'I construct new stories from old,
In ways that are contemporary, manifold, & also rather bold...
I marry words with images, which I’m often told,
Bring to light, map, & celebrate,
Histories which would otherwise remain hidden, side-lined, or untold... Behold!'
Kremena Dimitrova is a London based illustrator-as-historian, storyteller, lecturer, and a practice-based PhD researcher in visualising history. She specialises in children's book illustration, comics, mapmaking, and visual storytelling in the museum and heritage sectors. Her commissions often involve working with archives and collections and using a mixture of creative approaches such as character development, humour, rhymes, words, and images to bring them to life. Kremena experiments with photographic material and traditionally made textures, painted, drawn, and printed backgrounds, which she combines into digital collages.
As an illustrator, Kremena has extensive professional industry experience and a breath of specialist knowledge. She has had a number of exhibitions and her work features in print, online, book publishing, design, and advertising. Major creative projects range from research residencies in collaboration with Historic England to Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Funded (hi)storytelling commissions. Clients include West Cheshire Museums, Museum of the Home, National Memorial Arboretum, East Street Arts, University of Manchester and The John Rylands Library. Many of Kremena’s commissions are socially engaged in nature and involve collaborating with the public to explore history, culture, and heritage in creative and memorable ways - through art, storytelling, and co-creation.
As an educator, Kremena has wide-ranging experience in delivering face-to-face and online creative events, talks, lectures, and workshops in formal and informal educational settings including at Middlesex University, University of Portsmouth, University of East London, MAFWA Theatre, The Jewish Museum, Bishop’s Stortford Museum, L’Ecole de Battersea, and Cameron Vale School. Exploring different media, from drawing, painting, and printmaking to collage and comics making, participants are encouraged to be imaginative in an inclusive, creative, and playful environment.
Kremena's work can be found in the shops and permanent collections of various museums and libraries across the UK, including in Benjamin Franklin House and The John Rylands Library.
'I rarely approach projects with preconceived ideas in mind,
Depending on the briefs or tasks of other kind,
I like to see how things develop through research, experimentation,
Through the testing of ideas, & through creative contemplation…
My artistic pilgrimages, my exploratory journeys are the ones which define,
The outputs & outcomes in ways oh so fine & divine…’
Postgraduate Art Development Grant (2021) - Faculty of Fine Arts, Brno University of Technology
Higher Education Academy - Advance HE (2018-)
UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER' CENTRE FOR JEWISH STUDIES AND THE JOHN RYLANDS LIBRARY
MANCHESTER MUSEUM, UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER
PRESTON PARK MUSEUM & GROUNDS
WEST CHESHIRE MUSEUMS
EAST STREET ARTS
ARTIST-RESEARCHER: HISTORY / HERITAGE PROJECTS & RESIDENCIES
Manchester Museum, Manchester (Aug 2021-)
Illustrator The Belonging Gallery – employ a comic strip format to bring to light the emotional stories of spiritual and religious driven movement through archaeological and other ornate objects that people carried with them from Europe to the UK with the aim to reveal the emotional realities of belonging, represented across the museum’s diverse collections, peoples, species, places, and time; Exhibition installation in Autumn 2021.
University of Oxford, Oxford (Sep 2021-)
Illustrator Digital Scholarship (DiSc) micro-commission - reflect on the nature, importance, and activities of DiSc as practices that complement and extend existing methods of academic research and generate a creative map to give DiSc a visual identity; launch and exhibition in Autumn 2021.
Suffolk Libraries, Stowmarket (Aug 2021-) (Arts Council England Funded)
Illustrator Stowmarket Garden Project - Stitching Stowe - lead on the design, development, and creation of a site-specific mural to be installed in the courtyard and garden space of Stowmarket Library, inspired by a local story weaving together tales which celebrate Stowmarket’s past, present and future collected through public engagement events; participate in planning sessions; work with the staff from Suffolk Libraries, Fox Yard Studio, Modece Architects Ltd and additional project partners to help with the evaluation and documentation of work throughout the project; social media promotion.
Museum of the Home, London
(Mar 2021-) Concept Illustrator/Designer - Associate Schools Project Tomorrowland - in collaboration with
Bernadette Russell, Erik Perera, Hannah Marshall and Wendy Shearer; designed a logo and co-created digital and physical maps populated with QR codes, ideas, writings, rhymes, and visuals created by primary school children from St Paul's with St Michael's, Queensbridge and Sebright Primary Schools imagining what their future homes could/should look like; organised the printing of maps and their installation in the museum, schools, and local shops.
(Nov 2020-Mar 2021) Concept Illustrator/Designer - Rhymes Through Time multi-artwork family trail installation in collaboration with a poet. Responsibilities: created 5 digitally illustrated large scale wall/cupboard murals displayed in different rooms in the museum visualising the experience of the child during four periods in British history; interpreted the stories from the domestic home in a fun and child-friendly way aimed at children aged 6-12 and families; ensured the displays were inclusive, interactive, engaging and memorable through visual poetry map mazes, puzzles, matching pairs, spot the difference games, while considering the rooms’ contemporary relevance relating to family structures, gender, race, multiculturalism; artistic direction of project; design and proofing; concept illustration; created print ready artworks that were fully accessible for all audiences, including colour, size and type of text used; created smaller version of artworks for use on Soundcloud and the museum website; designed exhibition interpretation and credit panels; worked with the Digital/Social Media Editor to help with marketing and PR by posting about research and ideas, work in progress, creative processes, artistic choices and concepts; liaised with printers for practicalities of printing and delivery (National Lottery Heritage Funded).
Wigan STEAM, Wigan (Aug 2021) (Arts Council England Funded)
Illustrator Future Human - a socially engaged and co-created art project with young people exploring what is in store for humanity and planet earth in the year 2050 by delving into the problems we might face as our species evolve, the climate continues to change, and technology advances at an ever-increasing rate. The young people worked with scientists and technologists to gather research about cutting-edge technologies and scientific evidence and theories that might give us a glimpse into the future. I helped the young people communicate their visions for the future and research through visual storytelling, character development and comics. Exhibition installation of work in Wigan STEAM Gallery in Autumn 2021.
Green Close, Rural & Social Development Through the Arts, Lancashire
(May - Aug 2021) Mapping Kirkby Lonsdale’s Heritage - Phoenix Rising Wellbeing Programme - using a co-production model, planned and delivered a series of online and physical visual storytelling workshops relating to the histories, myths, folktales, and participants’ personal stories and memories about Kirkby Lonsdale. Introduced participants to the various creative ways of bringing historical information to life such as rhymes, collage, and comics making. Used the workshops’ visual and textual outcomes to co-create an illustrated, visually appealing, educational, and accessible digital and physical map/poster that communicates a variety of individual stories and positions them in the wider historical context to celebrate people, culture, and heritage in contemporary ways; involved the participants in the research, planning, production, and design of the final map/poster.
(Oct 2020) The Phoenix Art & Health Project in partnership with Lancashire and South Cumbria (NHS) Foundation Trust, LSCFT Recovery College - planned and delivered a series of international online Comics & Personal Well-being workshops for women over eighteen on the theme of Stress & Anxiety. Through discussions and self-reflection, introduced participants to the numerous ways they could employ the unique language of comics and their combination of image and text to visually communicate their thoughts, feelings, frustrations, anxieties or experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown conditions. Developed a co-created comics poster with the workshops’ creative outcomes.
(Arts Council England Emergency Funding).
Preston Park Museum & Grounds, Stockton-on-Tees (May - Jul 2021)
Illustrator/Designer - Site-specific Contemporary Collecting Exhibition Project Lockdown Legends Exposed - working from photographs and stories, devised and designed a large-scale digital vinyl wall mural in a portrait/map style inspired by elected Covid-19 nominees - inspirational individuals whose heroic acts of kindness during the pandemic were deemed by the people in Tees Valley to deserve recognition. Responsibilities: maintained ongoing communication via email and phone; research, concept development, considered quality, format, and longevity of portrait map to become part of the museum’s permanent collections showing future generations how ordinary people did extraordinary things and how communities worked together during difficult times; provided initial ideas of the composition layouts; sent regular updates on the progress of work; created versions of work for an interactive wall, website use, and social media promotion; designed exhibition interpretation panels and illustrated frames for the nomination text.
University of Manchester’s Centre for Jewish Studies and The John Rylands Library, Manchester (Jan 2020 - May 2021)
Exploratory visual research residency 50 Jewish Objects public history commission - researched and visually investigated, employing a graphic narrative format, a 14C compendium of Jewish law - an illuminated manuscript of Isaac ben Joseph of Corbeil’s Sefer Mitzvot Katan (Semak) (documented for internet usage) which is exhibited on the Centre for Jewish Studies' website and which is part of The University of Manchester's permanent collections in The John Rylands Library. Planned, organised and delivered outreach activities programme comprising of a pre-recorded online comics/storytelling talk and workshop to showcase the project, captivate public’s interest and widen understanding of artefacts, Jewish history, and Jewish studies; wrote blog entries which communicated my research, thinking, design decisions, processes and approaches when visually responding to the manuscript.
East Street Arts, Leeds (Oct 2020-) in partnership with Leeds City Council (main project partner)
Leeds Museums and Galleries, Leeds Heritage Theatres, Opera North, Age UK, The Churches Conservation Trust, North Bar/North Brewing, High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) (Funded by Historic England)
Artist-Researcher and Artist in Residence with Leeds Civic Trust collaborating with local history experts, volunteers, and community groups on a socially engaged intergenerational pilot project. Responsibilities: researched the rich history, culture, heritage, and untold stories of Burmantofts Pottery and its connection to and presence in and around New Briggate and the City Centre. Created educational videos, led creative community consultation through online workshops; conducted interviews with Burmantofts residents - Shakespeare Primary School, Burmantofts Senior Action, MAFWA Theatre (vulnerable women, refugees, asylum seekers, and settled communities) to uncover unknown stories. Used these findings to co-create digital and physical resources (an illustrated poetry book, letters, stories, maps, puzzles, colouring sheets) in consultation with the participants further informing a second part of the project generating activity packs with an Artist-Educator distributed to residents, families, and elderly people. Engaged in research, development, production, activation, evaluation, and participation encouraging people to become history and heritage investigators. Developed a physical and digital imprint based on collaboration and helped create a contemporary ‘blue plaque’ recording Leeds’s neighbourhoods’ deep-rooted histories which are under threat of erasure and displacement; contributed to a social media campaign to promote the project through artist takeovers on social media channels; attended weekly online meetings with the project team to update on project’s progress and discuss, develop, and finalise ideas; developed, wrote, designed, and illustrated a collaborative (hi)story book in rhymes co-created with the community groups’ memories, ideas, suggestions, and creative outcomes from workshops. Published by East Street Arts in Spring 2021.
West Cheshire Museums, Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council (Jul 2020 - Aug 2020) (National Lottery Heritage Funded)
Digital collaborative comic strip commission Colour within the Lines: Living in Lockdown for Chester Festival of Hope - a pioneering online festival and exhibition placing young people at the heart of design, making, programming and production. The Festival of Hope is part of Hope Streets, a five-year project creating a strategic partnership between heritage and youth sectors in the North West. The aim of the commission was to reflect on Chester Young Producers’ heritage by exploring and visually communicating young people’s views and experiences on both sides of the Welsh-English border throughout the period of Covid-19 lockdown; employing a comic strip format, I worked with Chester Young Producers to give voice to young people whose stories wouldn’t usually be told by visually communicating oral histories gathered by Chester Young Producers through interviews; comic strip inclusion in the West Cheshire Museums' permanent collections; planned and delivered an online workshop Understanding Comics: Starting Your Comic Strip as part of Chester Festival of Hope. Digital engagement: contributed to a social media campaign to promote the festival producing content for the festival’s website and social media channels including Instagram artist takeovers.
National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas (May 2020 - Jul 2020) (Funded by The Royal British Legion using LIBOR Charity Funds)
Socially engaged site-specific digital exhibition Visualising History: Remembering the Forgotten Army (Aug 2020-) employing a graphic narrative format explored the lasting impact the conflict with Japan and the Second World War have had on today’s culture and society; devised and delivered online (hi)story-telling/illustration workshops and developed a suite of digitally-accessible activity sheets (history-telling through illustration, history-telling through comics, history-telling through line art and colouring) and an educational history-telling colouring book to engage young people in learning and remembrance of those who served and sacrificed in the Far East focusing on the British 14th Army (the “Forgotten” Army) and most diverse army in history; engaged in visual research investigations and used young people’s creative responses to produce a unitary collaborative historical graphic narrative to form the Arboretum’s first digital exhibition commemorating the 75th anniversary of VJ-Day.
Eastleigh Borough Council, Eastleigh (Mar 2020 - Jun 2020)
Site-specific community heritage commission One Horton Heath - developed an artistic vision in a cartographic format inspired by the (hi)stories of a new community housing development site (homes, local facilities, infrastructure) in the Borough of Eastleigh on the theme The Journey (depicting the past and present development and future vision); created work in adaptable formats for hard copy usage (flyers, posters, site signage) and digital platforms advertising campaigns (One Horton Heath website, e-marketing, social media channels) to serve as an official image and an umbrella piece speaking to different audiences by establishing a sense of place and purpose.
Benjamin Franklin House, London (Jun 2015 - Nov 2019) (National Lottery Heritage Funded, 2017, 2018)
Illustrator in Residence - commission to research Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and his life and work in London. Developed site-specific illuminations used as educational projections to enrich young audiences’ experiences during historical re-enactments and an educational children’s activity book Benjamin Franklin: At Home in London (published in 2019 and consisting of reusable stickers, a map, spot the difference and puzzles); illustrated and designed merchandise for the museum shop (fridge magnets, notebooks, bookmarks); devised activity sheets, delivered talks and mixed media illustration/collage workshops for museum visitors, families and school children; independent research investigating the carto-graphic novel as an innovative form of historiography as part of an interdisciplinary practice-based PhD (focusing on 18C colonial London, Benjamin Franklin and the museum).
The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, Canterbury (Apr 2018 - Nov 2018) (Canterbury Council and Canterbury Museums and Galleries, CCC Funded)
Site-specific community heritage graphic narrative exhibition installation Beyond War - Visualising Peace: Responding to the Armistice of 1918 (Nov 2018 - Feb 2019) commemorating 100 years since the end of WW1. Researched and visualised The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge’s WW1 Canterbury archives and collections to create historically accurate digital graphic narrative scenes and an interactive poppy wall Celebrating Women in the Workforce visualising the (often unsung) contributions of ordinary women living through the Great War and the peace beyond; planned, prepared, and co-ordinated the exhibition installation, created merchandise for The Beaney’s shop (notebooks, bookmarks, paper puppets, fridge magnets, tea towels, mugs); contributed to exhibition publicity and promotion via websites and social media channels.
Bishop’s Stortford Museum and Middlesex University (Nov 2013 - Aug 2014) (National Lottery Heritage Funded)
Archival research and visualisation The Conscientious Objector - graphic narrative spreads illustrating rare and damaged Hertfordshire’s WW1 police archives visually communicating the experiences of policemen and ordinary people during the Great War; published in a book anthology On the Beat: Stories from 1914-191 commemorating 100 years since the beginning of WW1. This collaboration was produced in partnership with Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Project was reviewed and approved by the Houses of Parliament; exhibitions at Bishop’s Stortford Museum and Middlesex University; press coverage by the BBC and the Times; gave educational talks to local schoolchildren about the project.
ILLUSTRATION / DESIGN COMMISSIONS
Auris Tech Limited, London (Jan 2020 - Mar 2020)
The Painting - an interactive children’s e-book design and illustration for a market leading educational Fonetti app, which offers innovative speech recognition solutions for children - a learning system encouraging and assisting children as they learn to read;
Oxford City Council, Oxford (Jan 2020)
Site-specific illustration commission responding to the climate emergency A Cup of Inspiration; printed on purpose-built giant coffee cup recycling bins installed in Oxford to create a trail of inspiration in three of Oxford’s business areas and inspire people to take positive action to address the climate emergency; concept development, draft design sketch creation, final colour design covering themes relating to inspiration, positivity, diversity, inclusion, visibility, logistics.
Amuse Experiences - Bespoke Museum and Gallery Experiences with the Experts, London (Sep 2018 - May 2019); Associate Member
Commission to develop illustrations, design panels and a handwritten logo for a new website encapsulating the company’s creative offerings ranging from international museum and gallery tours, artists’ studio tours and creative school curriculum to bespoke talks and events, creative celebrations and life drawing classes.
UCL Institute of Education, Department of Culture, Communication and Media, London (Sep 2017-)
Researched, designed and illustrated an info map/trail for MA Museums and Galleries in Education showcasing the main university areas and facilities as part of an induction package for new students; used by the marketing department of UCL Institute of Education across the wider university community.
UCL Institute of Education, Thomas Coram Research Unit, London (Jun 2016)
Co-created comic strips e-book Child Language Brokering: Spaces of identity belonging and mediators of cultural knowledge. The aim of the project was to produce outputs for the wider public and raise awareness about the lives and practices of young interpreters (aged 13-15); combined young people’s original writings and drawings generated during workshops by weaving and juxtaposing multiple concepts, voices, stories and research findings in innovative, informative and memorable ways by merging words and images. The e-book highlighted issues important to the young people, communicating their own feelings, thoughts, anxieties and experiences being young interpreters in a creative way. The e-book was exhibited in schools and online with the aim of disseminating difficult research findings in accessible ways (through the use of humour). This facilitated learning in the University and across broader non-academic audiences.
Literary Lifestories, London (Jul 2016 - Aug 2016)
Commission to design a book cover for a novelette.
The Rude Mechanicals, Shakespeare in Shoreditch Festival, London (Feb 2016 - Mar 2016)
Commission to design and illustrate promotional materials - a poster, logo, map/trail using traditional and digital methods
capturing The Rude Mechanicals’ performances across the London Borough of Hackney to commemorate 400 years since Shakespeare.
Lonely Planet Kids, London (Apr 2014 - Apr 2015)
Educational sticker books adventure series for children - Adventures in Cold Places and Adventures in Smelly Places and to create the main illustrations for a deluxe world atlas Adventures Around the Globe; each book publication included over 250 reusable stickers, world maps, intro, colouring pages, spot the difference, shadow games, puzzles, 3D push-outs, and more. Worldwide publication of all books.
PUBLICATIONS / CHILDREN'S BOOKS
Untold Stories of Burmantofts and New Briggate (East Street Arts, Historic England Funded) (2021)
The Painting e-book (Fonetti educational app by Auris Tech Limited) (2020)
Benjamin Franklin: At Home in London (2019) (National Lottery Heritage Funded)
Adventures in Smelly Places (Lonely Planet Kids) (2015)
Adventures in Cold Places (Lonely Planet Kids) (2014)
PUBLICATIONS / BOOK ANTHOLOGIES CONTAINING MY ILLUSTRATIONS
Community Artists Colouring Book Vol. 1 (Portsmouth Creates) (2020)
Adventures Around the Globe (Lonely Planet Kids) (2015)
On the Beat: During the Great War 1914 -1918 (Bishop’s Stortford Museum, part of the Rhodes Birthplace trust and Middlesex University) (2014) (National Lottery Heritage Funded)
Sancti Clandestini: Undercover Saints (World Wood Publishing) (2012)
Impressions of Cat Hill (Middlesex University and Pearls of Wisdom Press) (2011)
Dimitrova, K. (2022, July). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics Poetry. Paper to be presented at the Storytelling Conference organised by the University of Suffolk, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2022). Absented from His Master’s Service: Comics, Colonialism and Benjamin Franklin House. Paper to be presented at World in a (Historic) House: Global Connections and Collections organised by the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, UK/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2021, July). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics Poetry. Paper presented at the 5th Global Meeting: Slavery Past, Present and Future organised by the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2021, June). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics. Paper presented at Seeds, Roots and Branches organised by the University of Portsmouth, UK/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2021, June). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics Poetry. Paper presented at "Blood on the Leaves/And Blood at the Roots": Reconsidering Forms of Enslavement and Subjection across Disciplines organised by the University of Warwick, UK/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2021, June). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics Poetry. Paper presented at EMREM’s 10th Annual Symposium 'Forging and Forgetting: The (Re)writing of History, Community and Memory' organised by the University of Birmingham, UK/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2021, April). Absented from His Master’s Service: Envisaging Runaway Slave Advertisements through Non-narrative Comics Poetry. Paper presented at the Somewhere in Between: Borders and Borderlands Conference organised by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, UK/online.
Dimitrova, K. (2020, November). Visualising Absence: The Cartographic Novel as an Innovative Form of Historiography. Paper presented at the Narratives of Displacement International Conference organised by the London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in collaboration with The British and Comparative Cultural Studies Research Group (BRICCS), University of the Balearic Islands, Spain.
Dimitrova, K. (2020, September). Visualising Colonial Absences: The Cartographic Novel as an Innovative Form of Historiography. Paper presented at the University of Portsmouth Digital Postgraduate Presentations Programme DiPP, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2020, June). The Cartographic Novel as an Innovative Form of Historiography. Paper presented at the
SHS Online Events - Environment, Spaces & Places Session, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2020, June). The Cartographic Novel as an Innovative Form of Historiography. Paper presented at the MAPPING - UNCHARTED TERRITORY Online Video Conference, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2019, July). Reimagining History: Graphic Novels and the Museum. Paper presented at the Visualising the Past Symposium. Portsmouth, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2019, June). Conference Panel Chair of Assembling Storyworlds. Paper presented at the Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Comics and Bandes Dessinées, Manchester, UK.
Dimitrova, K. (2017, March). Teaching Art and Design in an Inclusive Classroom: Adapting the Curriculum. Paper presented as part of Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Symposium. London, UK.
PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE GUEST LECTURES
University of Portsmouth
BA Illustration (9 Mar 2019; 15 Mar 2021)
BA Photography (30 Apr 2021)
University of East London
BA Illustration (13 Nov 2018)
University of Portsmouth
- Research Practice Supervision (Oct 2021-)
- BA Photography - Introduction to Visual Culture (Jan 2021- Apr 2021)
- Sorrell Foundation’s National Art and Design Saturday Club (NADSC) (Nov 2013-)
- Intensive Foundation in Art and Design (Jun 2013 - Sep 2018)
- Summer School (Jun 2015 - Aug 2016)
CREATIVE TALKS & WORKSHOPS