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“Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night” Wins the 2023 Bull-Bransom Award

August 23, 2023

The National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA) is pleased to announce that Julia Kuo has been awarded the 2023 Bull-Bransom Award for her illustrations in Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night, also authored by Kuo. This book celebrates bioluminescence, light generated by living things – including fireflies and foxfire, fungi and glowworms, deep-sea fish, and vampire squid.

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 artists Charles Livingston Bull and Paul Bransom, who were among the first and finest American artist-illustrators to specialize in wildlife subjects and who are both represented in NMWA’s permanent collection. Both had a tremendous impact on younger artists and illustrated numerous children’s books. Museum Trustee Emerita and Bull-Bransom Award Founder, Lynn Friess started this annual award in 2010. Kuo will participate in virtual programming with Teton County School District elementary students in the fall of 2023.

The Bull-Bransom Award is determined by a jury overseen by NMWA’s curatorial department. “Many of our jurors commented on the masterful way that Julia used color and negative space to tell this story,” says Associate Curator of Art, Dr. Kennis Forte. “The style of these illustrations is very striking, but it is especially remarkable because of the way that the play of darkness and light in the images works with the text to convey the book’s message about bioluminescent organisms.”

In discussing her award-winning illustrations, Kuo says, “As an illustrator, I rely on existing imagery to learn about subjects I haven’t seen with my own eyes, especially when most of these creatures live in the deep sea. When I started to work on my picture book Luminous: Living Things That Light Up the Night, my first question was: what do bioluminescent creatures even look like? I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the light they produce in some extraordinary settings: kayaking among dinoflagellates in Northern California, discovering the dim glow of foxfire in a forest in Taiwan, and drifting under a shining constellation of glowworms in a cave in New Zealand. Each encounter felt so precious and so hard to come by that I wanted to share this phenomenon in a book, so that others might learn about bioluminescence and eventually see it for themselves!”

Kuo is the author and illustrator of Let’s Do Everything and Nothing and the illustrator of several picture and specialty books including the bestselling book RISE. She has created editorial illustrations for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the New York Times. Julia has taught illustration courses at Columbia College Chicago and at her alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis. She has been an artist-in-residence twice at the Banff Centre for the Arts and was a 2019-2021 fellow with the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago. She currently lives in Bellevue, WA.


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