News | July 3, 2023

Folio Book Illustration Award 2023 Goes to Cristina Bencina

© Cristina Bencina

Cristina Bencina's winning submission

The Folio Society has announced Cristina Bencina as the winner of the Folio Book Illustration Award 2023 (FBIA). This is the second edition of the annual free-to-enter competition, launched in 2022 to mark The Folio Society’s 75th anniversary. Open to illustrators, student or professional, who have not previously been commissioned by The Folio Society, the FBIA aims to find, platform and support new illustration talent from around the world.

This year,  more than 730 illustrators from 58 countries entered the competition which asked entrants to illustrate a single scene of their choice from Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Fliers of Gy. A judging panel of five, including last year’s FBIA winner Evangeline Gallagher and Theo Downes-Le Guin, Ursula K. Le Guin’s son and literary executor, selected five runners-up and one winner.

Winner Cristina Bencina, an artist and illustrator based in Colorado, receives a £2,000 cash prize, £500 worth of Folio Society books and a portfolio review with the Folio Society Art Directors. Her work was inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin’s description of a ritual persecuting the select few born with the ability to fly in a society of feathered people, who are thrown from a cliff and attacked with arrows: “Whether she flies or falls, all the men of the tribe, screaming with excitement, shoot at her with bow and arrow.” Intricately detailed and balanced in composition, Bencina’s illustration was selected for its imaginative depiction of the persecuted Flier.

Theo Downes-Le Guin, said “My mother loved working with illustrators, she loved seeing different interpretations of her work. Cristina Bencina’s composition stood out to the entire panel for its dynamism and its original interpretation of this moment in the story. The contrast between the dark values of the illustration and that bright punctuation of fire at the top was absolutely entrancing.”

The judging panel also selected five runners-up who will each receive £500 worth of Folio Society books and an individual portfolio review with the Folio Society Art Directors. They are: Tommy Barclay (UK), Merran Coleman (UK, previously longlisted in the FBIA 2022), Den Owen (UK), Nate Sweitzer (US) and Jens Maria Weber (Germany). 

Tom Walker, Folio Society Publishing Director, said: “The range of illustration styles was spectacular for the FBIA 2023: from the classical and painterly, to the energetic and informal, and all shades in between. The variety and quality of the entire shortlist showed both the depths of Le Guin’s writing, and the depth of talent in the illustration world today.”