake, Ralph Steadman, Posy Simmonds, Sara Fanelli, and Yasmeen Ismail.

From imaginary worlds and fairy-tales to the difficult reality of life in a refugee camp, the winners of this year's awards demonstrate the versatility and breadth of contemporary illustration.

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A said: “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.”

caged blue birds with one flying away

Ann Kiernan has been awarded the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year and the Illustrated Journalism Award 2020.

Kiernan’s winning illustration was commissioned by Open Democracy to accompany an article by Wael Eskandar entitled ‘How Twitter is gagging Arabic users and acting as morality police’. Simple brushstrokes and a spray of red symbolise a Twitter update that has broken free from a pencil drawn cage only to be shot down. The fluidity and drive of her brushstrokes create a sense of urgency that impressed the judges who praised Kiernan’s inventive use of the well-known corporate logo.


child poking the belly of a big green monster

Winner of Book Cover Award: Eva Eland for When Sadness Comes to Call (Andersen Press).

A child looks up with curiosity and compassion at an unexpected guest, whilst sadness towers above, encompassing and extending beyond the boundaries of the book cover. Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a poignant yet uplifting look at dealing with a universally felt emotion. An important subject to explore with young readers, the judges admired the soft, non-threatening portrayal of sadness.


hansel and gretel in a chocolate boat on a chocolate sea coming to an island with stylised trees and goats on

Winner of Book Illustration Award: Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Hansel and Gretel: A Nightmare in Eight Scenes, written by Simon Armitage, Art Direction by Laurence Beck (Design for Today).

The second collaboration between artist and poet, this illustrated book of poems began as a puppet opera in which Hansel and Gretel are reimagined as modern-day refugees. The judges admired the illustrations for enriching, rather than merely representing the written word.


In pinks and blues, refugee children gather water from a puddle

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

Dunne’s pastel drawings aim to convey the vibrancy of the Kakuma refugee camp, while highlighting the difficult reality of displacement as many await resettlement or to return home. The judges admired Dunne’s colour palette and use of shadow, observing that her technique serves to accentuate the contrast between community and the uncertainty of fate.


a black man and woman and two dogs dance with abandon

Student Illustrator of the Year: Runner Up: Vyara Boyadjieva for The Wave (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art).

Boyadjieva’s jubilant illustration is part of a wordless picture book entitled Induli, meaning hill in Xhosa, a South African language. The Wave’s infectious joy and exhilarating sense of energy enthralled the judges who admired Boyadjieva’s lively use of colour and form.


boy and his god in a cave hold a torch up to view cave paintings

Highly Commended Student: Kate Winter for Lascaux (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art).

The judges admired Winter’s picture book for highlighting our intrinsic need to learn through creativity and to tell stories through imagery.


shelves full of blue and white pottery with lots of cat ornaments and a real black cat


Highly Commended Student: Laura Winstone for The Catmolean Museum (Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art).

Winstone’s picture book celebrates world culture and craftsmanship. A joy to look at, the judges described her textured collages as playful witty and fun.


three giant children with long hair play with the stars

Highly Commended Student: Ruo Hsin Wu for Starring Night (Royal College of Art).

Stars are imagined as small holes in the sky that giants gaze through to observe the world. The judges admired the beautiful execution of a unique and though-provoking concept.

The prize money for each of the four awards categories is £3,000, and the Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year Prize, named in memory of the late Moira Gemmill, the V&A’s former Director of Design, is worth an additional £5,000. The student runner-up prize is £2,000.