feminist illustrators that you must know

By Marina Antigualla

The vindication of the female gender characteristics can be undertaken from many artistic spheres but one of the most interesting ones that exist today, among other things because of its ability to outreach through social networks and to connect with the public, is illustration.

In the patriarchal society that governs us, illustration stands out as a cathartic procedure against oppression, causing women illustrators to shout out what makes them being women, without taboos or aversions to their own gender. Woman rises up thanks to her abilities as an artist above the imposition. She no longer merely observes, she’s now an agent who acts and claims. This is how illustration becomes a weapon in the struggle for gender equality, and behind it we find so disparate voices, and at the same time so important, that they speak out for equity.

Among them it’s essential to speak about Paula Bonet (Villarreal, 1980), one of the most committed female voices. A woman of powerful convictions who makes us see that there’s no need for complexity – neither of arguments, nor of lines – to be able to convey a great message. She lets her voice be heard through paper and ink, showing realities that we don’t usually hear about as abortion. Her means? Books, album covers, t-shirts, posters… Paula Bonet floods with her message our day to day, becoming one of the most requested illustrators in Spain, at the same time as she spearheads feminism.

There are also some of them that use texts to direct their message, as is the case of Flavia Álvarez (Oviedo, 1987), known as Flavita Banana. In Flavita the concept and the image are given by her hand, conjunction beyond illustration and closer to narration. In her cartoons the heartbreaking is seen from woman’s eyes, thus showing her vision from a point away from the myth-making or the «happily ever after».

There are visions as disparate as ways certain illustrators find to show their thoughts. Raquel Riba Rossy (Igualada, Barcelona, 1990) opts for the creation of Lola Vendetta, according to which «feminism is not suffered, feminism is enjoyed». Lola, possessor of accurate reflections, was created in 2014 by the need of her creator to express feelings to certain realities that she lived in her day to day life. A character who takes the contemporary woman out of silence, being her universality the showcase of the women of today: conflicts at home, with friends or experiences of couple.

María Hesse (Huelva adoption, 1982) has also been able to connect with the female public. His illustrations denote feminism in every stroke and in them delicacy is not synonymous with subordination. Her illustrations are a shout, an expression as a creator. Each of her pieces possesses parts of herself, which heralds her as an author seeking empowerment through vivid colors and zigzagging traces. She creates a parallel universe in which the taboo disappears and the woman masturbates.

We also find graphic humorists like Monstruo Espagueti, whose real name is Anastasia Bengochea. She makes the normalization of women’s routines an echo of feminism. Her humour lies in laughing, in a biting way, at the banalities of survival in modern life: love, insecurities, tribulations…

One of the creation spaces that has traditionally been masculine is the comic book, but that has changed thanks to the work of Ana Penyas (Valencia, 1987), who became the first woman to win the National Comic Prize, having been awarded last 2018 for her graphic novel «We’re All Good». An author awarded for speaking of a generation of forgotten women, those of the postwar period, who as she says are «secondary characters of other lives», through the memories of her two grandmothers. Penyas creates a work in which white, black and sometimes pink, sometimes red, are the protagonists. What she creates has its own identity and she gets this thanks to the simplicity of the line and the deformation of the scenes.

There are illustrators whose lines cross borders as is the case of Cristina Daura (Barcelona, 1988). Colour, symmetry and feminism are the protagonists of the work of this illustrator who has worked for publications such as The New York Times, New York Times Sunday Review and Penguin Books. She tells stories through illustration and comic, with the use of primary and secondary colors. Her illustrations may seem absurd but in them the figure of woman is the link element between the different stories that she makes evident in ‘Herstory: An Illustrated Story of Women’.

But the one who possesses the undisputed favor of the masses through social networks is Raquel Córcoles (Reus, 1986), also known as Moderna de Pueblo. One of the most interesting aspects of this illustrator is how she recognizes herself as a feminist, but that throughout her career she has left many male chauvinisms behind, of which she was not aware and which she initially used in his cartoons. Her work is easily recognizable: vivid colors, and everything starring her alter ego in fiction and her group of friends, which lives all kinds of adventures and misadventures in love, friendship and family, while they reflect on how to live life.

Agustina Guerrero (Ciudad de Chacabuco, Argentina, 1984) is also a graphic designer and cartoonist who gives voice to contemporary women through La Volátil. In her cartoons – mostly in black and white and starring drawings in which the stroke predominates, with great absence of color, except for the rosy cheeks – as she herself says «vomit her emotionsLa Volátil reflects her everyday life as a woman, both positive and negative, which makes thousands of women identify theirselves with her illustrations. In them the man is a simple spectator, while woman speaks of menstrual pains or sex.

We can’t just talk about feminist illustrators at the national level. Very interesting is the figure of Bodil Jane, an illustrator based in Amsterdam whose illustrations breathe the atmosphere of the country in which she lives. Her illustrations are like extracts from the everyday life of women. The vibrant colors give them vividness and transmit a careful and very calm style that attracts us to the unique atmosphere she creates. She doesn’t need words because the simplicity of his drawings calls for identification with scenes of the feminine day to day.

Also from London is Sarah Maxwell. Her work focuses on love and what it generates when it’s gone. But love seen from woman’s eyes. Love between women is what we can see in many of her illustrations, conveying the void that the absence of it leaves. Her illustrations reveal the delicacy of the artist through caresses and looks, kisses and deserted sheets.

All of them are illustrators who talk about feminism in their works. About what it means to be a woman and how it’s reflected in their lives and works in different ways. Very disparate styles and techniques that reflect social change fostered by art. A path towards equality between men and women, which helps us to ensure the validity of women in all fields of work and creation.