Nami Island Picture Book Illustration Concours - Rosalie Smith


For the first time in a while, an illustrator from the UK has made it onto the wining podium of the Nami Island International Picture Book Illustrators Concours. Loretta Flockhart speaks with Rosalie Smith to find out what the win has meant for her and why she recommends entering.


Rosalie Smith, a pre-published and un-agented illustrator, was recognised in the Purple Island category for Shipbuilding. Her style is not obviously commercially viable which is good news for all as it shows that anyone can win, whatever stage of the journey they are at, and however diverse their work is.


Hi Rosalie and welcome to Words & Pictures. Why did you choose to enter this competition?


Nami Concours is well-known in my circle from the MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Arts. After looking at previous winner’s work, it was clear that Nami Concours represented a real diversity of work from around the world. It didn’t appear to favour one style or type of work and wasn’t simply looking for artwork to publish, so the competition was less focussed on commercial appeal. This was inspiring.


Rosalie at the awards ceremony on Nami Island, South Korea

How did you choose which pieces to submit?


The brief is fairly open - just five images from one narrative project, and it doesn’t have to be a complete finished picture book. I had a few projects on the go but decided on the same images that were chosen for the Illustrators Exhibition at Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2022. These were part of a project during my MA which I had further developed since graduation in 2021.


I’m aware my project is not an obvious, commercially viable picture book, so I decided to get the images out there anyway as someone may be looking for something a bit unexpected, or for something that might otherwise get overlooked.


One of five images from Shipbuilding

One of five images from Shipbuilding

Tell us about the application process.


Entering was quite easy as the images were already finished. There are very few limits on things like page dimensions, other than the practicality of file sizes, so illustrators can enter work that they are proud of without any constraints.


Did you receive formal feedback on your work?

There wasn’t anything official, but I did get some feedback from judges Piet Grobler and Klass Verplancke over dinner one night.


They were encouraging about what caught their eye, but also how I might develop the project ready for publication and what to include in the finished book, for example.


They also said not to be shy about approaching people to work with. Klaas talked about once messaging an artist he admired and how it eventually led to a valuable collaborative relationship. A great reminder to put yourself forward.


Have you learned about yourself as an illustrator through this process?


Yes! I could do with developing more characters and detailed images - not just big bold shapes. I’ve also learned that there’s a place for my work, I just need to find it. Also, I need to get better at self-promotion.


Illustration can be a solitary existence but visiting Nami Island and meeting illustrators from around the world meant I returned from South Korea feeling inspired. It reminded me of the importance of travel, of seeing the work of others, and experiencing new things to stay creative. This is important both personally and as an illustrator.


One of five images from Shipbuilding

Have you always wanted to illustrate picture books?


Yes, this was always the way I wanted to go. I like the longer timescales of books and getting my teeth into a story, giving it the time it deserves. I’m also interested in editorial illustration, especially for long-form writing on interesting subjects.


What has occurred since winning?


I’ve been busy with new projects and ideas. Winning this award has boosted my confidence and my next step is to secure an agent.


Do you recommend entering?

Definitely! It is a unique competition.

The team recreate images from the winning projects in 3D and bring the art to life. This is exhibited for two years at the Nami Concours Gallery. Your work is seen by an international jury, and you connect with people in the industry from all over the world, which is priceless. The Concours represents the ethos of Nami Island, which is dedicated to education and literacy for children, the power of nature, imagination, and stories.


3D model of the artwork displayed in the Nami Gallery

How was the awards ceremony?

The actual event was amazing! There was a military brass band and an open-air K-Pop performance, followed by a traditional Korean celebration involving hundreds of people passing a very long rice cake around a table. The day ended with a banquet in the woods. It was an amazing celebration, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.


3D model of artwork

Anything you would do differently?


Some winners had Embassy and cultural representatives, so there were ambassadors and diplomats at the awards ceremony. This is important for building relationships and promotion for the illustrators in their home country. Looking back, I would have contacted the British Council or Embassy to support the awards ceremony.



The primary aim of the Nami Island Concours is to provide illustrators with the opportunity to introduce their work on a global scale and inspire other illustrators to create high quality art, thus increasing the quality of children’s picture book illustrations. The next Concours will take place in 2025, with the deadline for applications in autumn 2024, so you have time to work on your projects. For more information and a full list of 2033 winners, click here. And to watch a video with all the winners, click here


                                                             *All images, including header image, provided by Nami Island Concours and Rosalie Smith                                                                                                  

You can contact Rosalie here: 


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor, and features editor, for Words & Pictures
Twitter @lolajflo

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