Yvonne Gilbert

Anne Yvonne Gilbert (born 1950/1951) is a British artist and book illustrator. Her cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's 1983 single "Relax" has been described as "one of the most famous record sleeves of all time".[1] While much of her career since then has focused on illustrating the covers and interiors of popular books, Gilbert has also designed series of stamps produced by the Royal Mail depicting Christmas themes and Arthurian mythology. She illustrated several of the books in the Ologies series, among other children's books.

Yvonne Gilbert
Born1950/1951 (age 69–70)[1]
Other namesYvonne Gilbert
OccupationArtist and illustrator



Gilbert was born in Wallsend and lived in her grandparents' house with her parents. She attended Holy Cross School there as well as Ocean Road School in South Shields, eventually finishing at Morpeth Grammar School for Girls. Her grandmother was an artist, and Gilbert's parents encouraged her talent for art:[1] "I've always drawn since a baby. The seed was planted early when my mother brought me books back from jumble sales."[2] Gilbert spent a brief amount of time at an art college in Liverpool studying graphic design before "stumbling" upon her career as a professional artist.[2][3] She explained, "I managed to get an agent who got me a job for the Sunday Telegraph drawing six famous people as the historical characters they most wanted to be. Then I cut my teeth on women's magazines."[2]

She lived for a time with Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford (both later members of Frankie Goes To Hollywood).[1] They asked her to create a piece of art for them, but not having enough time, Gilbert gave them an existing "fetish-themed" piece she had drawn for Playboy and Men Only.[1][4] The cover was featured on their 1983 single "Relax" and quickly attracted comment, though she claimed not to have made any money from it. According to the Evening Chronicle, her design became "one of the most famous record sleeves of all time" and led to Gilbert becoming the recipient of "global attention."[1]

In 1985, the Royal Mail issued four stamps that were designed by Gilbert. They featured scenes from Arthurian mythology,[5] and were meant to celebrate the quincentenary of the publication of Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.[6] Gilbert has also created special sets of Christmas stamps for the Royal Mail. According to Gilbert in a 2005 interview, the company had paid her at least £100,000 in the past to design five sets of special stamps.[7] Her 1994 series depicted young children dressed up as various Nativity characters including the Three Wise Men and the Virgin Mary.[8] One of her collections, "The Nativity at Christmas", won the award for the world's most beautiful stamp in 1984.[3]

Book illustrations

In the 1970s, Gilbert provided front cover illustrations for the Penguin Books edition of the works of D. H. Lawrence.[9] In 2004, The Journal reported that Gilbert "has progressed to become one of the best selling British illustrators in the USA, well known for the fairytale quality of her work seen mostly in children's books."[10] Gilbert compiled 16 traditional lullabies into her 1991 book, Baby's Book of Lullabies & Cradle Songs, which she illustrated using watercolours. The selections included songs in English, French, and Norwegian, among other languages.[11][12] She illustrated Rebecca Hickox's children's book, Per and the Dala Horse in 1997,[13] and M.C. Helldorfer's Night of the White Stag in 1999.[14] Gilbert has provided artwork for many other children's books, including A Visit from St. Nicholas,[15] and Vivien French's A Christmas Star Called Hannah, both published in 2000.[16] She illustrated Billy Joel's first children's book, "Goodbye My Angel", in 2004, which he based on a song he wrote for his daughter.[17] Publishers Weekly opined that Gilbert's "idealized images of the long-lashed heroine and luminous landscapes echo the unabashedly sentimental strains of Joel's song."[18]

Gilbert and several other artists illustrated some of the popular Ologies series: Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin (2005),[19] Pirateology: A Pirate Hunter's Companion (2006),[20] and Spyology: The Complete Book of Spycraft (2008).[21] Gilbert's initial colour-pencilled drawings for Wizardology, featuring "Merlin in his book-filled study, and a young magician in training," were lost by the Royal Mail in 2005 when she tried to mail them to publisher Templar. The Mail tried to compensate her just for the price of the paper and ink, to her anger, as she believed the works were "worth about pounds 2,500. Not to mention its future value if the book is a success."[7] The incident led her to demand the company solidify its policy on determining the value of works of art.[7]

She has also provided the illustrations for the Brothers Grimm work The Frog Prince, retold by Kathy-Jo Wargin in 2007. The Columbia Daily Tribune called her contributions "breathtaking,"[22] and the Cape Cod Times praised her artwork, declaring in a review that "the absolute beauty of this book is in the illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. Highly detailed and in softly lush colors, Gilbert’s color-pencil drawings are almost worthy of framing, and their detail will appeal to the littlest princess as well as fairy tale lovers ages 3 and up."[23]

Gilbert has provided the cover art for many of Jennifer Roberson's novels, including Lady of the Forest (1992) and its sequel Lady of Sherwood (1999), Lady of the Glen (1996), Highwaymen: Robbers and Rogues (1997), and the 2001 republications of her Chronicles of the Cheysuli fantasy series: Shapechanger's Song, Legacy of the Wolf, Children of the Lion, and The Lion Throne.[24] Gilbert designed the art in The Wild Swans in 2005, featured in a republication of Hans Christian Andersen's story.[25] In 2006, she redesigned the cover of George RR Martin's 1980 novel The Ice Dragon. Martin called the edition "lavishly illustrated," and noted her reputation for being an "acclaimed British fantasy artist".[26] In 2010, she provided the illustrations seen in an abridged, young adult version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, as told by author Nicky Raven.[27] Gilbert produced the "traditional fairy tale type" illustrations for Jodi Picoult's first young adult novel Between the Lines, published in 2012.[28][29]


"Fashion Drawing", one of Gilbert's works drawn by coloured pencils

Gilbert's art has been called "fantastically elaborate".[11] She draws many of her works with coloured pencils,[30] despite calling them "such an unreliable medium," in part because she dislikes the mess associated with using paint, ink, or clay.[11]

According to Gilbert, her process "probably takes as long to prepare an illustration—sketching roughs, e-mailing them to clients, finding models, props and reference, taking the pictures—as it does to do the finished piece, and it takes me roughly one week to complete a moderately detailed illustration."[11] She often asks family members and friends to be photographed in certain clothing to aid her in conceptualizing a piece of art. She prefers drawing people to inanimate objects, explaining that if she hadn't become "an illustrator, I'd be a forensic psychologist because people and how they work intrigue me."[3] Gilbert remarked of her career that in addition to children's books, she has "also gone to the other end of the scale and produced illustrations for Playboy. I go from drawing people in rubber outfits and corsets to pretty fairies!"[3]

Personal life

In 2006, she sold her house near Castle Leazes in Newcastle upon Tyne to move to Toronto with her son and second husband.[2] That same year, Gilbert displayed a large portion of her collection at the Newcastle Arts Centre.[31]

She has taught dress design at the Birmingham College of Art,[32] and rescues bull terriers in her free time.[3]

Selected book cover illustrations

Adapted from:[24][33]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Barr, Gordon (7 November 2006). "Drawing on inspiration" . Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bohemian maisonette is a work of art" . Evening Chronicle. 21 October 2006. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e Peart, Joanna (3 August 2004). "Yvonne stamps her soul on Billy's angel". The Journal. ProQuest 350480353 . (subscription required)
  4. ^ "Chance to pick up arty bargains" . Evening Chronicle. 4 December 2004. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  5. ^ W. Willem Pieter Gerritsen; Anthony G. Van Melle, eds. (1998). A Dictionary of Medieval Heroes: Characters in Medieval Narrative Traditions . Boydell Press. p. 113. ISBN 0-85115-381-X.
  6. ^ Norris J. Lacy; Geoffrey Ashe (1997). The Arthurian Handbook . p. 247. ISBN 0-8153-2082-5.
  7. ^ a b c Basnett, Guy (17 March 2005). "Stamp designer's work lost in post". The Journal. ProQuest 350606695 . (subscription required)
  8. ^ Aaron, Robert (24 December 1994). "Nativity plays are traditional". Toronto Star. ProQuest 437156704 . (subscription required)
  9. ^ "Yvonne Gilbert" .
  10. ^ "Me & my wardrobe". The Journal. 27 May 2004. ProQuest 350515310 . (subscription required)
  11. ^ a b c d Kaufman, Logan (January 2007). "Anne Yvonne Gilbert: Colored Pencil Magic" . Adventures Underground. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  12. ^ "CHILDREN'S BOOKS: Bookshelf" . The New York Times. 24 February 1991. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  13. ^ "Children's review: Per and the Dala Horse" . Publishers Weekly. 29 September 1997. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  14. ^ Owens, Mary Beth (14 November 1999). "Holiday readings ideas for children" . The Telegraph-Herald. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  15. ^ "Books intrigue readers of all ages" . Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. 22 November 2000. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  16. ^ Geras, Adle (30 November 2000). "Tales out of school". The Scotsman. ProQuest 326898686 . (subscription required)
  17. ^ "Trio of books offer kids plenty of holiday cheer" . Daily News. 24 November 2004. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  18. ^ Roback, Diane; Jennifer M. Brown; Joy Bean (11 October 2004). "Goodnight, My Angel: A Lullabye". Publishers Weekly. ProQuest 197108100 . (subscription required)
  19. ^ Collison, Cathy (24 October 2005). "Something wicket lurks inside these book jackets" . Knight Ridder. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  20. ^ Donahue, Deirdre (9 July 2006). "Avast, ye pirate fans! A bounty of tales afloat" . USA Today. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  21. ^ Nagle, Doreen (4 December 2008). "Parenting in a nutshell: Books with something extra top children's gift list". Gannett News Service. ProQuest 450251003 . (subscription required)
  22. ^ Newton, Holly E. (28 February 2008). "Newton's book notes; Reissues put new twist on classic tales". Columbia Daily Tribune. ProQuest 379275354 . (subscription required)
  23. ^ Schlichenmeyer, Terri (1 July 2007). "The Bookwork Sez: Retold fairy tale comes with beautiful art" . Cape Cod Times. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  24. ^ a b "The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984-1998" . Locus. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
  25. ^ "Happily ever after" . The Sydney Morning Herald. 2 April 2005. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  26. ^ Martin, George RR (1 July 2006). "The Ice Dragon Coming in October" . Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  27. ^ "Dracula (Young adult review) (Book review)" . ForeWord. 13 July 2010. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2013. (subscription required)
  28. ^ Goedhart, Bernie (21 July 2012). "Fairy tale given a life of its own". The Vancouver Sun. ProQuest 1027477607 . (subscription required)
  29. ^ Benfer, Amy (14 July 2012). "Between the lines". Christian Science Monitor. ProQuest 1025851496 . (subscription required)
  30. ^ "An Exhibition of the work of Anne Yvonne Gilbert, Graphic Artist and Illustrator" . Newcastle Arts Centre. 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  31. ^ "Gilbert on show". The Journal. 30 October 2006. ProQuest 350774516 . (subscription required)
  32. ^ "The Joy of Lesbian Sex" . The Village Voice. 31 October 1977. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  33. ^ "Yvonne Gilbert – Summary Bibliography" . Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 31 July 2013.

External links


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