Jillian Tamaki
Jillian Tamaki at the 2019 Stockholm international comics festival.
Born (1980-04-17) April 17, 1980 (age 41)
Alma materAlberta College of Art and Design
Known forIllustration, Comics
Notable work
Skim (comics), This One Summer

Jillian Tamaki (born April 17, 1980) is a Canadian American illustrator and comic artist known for her work in The New York Times and The New Yorker in addition to the graphic novels Boundless, as well as Skim and This One Summer written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki.

Early life

Tamaki was born in Ottawa, Ontario, and grew up in Calgary, Alberta.[1] She attended Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School and went on to study Visual Communication Design and graduate from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2003.[2] After graduating art school, she worked at the video game company BioWare[3] and later taught illustration at the New York City School of Visual Arts.[4][5]

Influences and themes

Jillian Tamaki photographed in 2017 in Montréal, Québec, Canada at the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore.
Jillian Tamaki photographed in 2017 in Montréal, Québec, Canada at the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore.

Tamaki read Archie comics and newspaper strips as a child. She submitted outfit designs into contests for Betty & Veronica comics. Her parents also had anthologies of other popular comics, including Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, and Herman. In high school she made zines for fun, but she had stopped reading comics after outgrowing Archie. Her interest in alternative and indie comics began while she attended college. Some of her favorite comics during this time include Bipolar by Tomer Hanuka and Asaf Hanuka, a few Drawn & Quarterly artists including Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, Michel Rabahliati, as well as books by Will Eisner. She began making mini-comics after graduating in 2003, and her very first mini-comic appears in her first book, Gilded Lilies, which was published in 2006. Tamaki often acknowledges her influences as inspirations for beginning her work as they helped her learn the basics of cartooning.[6][7] She also worked on boarding for the popular television show "Adventure Time[8]".

As a self-proclaimed feminist, Tamaki is often questioned about the role this plays in her work. She also grew up in an area of Canada where she was the only mixed-race child in her school. In multiple interviews, Tamaki explains that her identity shapes the lens that she sees through, but she does not make conscious effort to work these themes into her illustrations and designs. She is interested in the female experience and viewing women as whole human beings in an industry that often sexualized women’s bodies. Being shaped by feminism and race, her work aims to include diverse characters that readers can better identify with.


Gilded Lilies (2006) is Tamaki's first published book and is a collection of Tamaki's illustrations and comic strips.[9] The first part of the book comprises a carefully selected assemblage of paintings, personal drawings, illustrations and comics. The second part consists of a wordless graphic narrative titled The Tapemines, which tells the story of two children in a surreal landscape featuring "forests of cassette tape".[10][11]

Skim (2008) is a critically acclaimed graphic novel illustrated by Jillian and written by her cousin Mariko Tamaki.[12] It tells the story of a young high-school girl and touches on themes of friendship, suicide, sexuality, and identity.[13]

Indoor Voice (2010) collects Tamaki's drawings, illustrations and comic strips and is part of publisher Drawn & Quarterly's Petit Livre series. The majority of the book is printed in black and white, but it also features some colour illustrations.[14] Indoor Voice was released to mixed reviews.[15][16][17]

"Now & then & when" (2008), a drawing with ink and graphite, was purchased by the Library of Congress in 2011. Within a two-panel horizontal, she depicted herself as a central, monumental figure, flanked by smaller full length figures of herself from infancy to adulthood on the left, from middle age to elderly on the right. Tamaki's variation on the theme with figures in bathing suits, related vignettes and speech balloons, presents an updated counterpart to the demure figures and texts of artistic precedents.[18]

This One Summer (2014) by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is a graphic novel that centres on the experiences of close friends Rose and Windy, who are on the cusp of adolescence, during a summer holiday.[19] This One Summer won a 2014 Ignatz Award,[20] the 2015 Printz Honor and Caldecott Honor awards,[21] the 2015 Eisner Award[22] and the 2014 Governor General's Awards for Children’s Literature — Illustration category.

In 2015, Drawn & Quarterly published SuperMutant Magic Academy, a collection of Tamaki's web comic of the same name from 2010 to 2014.[23] Previously, these comics won an Ignatz Award in 2012 for Outstanding Online Comic.[24]

In June 2017, Drawn & Quarterly published Tamaki's graphic novel Boundless, a collection of short stories.[25] The book received rave reviews.[26][27][28] A review in The Atlantic described the book as "an ambitious and eclectic set of tales, [that] focuses on the interior lives of unexpected subjects."[29] Other reviews called Boundless a "picture-perfect" collection[30] and as "a showcase for Tamaki’s mercurial style."[31] NPR and Publisher's Weekly named Boundless as one of the best graphic novels of the year.[32][33]

Tamaki hand-embroidered three book covers for Penguin. The covers were designed for three classic literature books: Emma by Jane Austen, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. In her free time, she also makes quilts as a hobby.[34]

In September 2020 Tamaki published Our Little Kitchen, an illustrated book about preparing fresh food, for children.[35]


Tamaki became the center of controversy when Mariko Tamaki alone was nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for Skim. The comics community and others circulated an open letter to the Awards Committee that argued for Tamaki as a co-nominee, which was signed by notable comics artists such as Lynda Barry, Dan Clowes, and Julie Doucet.[36] They state in the letter:

"In illustrated novels, the words carry the burden of telling the story, and the illustrations serve as a form of visual reinforcement. But in graphic novels, the words and pictures BOTH tell the story, and there are often sequences (sometimes whole graphic novels) where the images alone convey the narrative. The text of a graphic novel cannot be separated from its illustrations because the words and the pictures together ARE the text. Try to imagine evaluating SKIM if you couldn’t see the drawings. Jillian’s contribution to the book goes beyond mere illustration: she was as responsible for telling the story as Mariko was."[37]

This One Summer, created by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, ranked #1 on the list of top ten most banned and challenged books in the US in 2016. The main reasons this book was challenged were for its LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, sexually explicit content, and mature themes.[38]





Co-created with Mariko Tamaki

As illustrator

As editor


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  4. ^ "Our Faculty: Jillian Tamaki". School of Visual Arts. Archived from the original on 2014-02-03.
  5. ^ "Authors & Artists: Jillian Tamaki". Walker Books. Archived from original on 2014-12-14.
  6. ^ "The Jillian Tamaki Interview". Archived from the original on 2014-02-14.
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  8. ^ "About". Jillian Tamaki. Retrieved 2021-03-12.
  9. ^ "Gilded Lilies | Conundrum Press". www.conundrumpress.com. Archived from the original on 2017-06-29. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  10. ^ Kobayashi, ASM. "Gilded Lilies: Comics and Drawings". Broken Pencil. 34 (2005): 48.
  11. ^ Tamaki, Jilian (2006). Blurb. Gilded Lilies. Montreal: Conundrum Press.
  12. ^ "Skim". House of Anansi Press. Archived from the original on 2020-08-14. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  13. ^ Spires, Elizabeth (2008-11-07). "Book Review | 'Skim,' by Mariko Tamaki. Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  14. ^ "Product by Jillian Tamaki" Archived 2014-06-19 at the Wayback Machine. Drawn & Quarterly. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  15. ^ Anglin, Ellie. "Book Review: Indoor Voice." Broken Pencil. 52 (Summer 2011): 53-54.
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  17. ^ Smith, Kenton (February 10, 2010). "Canadian-born, raised artist's sketches amuse, entertain" Archived 2014-02-03 at the Wayback Machine. Winnipeg Free Press.
  18. ^ "Now & then & when / By Jillian Tamaki 2008" Archived 2019-04-06 at the Wayback Machine. Library of Congress: LC-DIG-ppmsca-37417.
  19. ^ Clark, Noelene (October 22, 2013). "'This One Summer': Mariko and Jillian Tamaki bottle up adolescence." Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine. Los Angeles Times.
  20. ^ Canva, Michael (September 14, 2014). "SPX: SMALL PRESS EXPO: And your 2014 Ignatz Award winners are…". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  21. ^ Foxe, Steve (3 February 2015). "Mariko and Jillian Tamaki On Their Multiple Award-Winning This One Summer". Paste Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 September 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  22. ^ Reid, Calvin (11 July 2015). "'This One Summer' Wins Eisner for Best Graphic Novel". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on 23 August 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015.
  23. ^ Tamaki, Jillian. "SuperMutant Magic Academy". Archived from the original on 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  24. ^ "About SuperMutant Magic Academy, Briefly". Archived from the original on 2019-04-06. Retrieved 2020-10-29. SuperMutant Magic Academy is a webcomic that I started in 2010 on a whim. I had been asked to contribute a comic to Marvel’s Strange Tales II anthology and, despite having no real knowledge of the superhero genre, had a lot of fun.
  25. ^ "Boundless by Jillian Tamaki". Drawn & Quarterly. Archived from the original on 2020-04-03.
  26. ^ "Outside the lines: In an age of anxiety, Jillian Tamaki's Boundless draws transcendence". National Post. 2017-05-16. Archived from the original on 2020-10-29. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  27. ^ Sava, Oliver. "Jillian Tamaki creates the ultimate high in this NSFW Boundless exclusive". News. Archived from the original on 2018-03-11. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  28. ^ "Dissolving Margins - Los Angeles Review of Books". Los Angeles Review of Books. Archived from the original on 2018-03-11. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  29. ^ Buchanan, Rowan Hisayo. "The Ingenious Cartoonist Who Makes You Look Twice". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on 2018-03-11. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  30. ^ Cooke, Rachel (2017-07-17). "Boundless by Jillian Tamaki review – picture-perfect short stories". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 2018-03-12. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  31. ^ Wolk, Douglas (2017-05-31). "New Graphic Novels Detail Personal Journeys and Twists of Fate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2017-06-01. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
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  33. ^ "Best Books 2017 Publishers Weekly". PublishersWeekly.com. Archived from the original on 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  34. ^ "Jillian Tamaki Sketchblog  » quilts". blog.jilliantamaki.com. Archived from the original on 2018-10-25. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
  35. ^ "The most exciting books coming out in fall 2020". CBC Books. 2020-10-08. Archived from the original on 2020-10-28. Retrieved 2020-10-29. Our Little Kitchen is a picture book that features a neighbourhood with colourful characters who come together in the kitchen to share a meal.
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  57. ^ Title in the online table of contents is "My grandfather's memories of life before internment".