IlluSalon, the biggest international illustration platform in China, works with around 4,000 illustrators from more than 50 countries. For Hou Mingliang, founder of IlluSalon and host of the Global Illustration Award (as well as president of Kids Media), young and professional illustrators–with good education and training–are changing the face of the Chinese illustration industry.
“They are making an impact both locally and internationally with their distinctive and innovative styles,” Hou says, pointing out that Gong Yanling, who illustrated The Needle for a Seamless Heavenly Robe using a combination of traditional ink drawing and embroidery, for instance, is an outstanding example of the new breed of bold and innovative talent from China. “We have upcoming illustrators such as Hei Mi, the 2015 Golden Apple Award winner at the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava for Braid, and Charlotte Fu, GIA 2017 winner for unpublished picture book A Cat.”
Recent market changes have invigorated the Chinese illustration industry, Hou says. “Picture books with quality illustrations are now highly valued for early childhood education, especially for ages three to six. Kindergartens and primary schools across China are using picture books in classes and encouraging children to be creative and imaginative. There is also an increased demand for illustrations in the consumer goods sector, including for the promotion of automobiles, clothing, electronics, and foods and beverages.”
Since its founding, in 2016, IlluSalon’s clientele has hailed mostly from the publishing and advertising industries. Hou’s team have collaborated with major Chinese children’s publishing houses, such as with China Children’s Press & Publication Group on Cao Wenxuan’s Root Bird, which is illustrated by Juan Hernaz. Dutch illustrator Yuliya Gwilym is working on the soon-to-be-published Morning Poem by Gong Ruping, and Amin Hassanzadeh Sharif from Iran has illustrated Bai Bing’s Uncle Big’s Beast Island. (Bai is Jieli’s editor-in-chief).
“Some illustrators are great at designing book covers, and we have around 100 covers to deliver by March 2018,” Hou says, adding that Chinese publishers pay between $300 and $800 per illustration. “Now that they are developing original content, publishers have come to realize the importance of high-quality illustrations. Their illustration budget is growing in tandem with their respect for illustrators.”
However, Chinese illustrators account for less than 5% of IlluSalon’s total pool of artists. Hou explains that “promoting their name and works in the global market takes precedence. We encourage them to participate in more international illustration events and gain additional international media exposure.” There is definitely no shortage of local talent out there for IlluSalon and publishers.