Russian-born Illustrators Strut Their Stuff

Last modified: 
Monday, November 17, 2008

Innovative illustrators! Awesome artists! Painters so powerful that they're pig-like! (Well, maybe pig-like is going too far. Piggish?)

While there are many wonderful American-born illustrators, I'd like to show you a few Russian-born artists. Gennady Spirin, born in a small town near Moscow. He graduated from Surikov School of Fine Art at the Academy of Arts in Moscow and Moscow Stroganov Institute of Art. Spirin's work reminds me of Renaissance paintings or illuminated manuscripts. He uses lush colors, usually in watercolor or oil.

Boris Kulikov's work is both playful and painterly. He graduated from The Institute of Theatre, Music And Cinema in St. Petersburg, Russia. You can see the theatrical quality in the way that he portrays light and perspective. While he's tackled more elevated subjects, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Kulikov also illustrated Kathleen Krull's Fartiste.

Katya Arnold, born in Moscow, has worked as a fine artist, illustrator, and teacher. She learned to love illustration from her mother, who would read to her when she was ill. Her mother would read from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and add to the black and white drawings by painting them in watercolor. "I watched the story come to life with her brush," the author said. "Ever since that time, I have been stunned by the magic of color, the magic of creating a new world, and the different worlds, real and imagined, that people can live in." In addition to her own work, she supports paintings made by elephants!

Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Russia. He studied at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute. You might recognize his recent illustrations from Kate DiCamillo's books The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Great Joy. This illustrator has also been paired with M. T. Anderson in The Serpent Came to Gloucester.

Yours with snorts,

S. Will Burr signature

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By Spirin, Gennady

Publisher Comments
This is Gennady Spirin's own dear story about the day his son Ilya found a crow with a broken wing, and brought it home. The veterinarian told the boy that it would never fly again. "Put it to sleep " he urged the parents. But the wild crow-Martha, they called her-was full of surprises. She most certainly made their home, her home, and one day she did fly. Would there be one more surprise? When she flew away that fall, would she return again? With Gennady Spirin's beautiful and delicate watercolor illustrations and the sweet memory of Martha's year as his guide, Martha takes flight once again.

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Simeon's Gift
By Edwards, Julie Andrews
Author Hamilton, Emma Walton
Illustrator Spirin, Gennady

From the renowned mother/daughter team, the gentle story of Simeon, a humble Renaissance musician who sets off on a quest in search of his muse, is now available in a paperback edition. Full color.

Publisher Comments
In a faraway time and place, a humble musician named Simeon sets out on a quest. Thirsting for knowledge and eager to improve his craft, he risks losing all that is important to him, including the love of his beautiful Sorrel.

The journey brings many discoveries, and though he tries hard to absorb the vast new tapestry of sounds and ideas before him, the scope of choices eventually becomes overwhelming.

Dispirited, he turns for home -- and alone in the grace of nature, he experiences a series of wondrous events that lead him to the discovery of his own true self, and the glorious gift he has to offer.

Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton -- with stunning illustrations from Gennady Spirin -- weave a magical tale with a timeless lesson about beauty, music, and the power of giving.

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Betty Lou Blue
By Crocker, Nancy
Illustrator Kulikov, Boris

In this quirky, winning tale, Betty Lou's snowshoe-sized feet save the day when the other kids get caught in the snow drifts at the park. Full color.

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Max's Dragon
By Banks, Kate
Illustrator Kulikov, Boris

Max is looking for words that rhyme. His dragon is in his wagon - or was, for now its tail has left a trail, which Max follows. He finds an umbrella on the ground-- "Found, ground," he says, while his older brothers mock him for believing in dragons and sitting under an umbrella when it isn't even raining. But Max believes in possibilities--and when he can show his brothers not only a dragon in the stormy clouds but also a dinosaur, they begin to come round. When Max demonstrates the power of his rhyming words to tame the dinosaur and the dragon and make the rain come, he wins them over completely.

With amusing wordplay and beguiling illustrations, Kate Banks and Boris Kulikov celebrate language and imagination in a collaboration that is bound to be oodles of fun for everyone.

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Let's Find It!: My First Nature Guide
By Arnold, Katya
Illustrator Arnold, Katya

Toddlers can hone their observation skills while learning about a variety of natural habitats. Arnold gives young children page after page of fun-filled hide-and-seek adventure, illustrating creatures one by one and then hiding them in their natural surroundings for kids to find.

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The Animal Hedge
By Fleischman, Paul
Illustrator Ibatoulline, Bagram

A magical tale for young readers

Review by Deborah Hopkinson

Accompanied by rich, detailed watercolor and gouache illustrations by Russian-born artist Bagram Ibatoulline, The Animal Hedge tells the story of a farmer whose heart glowed with the love of animals "like a hot wood stove." He and his three sons pass their days in work and song, until drought hits, forcing them to sell their land and the animals they love and move to a tiny cottage surrounded by a hedge.

Although the land eventually recovers when rain falls, the farmer is sad. With no money left, he has no hope of recovering his farm. All he can do is clip the bushes around the cottage into the shapes of his beloved cows, chickens and pigs. Over time, the animal hedge becomes many things. It keeps the farmer from feeling lonely and helps each son find his proper calling in the world. When the oldest son asks what he should do, his father advises him to watch the hedge and, seemingly like magic, it takes the shape of a horse-drawn carriage. And so the son leaves home to become a coachman. In just the same way, the hedge grows into the shape of a ship for the second son, and a fiddler for the youngest. The boys are puzzled as to how the hedge can choose so well for them, but they set out to make their fortunes.

Time passes. When the farmer's sons return home, successful and happy, they realize how this wonderful hedge has always reflected their deepest desires—and they set out to fulfill their father's own dreams.

Perfect for story time, this richly illustrated, lyrical book is sure to delight young readers. And who knows? Perhaps the next time their parents pick up some trimmers and head for the yard, something wonderful will emerge from the bushes.

© 2003, All rights reserved, BookPage

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The Tinderbox
By Andersen, Hans Christian
Retold by Mitchell, Stephen
Illustrator Ibatoulline, Bagram

Spun with wit and clarity, Mitchell's retelling of Andersen's classic tale of a brave soldier who finds love and fortune in a magic tinderbox, set in the post-Civil War South, is paired with Ibatoulline's richly detailed illustrations, creating a stunning collectible edition.

Publisher Comments
"Left, right Left, right " A soldier is marching home from war when he meets a witch who says, "What a fine sword you have, and what a big knapsack Now I'll show you how to get as much money as you want." Fortune is fleeting for the soldier until he learns the secret of the witch's tinderbox and her three eerie dogs, each with eyes bigger than the last. With each strike of the flint, a dog materializes to grant him his wish, and the soldier doesn't hesitate to take advantage of this gift -- at a high cost to the kingdom. Spun with wit and clarity, Stephen Mitchell's wonderfully fresh retelling is paired with Bagram Ibatoulline's richly detailed illustrations, creating a stunning collectible edition.