Log in

Log in

INterview with CORNELIA LI

This year, CIBA commissioned artwork from talented Canadian artist and illustrator Cornelia Li to help celebrate Canadian Independent Bookstore Day. We spoke with Cornelia about her vision for the design and why she wanted to support the campaign.

What did you want the illustration to say to people about independent bookstores?

The main concept I want to convey through my illustration is the sense of inclusive and diverse community fostered through independent bookstores. Compared to the highly commercial chain stores, independent bookstores often provide opportunities for books that will resonate with different diasporas, but may not find the space otherwise. Nothing is more exciting than visiting an independent bookstore, discovering the new work of new authors or artists from under-heard groups, hearing recommendations from the enthusiastic staff, and just losing oneself in the pages.

Did you know from the outset what imagery you wanted to include?

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to illustrate not just the physical book stores, but almost a wonderland-like book world where stores and readers of all kinds immerse themselves in stories and knowledge of all kinds. Being in a large city like Toronto, I often traverse by foot from bookstore to bookstore, each with its own personality and charm; I strive to capture them in this piece!

Is any of the imagery personal to you or reflective of your experience with indies?

There are so many visuals that reflect my experiences with indies and I hope everyone who sees my work can resonate with the little moments of their own experiences. When I visit local bookstores, the excitement and intrigue I experience often results in an oopsie of purchasing more books than I can carry. Other times, it's traversing a long distance in the bad weather to listen to my favourite author or illustrator sharing their latest work. Recently, I just booked my very first book launch of my own at two local bookstores and it's exciting to be able to share my creative process to an audience in real life. The positive emotional experience brought by indie bookstores is what I hope to convey.

Why do you think indie bookstores are important?

Giving voice to creators of all diaspora, giving old books new lives, sharing stationery and other crafts made by local artists, hosting events that gathers adult and young book readers alike... There are so many reasons indie bookstores are essential contributors to a city's arts and culture sphere, and ones that need to be consciously protected and promoted.

Where else can people find your work?

You can find more of my work at, or my socials @cornelia_illo! My books can be found in many indie bookstores across Canada.

See Cornelia's full illustration below. Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is on April 27, 2024. 

Click here to download our save the date featuring Cornelia's artwork (sized for Facebook/Twitter, Instagram in-feed post, and Instagram story).


Copyright © 2020 Canadian Independent Booksellers Association (CIBA). All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without written permission.
We wish to acknowledge the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software