When not working on a commission by editorial clients like Harper’s Bazaar or Refinery29, Bijou Karman paints portraits. These pieces contain the ingredients that feature in the works of many female illustrators practicing today: women, plants, patterns, bold colour. But Karman’s work somehow stands out. There is something about it that sticks with you. Perhaps it is the unwavering gaze of her subjects. The women Karman depicts are sometimes famous, like Nina Simone, and sometimes they appear to be the illustrators’ friends, or perhaps other women she admires. One common characteristic that emanates from the portraits is strength. These women all exude confidence, intelligence, and, perhaps due to these qualities, a worldly weariness. Read the news on any given morning, and you can’t be blamed for feeling the same.
Bijou Karman’s illustrations are succinct in their use of line. She expresses colourful characters with minimal detail — the sign of a skilled master at her craft. Karman’s ladies are all impossibly cool, fashionable, and often adorned with statement earrings. It’s no surprise that many of her commissions come from the fashion industry. Her big break came when Rihanna and her team found her work online and asked her to create some illustrations for the singer’s collaboration with Stance socks. Rihanna seems to embody the attitude the Karman draws out in her work. She must have been very happy with it, since the pair have now worked together twice.
Find more of Bijou Karman’s work here and be sure to follow her on Instagram, where she posts regular updates.