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“The Fisherman and the Whale” Wins Bull-Bransom Award

August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

The National Museum of Wildlife Art is excited to announce the Bull-Bransom Award recipient for 2020 is Jessica Lanan for her illustrations in The Fisherman and the Whale.


In the book, Lanan creates a beautiful wordless story about the serious issue of various sealife’s extermination through commercial fishing. This tale specifically focuses on the rescue of a whale. Lanan asserts: “it is very important to me that this story is not just the tale of one whale’s rescue, but a reflection of the environmental harm that we humans unwittingly cause and the deep empathy that can reconnect us to other living things across the bounds of size, habitat and species.”

The illustrations for The Fisherman and the Whale began with small thumbnail sketches and dummy books, revised many times to work out the pacing of the wordless story. Lanan traveled to Vancouver Island as part of her research in order to sketch and photograph fishing boats, see whales, and find the visual tone and setting for the story. She then developed larger color sketches to work out details like the perspective and tonal value. For the finals she transferred the drawings to cold-pressed watercolor paper and painted each spread using transparent watercolor and gouache.

“I never studied illustration formally, but I picked things up from trial and error, by studying art books, and by attending writing conferences.” Lanan has illustrated six other books to date, The Fisherman and the Whale being her first book as an author-illustrator.

The Bull-Bransom Award is given annually to recognize excellence in the field of children’s book illustration with a focus on nature and wildlife. The award is named after Charles Livingston Bull and Paul Bransom, who were among the first and finest American artist-illustrators to specialize in wildlife subjects. Both had a tremendous impact on younger artists and both illustrated numerous children’s books. Museum Trustee and Bull-Bransom Award Founder, Lynn Friess started this annual award in 2010. 

The Museum will announce upcoming events and a potential Jackson visit with Lanan at a later date. Stay tuned for more information.

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