Artist’s honour at making folio contest longlist

Wigan artist Marsha Balaeva
Wigan artist Marsha Balaeva

A Wigan artist is celebrating after being chosen to compete for a prestigious prize illustrating a new edition of a classic novel.

Marsha Balaeva made the 23-strong longlist for the Book Illustration Competition 2017 organised by the Folio Society and the House of Illustration.

It means a great deal to me to appear in the nominations because it validates my efforts and has shown I’m moving in the right direction

Marsha Balaeva

The Beech Hill 38-year-old was one of 23 illustrators hoping to impress the judges and land a commission to produce drawings for the society’s new edition of Mansfield Park by Jane Austen.

Although she did not win the overall prize or make the final shortlist Marsha, who works from her home studio, spoke of her pride at getting to the longlist stage and her love of the art of book illustration, praising the Folio Society for keeping it alive in the 21st century.

She said: “I’m very passionate about book illustration, I have numerous illustrated books in my library and I particularly like works of Arthur Rackham. I love how good illustrations can make a story come alive on a whole different level and I believe that book illustrations shouldn’t be only for children. The popularity of graphic novels proves that adults have just as much interest in well-drawn and complex images.

“This is why what the Folio Society does is so unique, they make phenomenal books that combine first-class literature and best contemporary illustration. It’s only natural that contributing to that would be an incredible opportunity for any illustrator.

“It means a great deal to me to appear in the nominations because it validates my efforts and has shown to me that my standard is getting higher and I’m moving in the right direction.”

Marsha developed her artistic talent at high school before going on to do an MA in illustration at Hertfordshire University.

She has illustrated several short story anthologies, produced animated music videos for bands and had experimental films accepted by festivals.

She also had a video accompanying a poem displayed onto the wall of a museum and is currently producing her second music video for London-based band Wolf Project.

The overall winner of the Folio Society competition was announced last week at a glamorous ceremony in London, with TV historian Lucy Worsley giving out the prize.

Five shortlisted artists received £500 each and there was also a visitor’s choice award for the most popular pieces at a London exhibition showcasing the entrants.