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  • Isabelle ArsenaultIllustrator–Canada

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Isabelle Arsenault is a well-loved and well-respected illustrator, both with her readers and among reviewers from Canada and around the world. She was born in 1978 in Sept-Iles, Québec. After studies in fine arts and graphic design at the Université du Québec à Montréal, she specialized in illustration. Quickly, she gained recognition from the industry and her peers, receiving awards from major international illustration contests including Communication Arts and American Illustration and Applied Arts. Arsenault also won the Grand Prix for illustration (Magazines du Québec) for six years running. She lives in Montréal with her family.

With fifteen illustrated books now to her name, Arsenault has won many awards and earned many distinctions, including being a three-time winner of the prestigious Canadian Governor General's Literary Award (Le coeur de monsieur Gauguin, 2004; Virginia Wolf, 2012; and Jane, le renard & moi, 2012). Both Migrant (2011) and Jane, the Fox & Me (2013), the English translation of Jane, le renard & moi, were on The New York Times "Ten Best Illustrated Books" for their respective years. Jane, le renard & moi and its English-language counterpart have also won many comic and graphic novel awards for their artistry. Arsenault's illustrations for My Letter to the World and Other Poems (2008), Spork (2011), Once Upon a Northern Light (2013), Alpha (2014), and Cloth Lullaby (2016), among others, have been enthusiastically received.

Arsenault is greatly admired for her ability to tackle and humanize tough and complex subject matter with a distinctive and evocative style. In an interview for The Walrus (2012), she says,

I create illustrations based on how each story inspires me. I like bringing the text to another level through its visuals. It's a way to create images that can be appreciated by the eyes, but also the brain."

Her diverse output is a direct result of her creative process, which she describes in a blog for Picturebook Makers (2015):

I approach each of my books in a different way. Each text invokes a particular universe, and I endeavor to grasp it by adapting my techniques, my renderings and my graphical approach to each project.

Her flexibility as an illustrator of diverse publications from an alphabet book to a graphic novel to both fictional and non-fictional picturebooks has garnered Arsenault a wide-ranging audience. Her illustrations, while immediately accessible, leave a lasting impression achieved only through their subtle undercurrents. She has that uncanny ability to tap into her childhood dreams and imaginings and into the minds of her subjects, from artists living on the edge of society—such as Emily Dickinson, Paul Gauguin, Virginia Woolf, and Louise Bourgeois—to displaced children like Hélène and Jane Eyre, the Mexican migrant Anna, and the hybrid Spork. She then renders her characters' inner landscapes with the skills of a consummate artist so that they elicit a strong empathic response from young and old alike.

Arsenault has made an exceptional contribution to the literary and artistic heritage of children's literature in Canada and around the world. [End Page 45]



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