Kali Ciesemier

Kali Ciesemier is a (living and working!) illustrator based in Los Angeles. She graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art. Since graduating, she has taught at Maryland Institute College of Art from 2009 – 2013, University of Arts in Philadelphia in 2015, and the School of Visual Arts from 2015 – 2016.

Her impressive client list includes Amtrak, Boston Globe, Cartoon Network, New Yorker, Google, Harper Collins, LA Times, New York Times, Scholastic, and United Way. She consistently does editorial illustrations for magazine articles, which she posts on her blog along with commentary about her process. Ciesemier also published a graphic novel titled I Am Princess X, about two young best friends whose imaginary princess creation goes viral years after one of the friends is killed in a car accident. Another work by Ciesemier is her contribution to the first issue of the Steven Universe Comic series, entitled, “Steven Chewniverse.” Right now, Ciesemier is working as a freelance illustrator, and is also the color designer for the show OK KO: Let’s Be Heroes!, at Cartoon Network.

I was personally drawn to Ciesemier’s work because of the color and beautiful use of digital mediums. She has an amazing handle on color theory and uses a variety of colors successfully in all her pieces. This is due to her process, she says that she completes a greyscale sketch first, in order to make sure the tones are correct, before going in with color. Her work feels loose, yet very finished, and is well suited to editorial illustration. I love the intentional amount of texture that she manages to fit into all her pieces, without them ever feeling over-worked. I would love to see a video of her drawing process! I love how she doesn’t use outlines in her drawings, they feel alive, and full of movement, yet very polished.

She also hashes out some serious tax and saving advice for illustrators on her blog – pretty cool.

Professional illustrators need references too!





Chris Ware

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Chris Ware was born on December 29, 1967, in Omaha, Nebraska. His illustration career began in the early 1980’s, when his first comics were published in The Daily Texan, the University of Texas’s student publication. His career really took off in his second year of university, when Art Spiegelman noticed his work and asked him to contribute to his magazine, Raw. The expose and confidence Ware gained from this helped give him momentum moving forward into his career.

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After graduating, Ware moved to Chicago, where he began contributing to The Chicago Reader and New City. He published a weekly science fiction serial in the paper Floyd Farland: Citizen of the Future. Eventually, all these comics were compiled and printed in a book. The book brought him much attention and acclaim, but today, he finds it severely embarrassing and tries to destroy all the copies he can find.

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Ware has been a regular contributor to the New Yorker. Since 1999, he has illustrated over 25 covers and and made many other contributions to the contents of the magazine. He has published many award winning graphic novels, which form the bulk of his career’s work. Some notable ones are Building Stories, which was named one of the Top Ten Fiction books of the year by both Time Magazine and the New York Times in 2012. His latest graphic novel, Monograph, was recently released.

Ware has also done some exciting and high-profile, non-graphic novel projects. He has done illustrations for This American Life, and a mural for 826 Valencia, a San Francisco literacy project, among others.

Ware’s work is linear and mathematical. His illustrations are precise and somewhat geometric, which makes them well suited to the panel format of graphic novels. His style is realistic, highly detailed, and vividly coloured. Perhaps the most enticing thing about Ware’s work, however, is not even his illustrations but the content – the stories he tells with his art. Like many illustrators, he possesses an uncanny knack for storytelling. Reading some of his comics, I found that his novels read like a screenplay. The dialogue is extremely convincing and the characters are fully realized. My favourite thing about Ware’s work is his insight and expression of the human experience. Some of his favourite topics include isolation, depression, and emotional torment.

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Vivienne Flesher

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Vivienne Flesher was raised in Brooklyn, New York. She studied at Parsons, and after graduation, began trying to boost her portfolio by working at Atlantic Monthly and the soft porn magazine SWANK. One day at SWANK, she was looking for her editor to get an illustration approved. When he let her into his office, she found him with a fully naked woman, all the blinds drawn. After that incident, she decided her portfolio was more than ready and quit SWANK!

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Flesher’s first big break was with the first American Illustration Annual, which featured more than a dozen of her pieces. After this, work came easily and her career set off. Although there is little information about her, Flesher is still living and working. Her list of clients is impressive and extensive and includes the New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, O Magazine, Criterion Collective, and even a US postage stamp.

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She began her career working in pastels, enjoying the looseness and freedom of the medium. Later she switched to charcoals, to gain more control as well as a new approach. Now she works with a combination of digital and traditional medias, using photography in combination with her drawings. Her work is light, colourful, and alive. Her amazing sense of proportion, line quality, and deft handling of various mediums helps her blend realism and abstraction of portraits and figures to the perfect degree.

Flesher now lives with her husband, painter Ward Schumaker, in San Francisco. The two work closely together in their shared creative pursuits and have held shows internationally.





George Hardie

I notice things and I get things noticed.

George Hardie

George Hardie was born in 1944. After attending St. Martins School of Art, he continued his education, getting a master’s degree at the Royal College of Art. While still in school, he was commissioned to create the cover of Led Zeppelin’s new record for $60. The record, of course went on to be immensely successful, and his cover was praised by many. Hardie, however, considered it one of his worst works, and didn’t even include it in his grad show, due to its lack of “original thought”.


After school he joined Nicholas Thirkell Associates (NTA), a design firm that operated under the Macmillan Publishing Company. Working with record cover company Hipgnosis, he did cover art for many famous bands including for Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, and Wings. Although these brought him much acclaim, he was never starstruck by the artists themselves. In fact, he didn’t even own a record player.

It’s essential that my images have some kind of function. I can’t get out of it by saying they’re surrealist dreams.

George Hardie

Hardie’s work is highly conceptual and playful. He often utilizes storytelling elements, creating visual puzzles to be solved by the viewer. His work is cheeky and witty, often tied to words or phrases. Hardie also works traditionally, never using a computer. Instead he uses rulers, French curves, a light box, and ellipse guides to create his precise, graphic illustrations.

He’s been teaching at the University of Brighton for 24 years, and has been a member of the AGI since 1994. In addition to his design work, he now acts as the AGI’s international secretary.

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Tomi Ungerer

Tomi Ungerer was born Jean-Thomas Ungerer on November 28, 1931. His father – to whom he attributes his artistic skill – was an artist, historian, and engineer, but died in 1935 when Ungerer was 3 1/2 years old. His childhood was marked by the deep divides of the region he was raised in and the scars of WWII, something he would later explore in his memoir, À la Guerre Comme À La Guerre (A Childhood Under the Nazis). During the war, Alsace was annexed by the Nazis, and French was banned in schools. From then on, until its liberation, the Nazis indoctrinated students every day with their teachings. Ungerer viewed the battles in 1945 that led to the eviction of the German armies from the region, and made drawings of these events.

© Tomi Ungerer
A childhood drawing

It was total, systematic brainwashing every day

Tomi Ungerer

Ungerer began studying at the Municipal School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg, but after failing his baccalaureate exams, took time off to hitchhike his way around Europe. In 1956, he headed off to New York City with $60 and his drawings.

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Illustration from the Mellops series

Here his first children’s book, The Mellops Go Flying, was published by Ursula Nordstrom of Harper and Row (she would later go on to publish Shel Silverstein), and it met immediate success. This would begin a career of famous children’s books, including Critter, Adelaide, Emil, The Three Robbers, and Rufus. Ungerer also began doing advertising work for the prominent magazines in New York.

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A drawing from Fornicon

The publication of two books aimed at the adult reader, The Underground Sketchbook of Tomi Ungerer and Fornicon, which both featured comical erotic illustrations, led to a change in the nature of his work. This was in part due to the fact that he was no longer considered desirable or appropriate to hire for children’s books, but also because the political climate of the time. The Vietnam war was breaking out, and Ungerer became increasingly invested in political work. A strong supporter of the Civil Rights movement as well as the anti-war movement, he created posters and satire illustrations for both.

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Ungerer found himself, around this time, a sort of exile. Having been somewhat shunned from the illustration scene in America, he and his wife moved to Nova Scotia and then to Ireland. Europe, he found, was far more receptive and less sensitive to the erotic and shocking nature of his work.

Advertising work




Leonard Baskin

Not because I am so great, though I am, but because all the others are so dreadful.

Leonard Baskin

Leonard Baskin was born on August 15, 1922, into a Jewish family. His father, Samuel Baskin, was a Rabbi. When he was seven, the family moved to New York City. Baskin set his sights on becoming a sculptor at the age of fourteen when he saw a sculpture demonstration at Macy’s. From this moment, his career would only grow.

Baskin began studying sculpture at Manhattan’s Education Alliance, under Maurice Glickman, who would arrange his first solo show for him in 1939. Baskin went on to study at New York University’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts as well as Yale University. After three years in the United States Navy, he spent time traveling in France and Italy, studying art.

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During his time at Yale, Baskin developed an interest in printing, which would come to form an integral part of his long career. Inspired by William Blake, who worked as both a fine artist and a printer, Baskin founded Gehenna Press. The first book he printed was a selection of his own poems named On a Pyre of Withered Roses. Over 50 years, until Baskin’s death in 2000, Gehenna would produce about 100 extremely high-quality, elegant books. For a small, private printing company, the output and demand for products was outstanding, as well as its success.

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Baskin’s career in a multitude of fine art medias is perhaps what he is best known for, however. The breadth and variety of his work is astounding. His massive sculptures are some of his more well known works, among them the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial sculpture, the Woodrow Wilson Memorial sculpture, and the Holocaust Memorial in Ann Arbor, MI. He also created huge, life-size woodcut prints, painted, and drew.

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Sculpture

The female form is useful for some ideas, but the colossal male is better suited to the ghoulish ones I try to portray.

Leonard Baskin

In his work, Baskin was inspired often inspired by poetry. He worked closely with the British poet Ted Hughes, and even moved to England for nearly a decade to collaborate on books and art with him. In his work can be seen a sense of his religious upbringing, and a sensitivity to the chaos and upheaval that was the 21st century.

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Baskin was able to work in nearly any medium he wished, with great success. In this respect, Leonard Baskin is quite a remarkable and unique artist. Not only was his fine art well received and influential, but he was a well-read and extremely educated man. He wrote, critiqued art, and taught printmaking and sculpture at Smith College and Hampshire College, both in Massachusetts. Baskin’s many awards include a Caldecott award for his children’s book illustration, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Gold Medal of the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and innumerable retrospective exhibits while he was still alive. Today his work is displayed in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the National Museum of American Art, the Vatican Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

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The man we know as Hergé was born Georges Remi, in Etterbeek, Belgium. As a young boy, he was nicknamed “curious fox” by his friends. His first drawings were published in Le Boy-Scout Belge (The Belgian Boy Scout) at the age of 17. Around this time, he began using the name “Hergé” – derived from the pronounced sound of his initials in French – as a pen name, like the illustrator Erté.

Hergé’s first published comic strip.

His first comic strip, which would eventually lead to the creation of Hergé’s world famous character Tintin, was called Totor, de la Patrouille des Hannetons, and was published in Le Boy-Scout Belge. Hergé then began working for the newspaper Le Vingtieme Siecle. Tintin was born in 1929, when Hergé was promoted to the chief editor position of the children’s section of the magazine. Originally, Tintin was was created to be, essentially, propaganda for children, since the magazine was very conservative. The first Tintin story published was Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. 

Hergé began doing more extensive background research for his Tintin books as the popularity of the character grew. His elaborate plots were well planned, historically and culturally accurate (to a certain degree, more on that later) and featured action stories that were still nonviolent.

A page spread from The Black Island.

During World War II, Le Vingtieme Siecle was closed by the Nazis, and Hergé began working at Le Soir, a popular French newspaper controlled by the Nazis. Here, Hergé continued creating and publishing Tintin stories, and also began printing them in color. The end of the war brought an investigation into the newspaper, which was accused of conspiring with the Nazis. Hergé was swept into this controversy, and was even accused himself, but managed to escape accusations unscathed.

However, Hergé’s works and career were far from spotless. A depressed man and a heavy drinker, Hergé didn’t take criticism well and was, overall, not the best person. Many (most, ALL?) of his Tintin stories contain subtle, or explicit, racist messages. His style of portraying asian and black characters was extremely caricatured and stereotyped, and relied on negative and racist imagery. However, many of Tintin’s adventures were set abroad, and Hergé thoughtful research and portrayal of these places was appreciated. Later in life, he travelled worldwide, celebrated in the countries he visited. Hergé himself, as well as his work, faced many continued accusations of racism throughout his career and after his death. Some biographers and friends argue that Hergé’s views expressed in Tintin were no more than reflections of the commonly held political beliefs of the time. Hergé is also known for his obsessive passion for creations. Some of his questionable decisions (ex. working for Le Soir) have been chalked up to his number one priority being the continued publication of the Tintin books.

A comics strip panel. A heavily-caricatured African king jumps in the air angrily, saying, "Curses! ... Our military done for! ... By my ancestors, me myself kill miserable white man!"
An example of a racist, condescending, and colonialist portrayal of black people in one of Hergé’s stories.

Tintin wasn’t the only thing Hergé created. He also produced two other comic series: The Adventures of Jo, Zette, and Jocko and Quick & Flupke. His skilled storytelling and endearing characters have made him a worldwide favourite with children and adults alike. Tintin books have a sense of adventure and possibility. A skilled draftsman and colorist, I feel that it is sometimes overlooked just how talented Hergé was with a pencil. As well, his ability to portray light and shadow with flat color rivals some of the best artists I know.

Hergé is a personal favourite of mine, since he introduced me to graphic novels as a genre, and helped me realize how much I love storytelling through art. Hergé even taught me how to draw hands! Regardless of Hergé as a man, Tintin will always have a very special place in my heart, as he does in the heats of millions of people all over the world.

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An example of one of Hergé’s amazingly detailed scenes.





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Coles Phillips

Model 20 Hudson Motor Car advertisement
Model 20 Hudson Motor Car advertisement, Gouache

Cole Phillips was born in Springfield, Ohio, into a lower middle class family. His parents had few aspirations for him, however, he drew throughout his childhood. His first job was at the American Radiator Company where he worked as a clerk. In 1902 he began attending Kenyon College, where he created popular illustrations for the school yearbook and magazine, The Reveille. 

In his junior year, Phillips left school and headed to New York City, with hopes of making it as an artist. Of course, career plans rarely follow a linear path, and he had his fair share of ups and downs. Immediately, he was hired at the American Radiator Company’s NYC branch. He was fired however, since he drew on the job, and was found with an unflattering caricature of his boss. Next, he got a job working in what was effectively an art assembly line. Here, he would often draw just ankles, a skill that would come in surprisingly handy when he began working closely with hosiery companies Holeproof and Luxite. He quit this tedious job after only eight weeks and after a brief stint at an advertising agency, figured he could open his own. He did, but found that he had no time to paint or do any of his own work, so became a freelance illustrator, relying only on a month’s worth of savings. He was able to secure a job at the magazine Life (a different one than the one you’re probably thinking of) and began doing illustrations for them.


His big breakthrough came when he was assigned his first cover. He decided to utilize a technique he’d been thinking about, where he removed strategic parts of the foreground and bled the background color through that space, effectively using negative space to “draw” large parts of the illustration. The cover was a huge success and was dubbed the first “Fade away girl.” Phillips’ new fade away technique would become a signature of his.

Over the course of his career, Phillips would illustrate over 50 covers for Life. He also signed a five year, monthly cover contract with Good Housekeeping. He illustrated numerous books, advertisements, as well as magazine covers for Colliers, Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s,  Saturday Evening Post,  Women’s Home Companion, and Liberty. Oftentimes, he wrote his own copy for his advertisements.

Phillips’ work became increasingly more sexual over time, as society loosened. Even still, many of his illustrations were of beautiful women, and caused quite a stir. He is even credited with drawing the first pin up girl. His use of strong design principles helped his work gain mass appeal, and was famous throughout the world. From 1907 – 1927 he was considered one of the most popular American illustrators. Sadly for him, his fade away work was so well liked that art directors often didn’t let him experiment outside of those bounds. Phillips was a businessman about all his illustration endeavours, and insisted that he include his signature on all his works. He died from kidney disease at the age of 47.

Phillips’ first cover featuring his iconic “Fade away girl”, 1908





Aubrey Beardsley

Aubrey Beardsley was born on August 21, 1872, into a family that started out rich, but lost their fortune. The consequence of this was that his mother pushed him and his sister, Mabel, to acquire skills in the arts in order to seem more refined, and to bring in money. As a young boy, Beardsley performed piano recitals with his sister. Eventually, they were both sent to live with their great-aunt, as finances were very tight. Here, Beardsley would walk a few miles to a church near his aunt’s house, which had a beautiful stained glass window in a pre-Raphaelite style. Here he gained some early expose to this genre of art, whose influence would permeate his career.

The Black Cape

Beardsley moved to London with his family, where he began working at an insurance company. Like many creatives, he spend his free evenings drawing. A family friend, Alfred Gurney, gave him some of his first commissions, as well as access to his private art collection, where he was able to view even more pre-Raphaelite art.

La Dame aux Camélias, pen-and-ink drawing by Aubrey Beardsley for The Yellow Book, vol. 3, published October 1894. The drawing was inspired by the book of the same name by Alexandre Dumas fils.
La Dame aux Camélias, created for The Yellow Book

Inspired by the artist Edward Burne-Jones who lived nearby to Beardsley, he made the brave decision to go visit his home and studio, unannounced. When Beardsley and his sister arrived at the front door, they were turned away by a maid. But Burne-Jones graciously invited them in and agreed to have a look at Beardsley’s portfolio. Usually a harsh and honest critic, Burne-Jones praised Beardsley’s work saying, “I seldom or never advise anyone to take up art as a profession, but in your case I can do nothing else.”

After this turning point, Beardsley began attending the Westminster School of Art, where he would eventually teach. He gained his first major commission to illustrate Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur in 1893. In order to complete the work he quit his job and began work full time on the illustrations. He would eventually complete over 300 illustrations for this project, developing his signature black ink style along the way. After the publication, Beardsley became one of the most famous illustrators in England.


Another key point in Beardsley’s career was his friendship and collaboration with the famous writer Oscar Wilde. Wilde took an instant liking to Beardsley, who was fifteen years his junior, and even claimed that he “created” Beardsley. Beardsley began working on illustrations for Wilde’s play, Salome. At the same time, he was the art editor and illustrator for a controversial magazine called The Yellow Book. A huge scandal surrounding Wilde’s homosexuality would result in Beardsley’s dismissal from his editor position.

During his career and years of fame, Beardsley enjoyed the high life. His personality was as well known as his artwork. He was perfectly well dressed, and retained a boyishly youthful look.

A personal favorite of mine. Doesn’t this remind you of magazine covers that would only come years later?

Beardsley’s art was unique in its simplicity and simultaneous intricacy. He used pencil to sketch out his designs, then went over them in smooth lines of black ink. Inspired by both pre-Raphaelite art and Japanese woodblock prints, his work would inspire many illustrators after him, as well as begin the Art Nouveau period in art. His work had high contrast, suspense, and motion. One of my favorite aspects of Beardsley’s work is his use of negative space, and flowing, natural lines. He loved sinister and sensual themes, and often created work that was erotic and startled people. Beardsley said of his own work, “I have one aim – the grotesque. If I am not grotesque I am nothing.”

His health weak throughout his life, Beardsley suffered a particularly bad hemorrhage. He was admitted to the Roman Catholic church as his health rapidly declined. On his deathbed, he begged for his erotic drawings, especially in the book Lysistrata, to be destroyed. He died at the young age of 25. What’s most amazing about Aubrey Beardsley, is that in only six years, he was able to change illustration as we know it.