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Friendly, Playful Illustrations by Denise Tonner

An intaglio and ink illustration of different types of seeds and a cartoon personThings in the Seed, intaglio, Chine-colle, ink

Our featured artist today is Denise Tonner. Denise is an illustrator and printmaker based in Vancouver, BC. Denise’s illustrations are relatively simple and yet seem to open endless avenues for storytelling.


An illustrated map of the Oyama region of British ColumbiaIllustrated Map of Oyama, BC, digital
A screen capture of Denise Tonner's online sketchbookDenise's Sketchbook gallery on her website

The artist favours sketchy lines and not-quite-opaque colouring and like other mixed-media illustrators, experiments with materials such as chalk, scratchboard and gouache. The result is often a slightly layered effect. Denise creates friendly, playful illustrations for children, often featuring characters that, while cartoonish, seem to express the behaviours and feelings of children in a real but accessible manner.  


I particularly enjoy Denise’s black and white illustrations. The sketchy aesthetic works extremely well here, where the white parts of the drawings occasionally reveal the dark background underneath, making everything seem that much more akin to a storybook. Despite their dark colouration, the drawings retain a certain friendliness. View more illustrations and look through Denise’s sketchbook on


A black and white scratchboard illustration of a ghost flying out a windowWindow, scratchboard, collage, digital

About the author

Dallas Jeffs Art Writer

Dallas Jeffs is the Editor of Artist Run Website's blog. They hold a degree in Critical and Cultural Practices from Emily Carr University of Art and Design, as well as a certificate in Technical Writing from BCIT. Dallas has a passion for speaking and writing about art, and sharing that interest with others. In their studio practice they are an illustrator and budding tattoo artist, but they consider themselves a writer foremost. If you like art, books and culture with a science fiction twist, check out Dallas' personal blog, HappySpaceNoises or their art on Instagram.

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