More than ever, illustrators draw upon their personal experiences and identities to create their work and raise awareness of issues such as racism, disability and feminism.

Illustration is a flexible medium that allows for nuance and sensitivity, as well as subjectivity and personal stories.

This portfolio work by Jin Xia was made in response to an article in The Atlantic, about how entrenched racism meant that people of colour in the USA experienced the COVID-19 pandemic. The racial disparity map overlaid onto a silhouetted face becomes a visual and metaphorical scar.

Dana Koehler‘s children’s book ‘Hazel is Home’ shows what it can be like for young people living in blended families. The story addresses the associated loneliness and conflicting sense of identity, as well as the joy of having an extended family can bring.

This editorial illustration by Felicia Fortes accompanied an article in Swedish newspaper Göteborgs-Posten about how to talk to children about racism. The illustration has a sense of calm and kindness, in contrast to the media hype around Black Lives Matter protests and discussions of racism on social media.

Emma ‘Honey’ Beam‘s redesign of Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On highlights the magical elements of the story, and the relationship between the two male lead characters. Emma chose this book to illustrate as a queer artist herself, as well as being a fan of Rowell’s writing.

This animated artist book by Chloe Watts is based on her own experiences with her mental health. The work incorporates her medication as a narrative device, and a voiceover taken from her hospital diary.

Shabazz Larkin‘s book cover illustration for the Folio Society edition of Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is an abstract representation of Angelou’s characters, and a personal portrait of Shabazz’s love for the book and how it shaped him personally.

Justyna Green‘s series looks at Endometriosis, a condition that affects 1 in 10 women, and can cause debilitating physical symptoms, as well as having a negative impact on mental health. The patterned backgrounds convey the sense of anxiety and pain experienced through this condition.