5 Black Women Illustrators Who You Should Know

This month we place flowers at the feet of the comic world’s freshest visual artists.

This past weekend’s Academy Awards gave us healthy Source Awards vibes and sent the media industry into thinkpiece overdrive. One of the more understated highlights from the night was The Windshield Wiper co-director Leo Sanchez’s remarks about how animation is regarded in the arts.

“Animation is an art that includes every single art you can imagine. Animation for adults is a fact. It’s happening. Let’s call it cinema,” the Best Animated Short Film Oscar winner shared before “The Incident” happened.

And he’s right.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Black illustrators and animation creatives like Vashti Harrison (Hair Love), Oge Mora (The Oldest Student), Nilah Magruder (All Out), and more put numbers on the boards by simply putting a bit of paint where it ain’t. Taylor K. Shaw, founder, and CEO of the first and only animation studio, Black Women Animate, one of the few places “designed to improve the representation of Black women in animation,” and leads the change that’s happening in companies such as Cartoon Network, Netflix, and Crackle. Jamila Rowser, the author behind Wash Day and founder of Black Josei Press, has been another leader who champions Black women illustrators and animators,

While BWA Studios trains talents, these listed artists are emboldening others through their work to new heights and proving their worth your attention at the same time. A majority of the names featured have their own projects and stand at the forefront of their visuals. With that in mind, as Women’s History Month closes, continues to say, “Black illustrators matter!,” while spotlighting 5 amazing visual artists that you should know and tell your friends about.

  • Olivia Stephens

    Sometimes when an illustrator just has that oomph, you don’t have actual words to use. Sometimes cussin’ is the only thing you can do. One look at Olivia Stephens’ work and you’ll be like gotd**n that’s incredible. A BFA in Illustration holder from the Rhode Island School of Design, Stephens is a graphic novelist (Artie and the Wolf Moon), illustrator of Black speculative fiction, and writer from the Pacific Northwest. 

    An artist who doesn’t shy away from being imaginative (and also an Our Flag Means Death fan) — following her on IG can only improve the flavors on your bookshelves.

  • Asiey Barbie

    If you’re a fan of the video game Overwatch, then we know how much you enjoy some Amari mama drama. Even if you ain’t know it, Asiey Barbie has been an in-demand artist from your favorite stars and comic book publishing houses. Self-taught, successful, and still reppin’ Tumblr Gang, the likes of All Def Digital, Boom Studios, DC Comics, and superstar Megan Thee Stallion are selected clients by this illustrator who draws melanated women beautifully. 

    Follow her on Twitch, if you play games occasionally, and enjoy her expressions across the internet.

  • Shannon Wright

    This generation of Black illustrators and visual artists is ensuring that the past gets as much representation as our beautiful Afrofuturistic present. For Shannon Wright, she makes personal and original stories that evoke nostalgia from life around her. 

    A Richmond, Virginia original and Eisner Nominee, she has worked with the New York Times, NPR, Google, and Scholastic while her own work, TWINS, is currently available on Amazon. 

    An artist who is about constant growth, magical life moments, and Dance Dance Revolution, Shannon Wright is a talent to follow on Twitter if you’re also a fan of fanfiction.

  • Jazmin Anita

    It’s no secret that Black people love anime. Take no look further than digital artist Jazmin Anita. They are a 27-year-old self-taught illustrator who focuses on drawing marginalized groups and representing them in “ethereal, magnificent lights.” 

    They have worked with companies like Adult Swim and Netflix’s Strong Black Lead and designed original art into products like calendars, prints, and flags that make anyone who walks past say, “Hey, that looks like me!” 

    And if you look at any comic convention from New York to San Diego to South Africa, you’ll know that she (and her work) ain’t lying.

  • Asiah Fulmore

    A freelance illustrator who currently calls Columbia, South Carolina her hometown, Asiah Fulmore is an alumnus of Winthrop University and the incredibly gifted mind behind Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld. Her first comic with DC Comics, Fulmore is also a protégé of Eisner Award-winning creator Sanford Greene and blessed with otherworldly skills. 

    In her debut graphic novel, Amaya, a troublemaking princess, plays a magical prank that goes much too far and her parents ground her to Earth! Fulmore adds a wonderfully colorful palette to the graphic novel and comic book industry that would make any art lover excited to be in such a fantastical place.

    Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for BET Digital, who covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture, and social justice. Follow him on @KevitoClark.

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