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“Women Who Draw” Directory Showcases Diversity in Women Illustrators

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 19, 2017

An online directory of women illustrators is attracting a lot attention, and redressing a wrong. At first glance, “Women Who Draw” simply features work by women artists. But look a little closer: through dynamic filters, visitors to the site can cross-select women illustrators by ethnicity, sexual orientation, location (every continent is represented), and faith. Registered illustrators can select as many categories as they choose, and identifiers appear underneath the thumbnails of each artist. The result is a website which celebrates diversity in all its complexity.

According to its About page, the website was founded to increase the visibility of women illustrators, particularly members of under-represented groups, such as LGTBQ and women of color. In fact, the indentifying categories do not include “white” and “straight” as selection choices, in part to encourage visitors to seek out illustrators in less visible categories. (Although the website permits users to select from a global list of locations, the ethnicities are for the most part limited to categories common to the United States.) While the site calls itself “Women Who Draw,” trans and gender-nonconforming illustrators are welcome, and the liberal use of an asterisk appearing after the words “women” and “female” reinforces the site’s inclusiveness on gender identity.

As revealed in interviews in Slate, BBC, and Huffington Post (among others), Women Who Draw was founded by Julia Rothman and Wendy McNaughton. In an interview in Vogue Magazine, Rothman related that the impetus for the site came from the realization that her favorite “prominent” magazine carried almost no illustration work by women illustrators. In an interview on the SVA blog Features (Rothman teaches at SVA), the founders elaborated:

“We noticed that a prominent U.S. magazine only hired four female illustrators out of the 55 illustrated covers they commissioned in 2015. So we created the directory to provide an easy way to find talented professional female* illustrators and promote the work of women, women of color, LBTQ+ women and other minority groups of women illustrators. This way there would be no way any publication could ever say they’d hire more artists in these groups ‘if only they could find them.’”

The website has been wildly popular; there have been very few accusations of sexism or playing gender identity politics. In fact, within the first 24 hours since it was launched, the site crashed from the overwhelming interest — over 1,200 illustrators submitted applications to be listed. To meet the demand, the site has posted a “Support” page. Donations help defray the cost of reviewing and posting applications. To join the website, illustrators must submit an illustration of a woman and provide a link to their professional website – social media sites and shopping sites such as Etsy do not qualify.

The website also builds community through public collaborations. Illustrators are invited to post work created around a common theme, and post it to social media with the tag #WWDTogether. A curated selection appears on the Women Who Draw website.

Below: The #WWDTogether Twitter feed displays the current topic.


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