Illustration Series

Welcome to our guest column series "Drawn from Memory: Reflections on the Art of Illustration."

JJ Books has invited well known writers to recall images that have inspired their work, from Brahma to Beardsley and beyond.


In the first in this series, the Whitbread winner, Jamila Gavin, reveals her favourite illustration from her book "Tales from India."

Illustration courtesy of Amanda Hall. Click on the image above to view a larger version.

I first came across Amanda Hall’s work years ago when she illustrated a book called “My Favourite Stories” which was a collection of stories from around the world published by Dorling Kindersley. I felt I had never had such a glorious illustrator. She was everything I look for as a storyteller –especially for children: colour, design, clear imagery – not just reflecting the story she was illustrating, but adding her own imagination, and bringing that extra dimension to enrich and expand the reader’s experience.

What made Amanda especially appealing to me was her sensitivity, curiosity and passion for all cultures. She is meticulous in her research and yet always able to bring her own personality, creativity, and passion to the project in hand. In the end, what matters to her is that she reflects the truth of the story.

Although she has produced the most intricately worked illustrations comparable, in my view, to some of the great miniaturists, she can also give you a picture of striking simplicity which, nonetheless, incorporates the essence of the story.  It is for this reason I have chosen her illustration from the book we published together called “Tales from India” for the opening creation story, “How the World Began.”  The story begins with Lord Brahma asleep, floating in a lotus flower on a sea of milk. While he is asleep there is no existence; nothing. But when he awakes, the Creation begins. To illustrate this Amanda produced an eye.

At first glance, it is an open eye – plain and simple, but then when you continue to look at it, you might surmise that the pink lid is the pink of dawn, that the white of the eye is finely rippled as if reflecting the sea of milk. Within the black pupil – which feels like the blackness of cosmic space, before the Big Bang if you like, glimmers the lotus in the centre. Her masterly stroke is the tear drop. It hangs from the corner of the eye like a green emerald – the colour of growth and the creation of life, and within that tear drop, for which she must have used a magnifying glass to work with, is India; the jewel of Lord Brahma’s creation. Utterly brilliant.


Amanda Hall is an award winning illustrator who studied graphic art and illustration at Cambridge School of Art. She is probably best known for her wonderfully colourful and decorative interpretations of myths and legends from many cultures, such as 'Tales from India' with Jamila Gavin. 'Stunning,' said the New York Journal of Books.

View all the illustrations featured in this series on the JJ Books Pinterest page.

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