From Disney’s depiction of Mulan to Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, female warriors in animated films are undoubtedly legendary—but a rarity. Women in fantasy art and film are still vastly underrepresented, especially characters that embody diversity. Artist Yael Nathan seeks to change this. She’s created an illustrated series of powerful women warriors that represent many shapes, sizes, and skin colors.
Female heroines are often depicted as young, physically fit, and attractive (by society's standards). However, Nathan’s illustrations showcase a far more realistic representation of women. From an elderly mountain ranger to a curvaceous eagle trainer, each character tells a story. Every warrior wears their own battle-ready costume and holds their weapon of choice. Many even have their own animal sidekick, such as one character who rides on a dinosaur. But regardless of their design, Nathan’s series shows that women of all kinds are strong, empowered, and worth celebrating.
We recently caught up with Nathan to ask her more about her Warriors series. Read on for My Modern Met’s exclusive interview. And if you love this series, you can download a free PDF of all of the artists' illustrations here.
When did you first start illustrating?
I started drawing as a kid, like most children. I just never stopped. I studied animation at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem and when I graduated I went on to work in an animation studio, then onto high-tech and game studios. However, throughout my professional career, I’ve always drawn and created personal illustrations and comics.
Why do you enjoy illustrating?
I love the ability to easily tell a story with my art. I usually start a drawing or comic frame with a general idea of the final result I want to achieve, but as I draw, ideas begin to develop that will help me tell a better story—whether it’s the staging of the frame, the character’s expression, interactions with other characters, or even small details that will enrich the character.
What inspired your women warriors series?
My own journey to self-acceptance. And I also started to view the world and people in it as powerful and worthy—no matter how they look. Everyone has a journey and we all overcome difficult things. I spent many years convinced of certain truths about people and saw the world as black and white. Through a journey of introspection and exposure to the body-positivity movement online, I saw so many great examples of courageous women, unafraid to live their lives as they wanted and I slowly began to change my beliefs and started to draw more women. At first, they were very stereotypically pretty, but then I started seeing beauty in the diversity of shapes and to see the power in all those women.
How long have you been working on the series?
Not long, just in the past few months. But the journey that led me to these characters has taken years.
Are you inspired by any real women in your life? Or are the characters entirely fictional?
Each illustration is usually an amalgamation of real women in my life and photos that inspire the pose or attitude. I'm also influenced by various fashion items and weapons. They help me create a little story I have in mind about the woman I’m painting.
Can you describe the backstories of some of the characters?
They don’t really have backstories, it’s more of a general idea of their profession or location. For example, the older woman with the large dog is a ranger who lives alone in the mountains, helping those who are lost. Her dog is her companion and her guard.
Do you have any new projects you're working on and would like to share?
I’m currently working on a personal comic that is loosely based on the aesthetic of my warrior women. I’ll release it in parts on my Instagram soon. You can also see all of my comics with writer Ehud Lavski here.