In Rachel Ignotofsky’s short 27 years on earth, the Kansas City artist and author has re-imagined the planet and its inhabitants as colorful, wacky and whimsical characters, all with a compelling message to share: Dream it, be it and don’t be afraid of shattering stereotypes, especially if you are a girl interested in science or sports.
Her book, “Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World,” published last year, is a “New York Times” best seller (Ten Speed Press). It depicts female scientists like cytogeneticist Barbara McClintock, who was called “scandalous” for wearing pants at the University of Missouri, and Ada Lovelace, the first woman to create a computer program.
Culturally, her women in science book aligns with films like “Hidden Figures,” and the larger move in society to encourage girls to become more involved in the fields of science, technology and engineering.
“Women have been exploring science since dawn of time; now we have to get young girls to be the new pioneers,” Ignotofsky said.
Ignotofsky accompanies her engaging illustrations with fun, fact-filled biographies. This summer, a guided journal, a companion piece to the book, will be offered.
Ignotfsky’s second book, “Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win” (Ten Speed Press) will be published in July. It, too, features the meticulous research and colorful, fun illustrations that have made her posters and art such a hit on business sites like Etsy.com and Instagram. Appealing to audiences from grade school to adulthood, her work not only captures the imagination but is infused with social and environmental awareness.
Sports, like science, have female stars hidden in the shadows. “The greatest falsehood is (that) our bodies are inherently weak,” Ignotofsky said. “I want to tell stories that break stereotypes. I can’t wait until the next Olympics to see all those new young faces.”
Finding information about some of the women sports figures was a struggle. “You can find a lot about people by reading their obituaries,” the author said.
The New Jersey transplant moved to Kansas City to work for Hallmark right after graduating with a BFA in Graphic Design from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
“I learned so much at Tyler about cross-marketing platforms and from my father, who owns his own small business,” Ignotofsky said.
Wherever she got her marketing savvy, she is well-versed in not only making art with a statement, but making a successful career out of it, too, by selling art on Etsy and other social media sites to her receptive fans.
The perfect storm of interests — a love for comic books, cartoons, science and literature — led to her current subject matters and style. And her feminist viewpoint is an important catalyst for her choice of material.
A poster designed by Ignotofsky was a favorite for the women protesters marching this spring at political gatherings. It depicts a single fist in the air with the words, “Hear Our Voice,” in stark black and white.
“Everything is about exploring this great gender utopia and acknowledging the history and the struggle of those who came before us,” she said.