The Talented Female Illustrators Who Paint Your Imagination

Female book illustrators are often under-acknowledged, but their work greatly impacts a reader’s experience. It is important to recognize how woman of the past influenced this creative profession.

Author's Corner Community Female Voices Publishing

Like female writers, female book illustrators had to battle gender biases to thrive in their field. Unfortunately, even the notable names of these creatives lack a bold imprint on the public. Their work may be remembered, but their identities are not. Read on to discover the magic hands responsible for the designs that built your imagination, and to learn more about those following in their path. 

It is common knowledge that gender biases restrict opportunities for women to write and publish books in the past. However, accompanying hard working authors are illustrators. This group of creatives is often under-recognized in the industry. Graphic design and illustration may seem like a common profession now, but it wasn’t always.

Like writers, female illustrators had to work hard to establish a place in the crack that was opening up to women in the book force. It is important to recognize the hands responsible for establishing the scene for female illustrators, and those still building the scenes in our favorite stories. 

The Instigator: Eleanor Abott

Fine artist and book illustrator Eleanor Abott is one of the women identified as the New Woman. She was part of a collective that pushed social norms by bringing more female artists into professional enterprises. They were determined to alter the stereotype that declared work by a female inferior to their male counterparts. This was done through personal enactment of the values of freedom and confidence they wanted to promote, and through making a space for females by founding their own art associations. 


In her remarkable career, Abbott created illustrators for many famous writers. Her talent with watercolor and scenic designs made for beautiful additions to stories. Some of these illustrators were printed on the pages of 20th-century editions of popular books like Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Treasure Island, and Old Fashioned Girl. As a female artist and writer myself, her professional success and integrity to reshape the creative workforce for women makes her a name to remember, and a woman to thank.

Beatrix Potter: Profiting Off The New Opportunity

Her name might not jump to the front of your mind like the name Peter Rabbit, however, he is but a piece of Potter’s wondrous imagination. Like much of her work, The Tales of Peter Rabbit was inspired by her childhood spent around nature. She spent a lot of time in the countryside of Scotland and the Lake District. She was known to both catch and sketch the creatures around her like butterflies and mice. Her tendency to personalize these animals and imagine their adventures led to the creation of many characters like Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle Duck, Squirrel Nutkin and Timmy Tiptoes.


All of these names appear in her compiled work of 23 children’s tales, which together have sold over 250 million copies. Her pioneer personality also created the first patterned toy of a fictional character, which was the stuffed animal copy of the adorable Peter Rabbit. Potter passed away in 1943, but her legacy lives on in the imagination of children, and in the adventurous spirit of her characters.   

Moving To the Modern with Mary GrandPré

As her last name insinuates, Mary GrandPré’s legacy is large. Though her radiant imagination has spilled into many children’s and young adult books, she is most known for her amazing work as the illustrator of the Harry Potter series


After graduating from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design with a BFA, she began her career as a graphic artist. Her talent was quickly recognized, and in the late 90’s she was commissioned to do the illustrations for the American editions of the famous Harry Potter series. It was her artistic flair that brought to life the images of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and her graphic design skill that formatted the iconic title font. Mary GrandPré continues to light up the path paved for her by early female illustrators with vivid color. 

It is essential to recognize the courageous women who shaped our modern experience as women in society. Though their drawings pop off the pages of our favorite novels, the work of the illustrator is often minimally acknowledged in book talks. So, thank you Eleanor Abott for creating a space for female creatives. Thank you Beatrix Potter for expanding it. And thank you Mary GrandPre for continuing to enact their dreams by drawing the worlds we see in ours.