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  • Zoë Atkinson Fiennes, Founder

Illustration & Imagination

I’ll be honest and say that I am a novice in the world of illustration. I have memories of course, of the beautifully illustrated children's books I loved and devoured when I was a little girl but I have long since lost that immediate connection. These were books with illustrations so finely attuned to the text that together they transported me, with so many others, to distant lands and times - to other worlds entirely. And so the event I will speak about today has been a real revelation for me - that there is a whole world of illustration waiting to be discovered, whether you are a child, a young adult or indeed an adult. Illustration is as powerful an art form as any other and today it is an international landscape with breathtaking talent and unlimited potential. At the forefront of this international scene is the Bologna Children’s Book Fair held in Bologna, Italy, in March each year. This is the 55th edition of the fair, already firmly established as a highly respected and attended, world-leading annual event.

I enter the Bologna Fiere complex and the atmosphere is electric. All around me I can hear a plethora of diverse and lively languages against the humming background of the thousands of people gathered here today - illustrators, authors, translators, literary agents, publishers, you name it. This year there are 1,390 exhibitors from over 77 countries and regions of the world, engaging some of their most talented players in the publishing industry and showcasing the best of global illustration. China is the guest country of Honour this year, since it’s reform 40 years ago this country’s publishing industry has witnessed a rapid development. Chinese publishers are dedicated to international exchange and learning, to building a future together with the wider world and offering children around the globe the wealth and spiritual nourishment embodied in Chinese culture.

The hands on exhibition is sprawled over seven immense pavilions, of over 20,000 square metres. There is so much for the senses to take in, so much on offer, like the shining Illustrators Exhibition which features 77 selected works chosen by a jury of five international experts from 15,265 works, from 3,053 illustrators, from 72 counties. For over 50 years the Illustrators Exhibition has been ‘...the point of reference for the world of international illustration, a hothouse of new talents...’* The fair also boasts an expertly curated in-depth programme of over 200 events and initiatives over 4 days bringing together more than 26,000 publishing industry professionals; fertile ground for the exchange of new ideas.

Of course to experience this wonderful and unmissable event, you need to go there! But below I am going to share a few illustrators who captured my imagination in the hope that if you haven’t already it will inspire you, as it did me, to venture into the world of illustration as adults and see what wonders lie in wait.





And here are some of my favourite illustrations from the Key Colours Competition China and the Illustrators Exhibition.

and from the Illustrators Exhibition...

Yu Hongcheng

Yu Hongcheng


With thanks to Bologna Fiera.

*quote taken directly from the Bologna Children’s Book Fair press material provided.

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