Illustrators you've probably seen before but didn't learn their name

The world of illustration has launched a very swift attack on my brain. This last week I have spent more time diving into the world of graphic design than I have spent swiping on Tik Tok. More time than I've devoted to listening to the McElroy family.

Illustration has typically been relegated to the realm of the sidekick.

Traditionally, illustration has been used to create a visual reference for whatever it's describing. We're talking concept art, medical illustration, technical drawings. All of the things that help visual learners digest information.

But since the advent of social media, illustration has found its own legs to walk on. Instagram has had a huge impact on the world of visual design because it is by nature, a visual app. A grid format that works as a portfolio; a multi-photo tab that allows you to upload a series; the recommendation tab that suggests similar users. With over 1 billion users worldwide, whether the art world likes to admit it or not- Instagram has had a huge hand in making art accessible.

However, it's this availability that is anonymising artists. Now you see an artist's illustration all over the internet without credit or acknowledgement of the artist.

My experience of illustration is one where I've had a huge amount of exposure to an artist without ever actually knowing their name. Last week, I stumbled across the name of an illustrator that I have seen literally everywhere. I've lost count number of times I have walked into a coffee shop and been greeted with a Yu Nagaba decal on the wall. I naively thought "man, that art style is really popping off these days huh?" In reality, this was not an art style but an artist's style. In a time when an artist's integrity is easily lost in the digital world, it's important to know their names.

As someone who is trying to learn more about the wonderful and expressive world of design and illustration, I present to you the artists that have been making up the majority of my camera roll. Let's learn their names.



Joan Cornella: the heavyweight of the illustrator turned artist world. Bold, bright, and disarming dark humour that you somehow never expect. His work is very paired down- the art doesn't exceed a handful of colours, and more often than not, his characters occupy negative space. Through this simplistic visual language, Cornella can go in on and go hard on whatever aspect of human nature or political topic he's satirising.

There is no subject off bounds for this artist which makes exploring his Instagram feed an enjoyable and often confronting experience. Not for the faint of heart, Cornella gives us black humour scenes of cannabilism, infanticide, murder, and amputation as a way of critiquing humanity.

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In 2012 I discovered Moonassi. I was so infatuated with his characters who seemed to be without an identity, expressionless while remaining incredibly expressive. I emailed Daehyun Kim and inquired how I could purchase one of his prints- something that my naive 16-year-old self found out I could not afford. One day.

What first drew me to Moonassi's work is the raw emotion and feeling that seems to overwhelm his masked figures. Each figure is non-descript, wearing featureless black clothing and an impassive mask-like expression. Without a facial expression to analyse, the viewer must look to the body. It is in the body language that we can begin to glean a little bit of the struggle the figures are enduring.

Moonassi's figures are so emotionally charged, their struggles so timeless and human that it's hard not to be captivated by them. They have a way of making you feel that you aren't alone.

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Known for her bright, eccentric, and wacky cast of offbeat characters, Egle Zvirbylte is making a serious impact on the world of illustration. Having worked for Google, Apple, Nike, OK Cupid, and Refinery29 (among so many more), Zvirblyte is sharing female empowerment and an unapologetic attitude with the world. How can you gaze upon one of her badass, larger than life figures, and not feel entirely emboldened to do whatever the f*ck you want?

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A coffee shop favourite, Nagaba is known for his powerful command over black and white imagery. Beautiful in their refined and minimal forms, Nagaba delivers a glimpse into his character's lives- a snapshot of a single moment in their day. At first glance, there is something very ordinary about the illustrator's characters but in a way that romanticises everyday life. You almost feel privileged to be apart of the character's day, to witness their moment of rest.

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Header image: Joan Cornella, Stp (2018), acrylic on canvas // Courtesy of Artsy