20 exciting illustrators to follow in 2020

© Aart-Jan Venema. All images courtesy of the artists

Known as the "go-to" resource for illustration, the Directory of Illustration is an invaluable tool for searching, referencing, and connecting with the most talented artists in the world.

At the beginning of each year, the Directory creates a gorgeous printed printed book, distributed free of charge to thousands of creatives.

It lands on the desks of those who regularly hire freelance illustrators and animators. And at Creative Boom, we've had a sneak peek before the 36th edition is released. It contains almost five-hundred pages filled with thousands of illustrations from the best commercial artists working today. And this year's compendium features original cover illustrations by Lisa Perrin, with art direction by award-winning designer/illustrator Dave Plunkert of SPUR Design.

It was an impossible task with so much talent on display, but we've picked out 20 of our favourite illustrators – artists both new and established, and who we think will make a significant impact in 2020.

1. Ale + Ale

Award-winning Italian artists Alessandro Lecis and Alessandra Panzeri have been the team behind Ale + Ale for more than 20 years. Based in France, they're known for their unusual collages, plucked from children's books to corporate imagery. The duo is represented by Morgan Gaynin.

© Ale + Ale

© Ale + Ale

2. Gail Armstrong

Gail Armstrong works with paper, creating 3D illustrations of people, animals, buildings, landscapes or even graphs. Her crafted sculptures have appeared in National Geographic and attracted the attention of Rotary Watches, Anchor Butter and Milkybar. And to think her intricate works each begin with a flat piece of paper! We've seen paper become increasingly popular throughout 2019; we expect that trend to continue over the next 12 months, with Gail being one of the leading paper artists. She is represented by IllustrationX.

© Gail Armstrong

© Gail Armstrong

3. Iker Ayestaran

Iker Ayestaran specialises in digital, gouache and graphic art, and his work is full of texture, soft lines and retro colours. Represented by Shannon Associates, he's often hired by Fortune, The New York Times, Variety, The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, and The Economist for his stunning editorial illustrations. Based in Spain, he's won many awards and is recognised as one of the most celebrated illustrators in the world.

© Iker Ayestaran

© Iker Ayestaran

4. Kirsten Ulve

Represented by Mendola Artists, Kirsten Ulve is an illustrator and designer from New York City who mixes crisp conceptual design with bold colour and heaps of fun. She specialises in fashion and lifestyle, caricature, toy and game design, and her clients include The New Yorker, Glamour and Volvo.

© Kirsten Ulve

© Kirsten Ulve

5. Morten Morland

This talented Norwegian has lived in London since 2000. He has a BA in graphic design and since 2002 has been the political cartoonist for The Times. Alongside this, he produces weekly satirical animations for the newspaper's online and tablet editions.

As politics continues to dominate the global conversation, we can expect to see even more of Morten in 2020. He is represented by Début Art.

© Morten Morland

© Morten Morland

6. Lisa Perrin

An award-winning illustrator and designer, Lisa Perrin also calls herself a collaborator, entrepreneur, educator and general mover and shaker. Represented by Frank Sturges, she graduated in 2013 with an MFA in Illustration Practice from the Maryland Institute College of Art and today works full-time as an illustration professor at MICA. During her spare time, she creates art for clients such as Macy's, Penguin Random House and Anthropologie. One to keep in your sights.

© Lisa Perrin

© Lisa Perrin

7. Michael Driver

Represented by Folio, Michael Driver is a London-based illustrator whose work is created using both digital and analogue techniques. He crafts gorgeous fictional characters and produces lush textures for clients such as Apple, Deliveroo and The Guardian. Predominantly editorial, his work can also be found in advertising campaigns and publishing.

© Michael Driver

© Michael Driver

8. Sue Todd

Based in Toronto, Canada, Sue Todd has literally carved out a niche with her lino-cut technique which she then colours digitally. It's a mixture of two worlds – analogue and digital – to create her colourful illustrations that have won over clients such as Barnes & Noble, The Wall Street Journal and Walmart. There's a heavy influence of medieval woodcuts along with the art of Jim Flora, Frans Masereel, and Jose Francisco Borges.

© Sue Todd

© Sue Todd

9. Richard Beacham

Figurative illustration is the main dish served up by UK illustrator Richard Beacham, sprinkled with a dash of humour. He's depicted everyone from the Queen and Theresa May to President Trump and Angela Merkel – specialising in editorial artworks for some of the world's leading publications.

© Richard Beacham

© Richard Beacham

10. Matt Chinworth

The soft sketches, textures and bold colours seem to leap from the screen when you first lay your eyes on Matt Chinworth's illustrations. If you visit his website, you'll notice his name follows a similar style, as though sketched in charcoal with a dash of animation to make it wobble. It's this tactility that draws us to Matt's work. He's recently created illustrations for The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

© Matt Chinworth

© Matt Chinworth

11. Mercedes deBellard

Mercedes deBellard is an illustrator from Madrid who specialises in portraits. She has something of a hyperrealistic speciality. Yet the people she delicately draws have an indefinably light touch. You'll have spotted her work before, as her clients range from Warner Brothers and Random House to The Sunday Times. She is represented by Folio and one of our favourites for 2020.

© Mercedes deBellard

© Mercedes deBellard

12. Jeremy Booth

Jeremy Booth was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where he still lives. His love of drawing began at a young age, but it wasn't until his twenties that he pursued graphic design. It was during that time that he discovered digital illustration, and the rest is history. Today, he is represented by Artistique and his work, that centres around light and shadow, is something he calls 'Vector Noir'.

© Jeremy Booth

© Jeremy Booth

13. Francesca di Chiara

Children's books and whimsical editorial illustrations are the focus of Francesca di Chiara, an illustrator who mainly works with international and Italian publishers such as Fabbri Editori, RCS, Piemme, Einaudi, La Coccinella and Usborne Publishing. Cute and lovable, we think she is one to watch for 2020. Francesca is represented by MIA Milan Illustrations Agency.

© Francesca di Chiara

© Francesca di Chiara

14. Ruby Taylor

Bursting with bright colours and inspired by old printed ephemera, vintage illustration and hand-painted signage, we can't get enough of Ruby Taylor's fun artworks. Represented by Central Illustration Agency, colour plays an important role in her illustrations, which are full of warmth, humour and character. Her clients include Adidas, Harper Collins and Penguin Random House.

© Ruby Taylor

© Ruby Taylor

15. Uijung Kim

Originally from South Korea, Uijung Kim now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. She studied Art and Design at Gunsan University in South Korea and Illustration at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

Inspired by her childhood experiences and the family and friends she grew up with, her work is firmly rooted in Korean culture through colour, tone and narrative. If her artworks make you happy, that will undoubtedly make Uijung happy, too. Another one on the books of Central Illustration Agency.

© Uijung Kim

© Uijung Kim

16. Aart-Jan Venema

Aart-Jan Venema uses digital and traditional painting techniques to create his multi-layered and fantastically coloured illustrations, anchored with a keen compositional eye. He loves to fill his artworks with stories and surprising details for all to discover.

The winner of both the Overall Professional and Design awards at the World Illustration Awards 2017, Aart's diverse portfolio has led him to work with clients such as Google and The New Yorker. And his first picture book, Night Windows, received much acclaim. Based in The Hague, Aart is represented by JSR.

© Aart-Jan Venema

© Aart-Jan Venema

17. Victoria Borges

Victoria Borges is quite the traveller. Born in Germany, she has lived in many places including Hawaii, Austria, and more recently, Richmond, Virginia. She has a degree in Communication Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University and now works as a designer and freelance illustrator, making work for both home decor and editorial publications.

Represented by Artistique, we love her exploration of various media, from oil painting, watercolour and screen-printing to stop motion, gif-making and digital illustration. Her style is versatile, whimsical and textured – something that we expect to see more of in 2020.

© Victoria Borges

© Victoria Borges

18. James O'Brien

Represented by Rapp Art, James O'Brien is an illustrator and artist whose impressive client list includes American Express, Colgate and Microsoft. With soft colour palettes, plenty of texture and the odd moving image, James creates conceptual and decorative art and design for editorial, commercial and publishing.

© James O'Brien

© James O'Brien

19. Lars Madsen

Lars Madsen is an award-winning German artist based in Hamburg. He creates illustrations, animations, logos, and custom letterings for clients all over the world. 2019 has been quite his year, as he scooped the Communication Arts 2019 Award of Excellence and was the American Illustration Chosen Winner, too. We expect great things from Lars over the next 12 months.

© Lars Madsen

© Lars Madsen

20. Fatinha Ramos

Based in Antwerp, Fatinha Ramos is an award-winning illustrator and visual artist originally from Portugal. After working in art direction and design for 12 years, she took a giant leap and followed her dream to become an illustrator.

Since then, her work has appeared all over the world, and she has won lots of awards, including one from the World Illustration Awards. We love the way she tears down conventions and avoids the usual clichés, creating poetic and often surreal artworks full of textures and vibrant colours.

© Fatinha Ramos for MoMA

© Fatinha Ramos for MoMA

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