Random Illustrator Feature: Isabelle Arsenault

h1 November 11th, 2008 by jules

I’ve been reading a copy of My Letter to the World and Other Poems, a handsomely-designed anthology of Emily Dickinson’s poetry with captivating illustrations from Canadian illustrator Isabelle Arsenault and published by Kids Can Press (in their Visions in Poetry series). The book has been nominated for the prestigious Governor General Literary Award of Canada 2008 as well as a Cybils award here in the U.S. And I’m so taken by the illustrations by Ms. Arsenault that I contacted her to ask if she’d like to share some today with our readers. Lucky for me, she said yes, as well as agreed to share some other bits of art work with us.

I really don’t even want to say much, except to tell you from which poems these illustrations come. I’d rather let her beguiling art speak for itself. However, I will add a few words from Isabelle herself, what she told me about the experience of creating the illustrations for this title:

For this specific project I’ve been working with a mix of collage, ink, crayon and acrylic. It was very inspiring for me to create images based on poetry, and especially Dickinson’s. I found her imaginary world fitting well my style and aspirations as an artist.

Opening this post is Isabelle’s illustration from “I cannot live with You.” The next two (below) are from “Hope is the thing with feathers,” followed by one from “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” one from “There’s a certain Slant of light” (which Arsenault imbues with chilling hints of 9/11), and another from “I cannot live with You.”

“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers — / That perches in the soul — / And sings the tune without the words — / And never stops — at all —“

“And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard — / And sore must be the storm — /
That could abash the little Bird / That kept so many warm —“

“And then a Plank / in Reason, broke, / And I dropped down, / and down —“

“When it comes, / the Landscape listens — / Shadows — hold their breath —“

“And were You lost, I would — / Though My Name / Rang loudest /
On the Heavenly fame — /
And were You — saved — / And I — condemned to be / Where You were not — / That self — were Hell to Me —“

* * * * * * *

The above illustration is from Marie-Danielle Croteau’s Le Coeur de monsieur Gauguin, which “won a few major awards in 2005 (such as the GG literary award of Canada),” Isabelle told me. “This was my first experience with {a} children’s book, and it has been translated in English since then by Tundra Books. That project made me reconsider my style and the main focus of my production to create more for…kids.

Next is “an image from another children’s book, Rêves d’Enfance, featuring poems by Gilles Tibo and images by a selection of illustrators {from} 2005.

{Be sure to follow the Rêves d’Enfance link, Jules adds, to see a great book cover.}

“The two following images are editorial pieces. They reflect my typical gouache, collage, and crayon approach. One is about ‘early retirement,’ and the second one ‘the Stanley Cup battle,’ {both from} 2007.”

I now have two kids,” Isabelle told me, “and I can’t deny their influence on my work and ambition as an illustrator. I wish to work more in the children’s book illustration field and on other illustrated book projects. Other influences? … Beatrice Alemagna, Frederique Bertrand, Dominique Goblet, Anne Herbauts, Jean-François Martin, Gérard DuBois, Alain Pilon, and many more.

Many thanks to Isabelle for stopping by and sharing her beautiful work with us today! I look forward to what she brings readers next.

32 comments to “Random Illustrator Feature: Isabelle Arsenault”

  1. Wow, I *love* this style. Pretty dark for kids’ stuff, but so compelling and evocative. I just ordered My Letter to the World, and will pester my library to purchase Mr. Gauguin. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Jeremy, did you click on the artists and illustrators who have influenced Isabelle? Whoa. I’ve got some exploring to do. Good stuff.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the cover of the Reves d’Enfance book, too. Maybe the library will have that as well, ’cause — like you — I’m going to try to find a copy of Mr. Gauguin’s Heart.

  3. The image at the very top of this post was FANTASTIC. I never would’ve thought to connect Dickinson and the Alice books — maybe I’m reading too much into this — but the sort-of skirt/sort-of upended teacup, and the face looking down from above (is that the sun? is it a hole in the sky?), are enigmatic and suggestive (not in the flirtatious sense, more like “allusive”). *Love* it.

    As Jeremy said, this is pretty dark for what we’d consider kids’ books — at least in the USA — but there’s no arguing with artwork that makes it difficult to speak.

    (And yeah, those artists who’ve influenced Isabelle Arsenault are pretty fabulous, too. I especially liked the work of Jean-François Martin.)

    Just when you probably feel you’ve gotten your blogging under control, you do something like this — making me wish 7 Imp could grow a couple more hands and heads to do an occasional feature on more illustrators in non-English-speaking countries (although I myself can’t speak anything BUT)…

  4. these illustrations are just remarkable! The Dickinson book goes on the Christmas list for sure…

  5. I love this book! I wrote a review for poetry Friday last month. If you’re interested, it’s at http://missrumphiuseffect.blogspot.com/2008/10/poetry-friday-book-review-my-letter-to.html.

  6. Wow,wow,wow. What amazing illustrations. Going on my must have list.

  7. What an amazing, rich art! It’s so good to be introduced to other Canadians working in this field.

  8. Thanks for sharing these gorgeous illos. Putting the Dickinson book on my wish list, and going to hunt down Mr. Gauguin!

  9. Those look amazing! I can’t wait to get my hands on the Emily Dickinson book. I’m such a fan of her work (and growing, as I continue to forge my way through her Collected Poems).

  10. I have just fallen in love. She so perfectly captures the innocence/darkness duality and the isolation of Dickinson’s poetry. I gotta get this book too! Thanks, Jules.

  11. Glad you all are enjoying her art work as much as I have. Eisha, I KNOW! I’ve been reading a library copy, but this might be a purchase in my future.

    I wish I could also show you all the other chilling 911-esque illustrations from “There’s a certain Slant of light.”

  12. this looks so utterly incredible…a def. must have…how beautifully rendered. thanks…wonderful find

  13. Breathtaking. Just breathtaking. You could inhabit these images for hours.

  14. sooooo good!

  15. Gorgeous! I can’t wait to see the Dickinson book. And I love the cover of the Mr. Gaugain book. Amazing! Thanks for introducing me to her art.

  16. […] The kick: they’re all better now. And Jules is back with a vengeance, with that excellent illustrator feature on Isabelle Arsenault, which made me swoon, and that beautiful Poetry Friday post on Marie Howe. Really good […]

  17. […] Illustration by Isabelle Arsenault from My Letter to the World and Other Poems, an anthology of Emily Dickinson’s poetry from Kids Can Press (October, 2008). Feature: November 11, 2008. […]

  18. […] by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Canadian Isabelle Arsenault. Long-time 7-Imp readers may remember this 2008 feature on Arsenault. How much do I love her artwork? If I counted the ways, we’d be here all […]

  19. […] Anyhow, after that, Arsenault decided that she wanted to change her style to be more kid-friendly. “This was my first experience with (a) children’s book … That project made me reconsider my style and the main focus of my production to create more for … kids.” – Seven Impossible Things […]

  20. nice images, I borrowed the Emily pic, thanx

  21. […] Jean E. Pendziwol’s beautiful new picture book, Once Upon a Northern Night, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. That link will be […]

  22. […] from Jean E. Pendziwol’s Once Upon a Northern Night,illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault:“Once upon a northern night / I sent the frost / to dance on your window /and make a frame. / […]

  23. […] by Tony Fucile; Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol, illustrated by (the amazing) Isabelle Arsenault; and Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee. And I can’t wait […]

  24. […] sketchbooks …   A few of the people (out of HUNDREDS!) I look at for inspiration are: Isabelle Arsenault, Laura Carlin, Anne Herbauts, Beatrice Alemagna, Alice Provensen, and always Edward Gorey [see […]

  25. […] Lisa: Tomi Ungerer. Quentin Blake. Isabelle Arsenault. […]

  26. so happy i found this inspiring blog!

  27. Greetings!
    Were you ever able to procure a copy of Mr. Gauguin’s Heart? I’ve been on the search as well.
    Thank you,

  28. Nope, but I need to try again!

  29. I love her illustrations so, so much. Thanks for posting, Jules! Can’t wait to see more!

  30. […] met a lot of my idols, picking just three of those I haven’t met feels terrible! How about Isabelle Arsenault, Chris Ridell, Hayao Miyazaki, Tina Berning, Stéphane Jorische, Christophe Blain. Oops, was that […]

  31. […] Tan creates gives me the shivers. I’m in awe of the way this generation of women artists, like Isabelle Arsenault, Melissa Sweet, and Rovina Cai imagine their illustrated worlds. Lately, I’ve been looking just […]

  32. […] Next, I’d add Where The Sidewalk Ends; Snow by Uri Shulevitz; Migrant by Maxine Trottier and Isabelle Arsenault; Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel; The Other Way to Listen by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall; Wave by […]

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