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  • Jane RayIllustrator–UK

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Jane Ray specialized in ceramics at university, but she always wanted to be a book illustrator. Since her first picturebook in 1989, she has illustrated over sixty books for children. She has been particularly attracted by folk tales, myths, legends, and Bible stories. The Story of Creation, with words that were adapted from the Bible, won a Smarties Award in 1992. She has illustrated two books with adult texts for the prestigious Folio Society and has illustrated an original picturebook text from the award-winning novelist Jeanette Winterson. Further, she has illustrated two picturebooks with texts by the UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, most recently The Lost Happy Endings (2008). Beginning in 2002, Ray has written and illustrated several of her own stories as picturebooks, including Ahmed and the Feather Girl (2010).

Her distinctive illustrations draw their inspiration from the art and architecture of other times and places: in her early work, this was particularly the Near East, whose ancient civilizations Ray first encountered as a student in the British Museum. Her later work showed more diverse influences. For instance, a notebook in which she recorded her visit to the Ospedale in Venice was the starting point for both the story and illustrations of Heartsong (2015), written with Kevin Crossley Holland.

The look of her early work is perhaps best seen in her illustrations for Fairy Tales (2000), Berlie Doherty's adaptations of traditional tales. These are richly decorated, atmospheric, and intricate, with a close attention to design, color and texture—drawing on the history of fairy tale illustration, including the use of silhouette. More recently, in three collections—including The Little Mermaid and other Fishy Tails 2014—Ray has used a scraper board technique to produce images in monochrome or two colors, recalling woodcuts and the folk tradition of illustration.

The diversity of Ray's inspiration has been married to a commitment to gender equality, social diversity, and inclusion. Sometimes, this has meant challenging the expectations of her readers, particularly in regard to the ethnic identity of characters in traditional stories. She says,

From the beginning of my career, I have included characters of different ethnicities and I have particularly enjoyed bringing those differences to the traditional 'flaxen haired' European traditions of Grimm, Perrault, and Andersen.

Jane Ray has an active life outside her studio. She works with schools and literature festivals and has collaborated with theater groups and The Royal Opera House. She has worked with organizations to encourage the representation of disabled children in picturebooks and to improve the environment in services for mental health patients, and she is presently part of a project working with refugees and asylum seekers in London. She feels it is important for all children to see themselves in her illustrations and for those illustrations to be a springboard for children's own imagination and creativity:

To enable a child to see themselves in a book, to see an aspect of their story being told, is a powerful and liberating gift. And to get those children writing and illustrating, becoming the authors and illustrators of tomorrow, is the way forward. [End Page 66]



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