LADIES OF LITERATURE fanart collection funded on Kickstarter

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Once you finish reading a book, there’s nothing more enjoyable than finding the perfect piece of fanart – and even better when that fanart is for the kickass lady character that doesn’t always get the love you want them to.

The creators of the fanart anthology Ladies of Literature agree. “An art anthology dedicated to our favorite literary ladies! 100 artists. 100 illustrated book recommendations,” the Kickstarter campaign is already fully funded and completely awesome. Diverse in both subject matter and art style, the book characters illustrated range from those middle-grade stories to those in adult tales, with plenty of young adult characters in the mix.

Created by Arielle Jovellanos and Janet Sung, the project began in the summer of 2013, when Sung and Jovellanos released Ladies of Literature: Volume 1.

“I was accumulating a lot of artist friends online from drawing book fanart and thought it would be cool to put together a zine of all our favorite female book characters and authors,” said Jovellanos. It was their first dabble into self-publishing, but it was “met with a humbling amount of support and continued to garner attention from fans and artists all over the world. I was excited by everyone’s enthusiasm for the project and could feel a demand for some kind of follow-up. There was a lot of requests for a Volume 2 which of course had to be bigger and better than the first. In the spring of 2014, after having a few other books under our belts, Janet and I decided it was finally time to tackle our biggest project yet. And the rest is history!”

Though Jovellanos and Sung had experimented in ways to recruit artists in the past, they wanted Ladies of Literature: Volume 2 to include talented artists they might not have worked out before. After some initial invitations to artists they had worked with before, they opened portfolio submissions to find fresh talent.

“I honestly expected about 50 submissions, but the response blew me away,” said Jung. “We received almost 500 portfolios! Arielle and I spent nights on end sifting through websites and blogs, debating for our favorites, and finally came to the 100+ we have featured in Ladies of Literature: Volume 2. We love them all!”

Artists participating include Grace P. Fong, Kevin Jay Stanton and Kaysha Siemens.

Fong illustrated Genya from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, a beautiful character who finds her life ripped apart as the series goes on. Fong’s piece came as the final installment of the Grisha pieces that payed “modest homage” to religious paintings and the Grisha trilogy’s Sankta Alina.

“For Genya, though, I chose to depict her shielding herself from the groping hands of her admirers and the powers that seek to use her,” said Fong. “The red kefta she wants appears as a bloodstain on her white servant’s uniform. Despite this, a halo of Heartrender power blossoms behind her head, and she will see it when she pulls herself from her tormentors’ hands.”

  • Stephanie Kao illustrated Susan Sto Helit from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Click through for the full image.

While there are plenty of other characters Fong would like to illustrate – Vin from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Sabriel from Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom, Lilac LaRoux from Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars – she felt compelled to draw Genya, especially given how new the series is, and how fervently she wants people to read it.

“Genya is a beautifully layered, inspiring character,” said Fong. “At first, she seems like a stereotypical pretty face, but when she loses her outer strength, she draws strength from within. Her story of going from being used to being powerful brought tears to my eyes and many other readers. Genya is many things: a tailor, a grisha, a doll, a servant, a soldier, a traitor, a survivor – and she truly captures the depth of a strong, multi-faceted character.”

Kevin Jay Stanton snuck two female characters into his piece: Lirael from Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy and the Disreputable Dog who accompanies her.

Lirael is wonderful because it’s a female monomyth – Lirael is a strong character who is called to action and rises to the occasion. She faces down her destiny and rallies her friends and embraces her unique identity. Plus, the series blends necromancy and magic and weaves them into a fascinating world with fantastic characters – it’s a great read!”

Stanton first read Lirael in high school and fell in love with both Lirael and the Disreputable Dog, along with Nix’s world. Stanton loved that his female characters existed in a world where they’re treated as equals with their own strengths and agency.

“[Lirael] feels very out of place in her small world, and while the people around her are mostly kind about how much she sticks out, they can’t help her find herself,” said Stanton. “That resonated with me a lot as a teenager. But with the help of The Disreputable Dog who acts as a sort of guide, she leaves the safety of her home to find out who she really is and go on an adventure. And along the way she finds a family and she finds friends, as well as her own unique strengths.”

Kaysha Siemens also managed to sneak two female characters into her piece. Ursula K. le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle is home to many amazing characters, but Siemens focused on lead lady Tenar with Penthe backlit in the background.

“Penthe is the whole reason the moment I chose to depict even happens at all,” said Siemens. “It’s one of the many things I love so much about le Guin’s work: these seemingly small characters, seemingly small moments, that you almost don’t notice when you first read them, yet are so very important.  If you blink, you’ll miss them, but their effect is like the first tiny crack in a crumbling dam, the first loose pebble of a landslide.”

While Earthsea’s Tehanu also appears in the collection, Siemens was drawn more to the understated strength of Tenar.

“I have a very deep affection for depicting usually-dynamic characters in quiet moments, but also for characters who in themselves have quiet, dignified strength, and Tenar is a little of both, so I couldn’t help wanting to depict her.  There were many scenes I could have picked from that were more actiony than this, but I wanted to show the side of her that I love best: her hesitant, hopeful openness, her stubbornness warring with her heart; the way she holds herself still and dignified even as her entire world-paradigm shifts.  She’s so small and quiet, and so strong.”
The Ladies of Literature: Volume 2 Kickstarter ends in a week and can still be supported. Each illustration will be accompanied with a description of the character and the book she originates from.
“I’ve pretty much made it my personal mission to read every book suggested by the artists, because their illustrations are just that good,” said Jovellanos. “I hope the effect will be the same for anyone who flips through the book! Like the first book, we’ll be listing the source material for all the illustrations for the benefit of our readers. The project is just as much about spreading literacy and love for reading as it is about celebrating literary ladies!”
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Nicole Brinkley

Nicole is the editor of YA Interrobang. She has short hair and loves dragons. The rest changes without notice. Follow her on Twitter at @nebrinkley or Tumblr at nebrinkley. Like her work? Leave her a tip.

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