12 Rad Indigenous Illustrators You Should Know
Within the context of the bookish world, “illustration” can refer to a lot of things: comics and graphic novels, picture books, and cover design, for starters. This list highlights some of the many Indigenous illustrators and artists who are sharing their stories through those mediums. I’ve included comics creators, children’s book illustrators, and artists whose work is inspired by and/or connected to books in other ways. These artists are drawing Indigenous superheroes and telling visual stories that draw on their cultures and life experiences. They’re illustrating children’s books that celebrate the rich history of Indigenous people in North America. They’re using art to imagine and create a future that includes Indigenous knowledge and traditions.
I’ve focused mostly on artists with active Instagram accounts. Whether you’re a comics fan, you’re looking for some new kid lit, or you just enjoy gorgeous art, you’re going to want to follow these rad creators. But I encourage you to check out all of their websites as well. These artists and illustrators are involved in so many interesting projects, from webcomics and zines to public art installations and multimedia art. I fell down so many wonderful rabbit holes while working on this piece, and I hope that you do too, while reading it.
Note: I deferred to using the language the artists use on their websites or Instagram pages when referring to their Nation, tribe, or culture.
Indigenous Comics Artists
Most of these artists work across multiple disciplines. But in addition to illustrations, digital art, video games, and multimedia projects, they are all creating exciting graphic stories starring Indigenous characters.
Kayla Shaggy is a Navajo/Ojibwe/Danish artist and comic book creator. Her work explores themes of myths, dreams, and monsters. She is the author of The Sixth World, a comic about a Diné woman who lives on Mars with her grandmother that combines science fiction with Navajo mythology.
Weshoyot Alvitre is a Tongva and Scottish comic artist and illustrator. She’s been working in the comics industry for over a decade, and has contributed to many award-winning series, including Umbrella Academy. She’s collaborated with other Indigenous creators on several graphic novels, including Sixkiller, written by Lee Francis. Her work also appears in Marvel’s Indigenous Voices #1. Her art extends beyond comics, though! She’s also worked on video games, and is the illustrator of the upcoming middle grade book Living Ghosts and Mischievous Monsters written by Dan SaSuWeh Jones.
Gregg Deal is an Indigenous (Numu) artist. In his project “The Others” he reappropriates old comic book pages from the 1940s and 1950s that include harmful, stereotypical images of Indigenous people. He replaces the dialogue with lyrics from punk songs that resonate with the scene and illuminate various aspects of Indigenous culture and reliance. In heat drawing, his purpose is to “illustrate the complexity of Indigenous existence.”
Arigon Starr is a musician, playwright, artist, and comic book creator, and an enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. Her weekly webcomic, Super Indian, is about a Hubert Logan, an ordinary Reservation boy who becomes a superhero after eating tainted commodity cheese. It’s now available as a two-volume graphic novel.
Elizabeth LaPensée, a writer, artist, comic creator, and game designer, is Anishinaabe with family from Bay Mills, Métis, and Irish. She was the lead designer for the game When Rivers Were Trails, an education adventure game about the impacts of colonization on Indigenous communities in the 1890s. She has written and/or illustrated many comics, including several short pieces in Cash Back, a multimedia paper published by the Yellowhead Institute about the history of stolen Indigenous land in Canada.
Indigenous Children’s Book Illustrators
This list includes just a few of the many talented Indigenous children’s book illustrators working today. If you’re looking for even more, these two lists of Indigenous children’s books are a good place to start.
Michaela Goade is an artist and children’s book illustrator and an enrolled member of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. She has illustrated many children’s books, including the Caldecott-winning We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom. Some of her other books include I Sang You Down From the Stars written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner and Let’s Go! A Harvest Story by Hannah Lindoff. She views her work as a way to connect with her culture and homeland.
Julie Flett is a Cree-Metis artist, illustrator, and author. She has illustrated over 15 children’s books, including We All Play, Birdsong, and Wild Berries, which she also wrote. Other beautiful favorites include On the Trapline, written by David A. Robertson, and Owls See Clearly at Night, an introduction to the Michif alphabet.
George Littlechild is a renowned artist from the Plains Cree Nation. While he’s primarily a painter and mixed-media artist, he has also illustrated several children’s books, including A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses? both written by Richard Van Camp. He also wrote and illustrated his own children’s book, This Land is My Land.
Multi-Disciplinary Indigenous Artists & Illustrators
The work of these Indigenous artists stretches across many fields, including book cover design, comic book–inspired illustration, paints, and more.
Nicole Neidhardt is a Diné artist whose work includes illustrations, paintings, murals, books, and more. She illustrated the children’s book When We Are Kind written by Monique Gray, and drew the cover illustration for the fabulous middle grade short story anthology Ancestor Approved edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith.
Shaun Beyle is a Navajo artist and illustrator who uses a comic book style for his ink-based drawings and illustrations. He creates his own Indigenous superheroes, most notably Ayla The Monster Slayer (for lots of amazing art of this character, check out his Instagram page below). His work combines his love for old-school comics with his love for his Navajo culture.
Roy Henry Vickers
Roy Henry Vickers is a Canadian First Nations artist whose work includes prints and paintings, as well as several books. In collaboration with Robert Budd, he’s created many picture books and board books for young children, including A is for Anemone and Hello Humpback!
Looking for more Indigenous illustrators? Check out these Aboriginal comics. You might also be interested in reading about the history of Indigenous superheroes, and the current state of Indigenous literature for kids and teens.