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Giselle Clarkson’s Biography

Last Updated:
14/09/2023, 11:57 am
Arts Foundation Laureate 2023
“Whatever she is tackling, Giselle’s work is always technically impressive and incredibly imaginative; demonstrating huge sensitivity whilst retaining her trademark energy and vibrance.” – Laureate Selection Panel

2023 Arts Foundation Te Tumu Toi Laureate receiving the Mallinson Rendel Illustrators Award

Giselle Clarkson is an illustrator and author living in South Wairarapa. She graduated from the University of Canterbury in 2009 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography. Her career as a freelance illustrator began in 2014 when she started drawing the birds of RNZ’s Morning Report bird call and posting them online. This led to her first commissioned work with Forest & Bird, which in turn lead to working with the NZ School Journal. Giselle has been a regular contributor of both writing and illustrations to the NZ School Journal since 2015. She also publishes a bimonthly comic about the craft and history of children’s books for The Sapling. In 2022 Giselle began cartooning a regular column on evolutionary biology for NZ Geographic magazine, which lead to her being a finalist in the Best Artist category at the Voyager Media Awards in 2023.

In 2016 she contributed illustrations to Annual, edited by Susan Paris and Kate De Goldi and published by Gecko Press. She also contributed to Annual 2 (2017) and Annual 3 (2022) which feature her most widely known illustrations – a poster of popular NZ biscuits and slices with invented scientific names. Giselle’s first picture book was The Secret World of Butterflies, written by Courtney Sina Meredith and published by Allen and Unwin in collaboration with Auckland Museum in 2018. In 2019 she illustrated Hazel and the Snails, a junior fiction novel written by Nan Blanchard and published by Annual Ink. Later that same year she illustrated The Gobbledegook Book: A Joy Cowley Anthology, published by Gecko Press. The Gobbledegook Book received a Storylines Notable Book Award, an International White Raven Award, was shortlisted for the NZCYA Book Awards as well as the UK Society of Author’s Queen’s Knickers Award.

In 2020 Giselle illustrated Egg & Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook, written by Alexandra Tylee and published by Gecko Press. A bestseller, Egg & Spoon received a Storylines Notable Book Award and went on to win the 2021 Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction at the NZCYA Book Awards. In 2021 Giselle illustrated a new edition of The Tiny Woman’s Coat by Joy Cowley, published by Gecko Press, expanding upon the character that she had drawn as part of The Gobbledegook Book. The Tiny Woman’s Coat was selected as Book of the Week by The Times UK.

Giselle’s first book as both author and illustrator will be released in 2023, published by Gecko Press. The Observologist: A Handbook for Mounting Very Small Scientific Expeditions is a playful, non-fiction field guide for budding natural scientists.

Panel Statement:

"Giselle has demonstrated her talents over the years through illustrating a wide variety of subjects – everything from a girl who loves snails to an anthology of humorous poems, from sumptuous looking food for a cookbook to a gentle tale of an old woman who is needs a coat to keep her warm. And, whatever she is tackling, her work is always technically impressive and incredibly imaginative; demonstrating huge sensitivity whilst retaining her trademark energy and vibrance. Her acute observation skills and passion for what she is doing always shine through, and her work has a wonderful effortless quality as if her pen skips across the page. Giselle’s illustration has a distinctive look that is very much her own and yet each book she works on feels very individual and different – it always seeming like she has really tuned into the character that she is illustrating. She is easily able to adapt to both nonfiction and fiction and her love of the natural world is often evident. Giselle also contributes a humorous regular comic to The Sapling website which gives a wonderful insight into her world and her thought processes, as well as sharing her passion and knowledge of children’s books."