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!





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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Waldemar Swierzy

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Waldemar Swierzy was born in Katowice, Poland, in 1931. His art career began early, as he was one of the youngest graduates of the Cracow Academy of Fine Art’s Faculty of Graphic Arts, where he started studying at the age of 15!

After completing his education he began working at the Arts and Graphic Arts Publishing House (WAG). This was an important centre for poster design. Here, Swierzy helped push the boundaries and rules of design. Besides becoming one of the most important Polish poster artists ever, he designed book illustrations, record jackets, calendars, and stamps. He was also tasked with designing the Polish pavilion for several international world fairs including New York, Beijing, Vienna, Poznan, and Casablanca.

In 1965, Swierzy began teaching at the National College of Fine Arts in Poznan. In 1987, he became a full professor. Throughout this time he gave guest lectures at foreign universities in Havana, Mexico, West Berlin, and Kassel. Swierzy became a member of the AGI in 1966. Today, his works can be found all over the world in museums like the Institute of Contemporary Art (London), Kunstbibliothek (Berlin), Hermitage (St. Petersburg), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), National Museum (Poznan), and the Poster Museum (Wilanow).

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There is relatively little information about Swierzy’s personal life, aside from his career achievements. Due to this fact, I thought I would take a little extra space to explore his artistic style and my personal thoughts on it. A strong focus on portraiture was consistent throughout Swierzy’s career. His portraits are dynamic and full of movement. Never, static, he often used his expert handling of various medias to his advantage in creating portraits that seem to jump off the page. Like many other artists of his time, Swierzy loved bright, bold colours. Something I appreciate about Swierzy, is that unlike many other artists working in the 60’s, his art doesn’t seem to age. In my opinion, this is due to the strong understanding of design principles that he put to use in all his works.

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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.







Survey 10: Nazis and Art Domination

For my fourth and final spread, I worked alongside Elizabeth to create a design for the Art and Color category. For this spread, we were working with the information from Survey 10. We were intrigued by how art was used in the Nazi regime, so we decided to focus on the contrast between Nazi sanctioned “Third Reich Art” and hated “Degenerate Art.”

In order to depict the stark difference in the way Nazis viewed these two different categories of art, we decided to make each side of the spread look like a wall in an art gallery, with the corner in the middle. The divide between the two helps to emphasize how different they were.

On my side, I painted a wall of the Great Exhibition of German Art. I used light colors to highlight the classical nature of Third Reich Art, and chose two sculptures and a painting that embody much of Nazi art in my opinion. Elizabeth and I decided to both use gouache, so that our sides would have continuity in style. We came up with the title “Nazis and Art Domination” that travels across the top of both sides of the spread. The way the page split works, the title works individually on each side as well as together. I think this was a really cool way to sum up what happened to art in World War II Germany. To highlight the title even further, I used an typically Nazi Fraktur font for my side, while Elizabeth used a modern font that would have been seen in the Degenerate art exhibit.

Overall, I’m really happy with how this spread turned out. Elizabeth had a lot of amazing ideas, and I think we did a really good job of collaborating to create a spread that feels cohesive on both sides. I’d give us a 9/10.

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman was born in 1954 in New Jersey. As the youngest of 5 children, she grew up with a desire to please people. She loved playing dress up, and collecting clothes from thrift stores. It must have been these early years where she developed a love for altering the way she was viewed by other people.

In college, Sherman failed her first photography class. But painting, at that time, was “men’s medium” and she wanted to claim her own space. She began documenting her getting ready process before going out at night which led her to her first series of photographs.

“Untitled Film Stills,” which brought Sherman into the limelight, was a series of 69 black and white images. She poses as 69 different character for the photos, each unnamed, but each with an intriguing story behind them.


Untitled #374, 1976

Untitled #369, 1976

From this project, Sherman’s career took off. She kept creating, posing for her own photos. In her work, she took on a multitude of roles as she would do makeup, prosthetics, costuming, wigs, prop staging, photography, and modelling – every possible role, for every photo.

Untitled #403

Since Sherman’s work involves her putting on different costumes and make up, much of it is concerned with identity. Her photos aren’t really of her, they’re of other people that she’s portraying. Sherman’s work confronts the way that TV, movies, the internet, and other new media forms have caused us to view other people. She often deals with different extremes – beautiful and ugly, real and artificial, fiction and reality. Gender identity also plays into much of her work, and much of it challenges the way so much art has been created from a male perspective.

Untitled #225

Sherman’s photography is striking and enticing. I find myself both disturbed by it and unable to look away. What’s most remarkable, to me, is her ability to completely embody the characteristics of the people in her photos. She must have some amazing acting abilities to portray so many different people so well. By using photography instead of painting, she is able to force people to think in a new way about the images they’re seeing. Sherman makes us confront the reality of much of our art, and think twice about how we view people. Her photos feel more “real” than paintings, and the characters she take on seem to have endless stories to tell.

Untitled Film Still #54

“I am trying to make other people recognize something of themselves rather than me.” — Cindy Sherman






Survey 10: In Which, Designers Find Themselves in America, Pursued by Nazis


The 1930’s and 40’s were a wild time for artists and designers, and I mean w  i  l  d. Not only was the Great Depression hitting the entire world, hard, but World War II began soon after. nearly 3 straight decades of worldwide turmoil led to some amazing new technologies and opportunities for design to improve, however. As part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, jobs were created for designers and photographers to create travel posters and capture the images of the times. Raymond Loewy, the “father of industrial design” (and the father of streamlining – can someone find the full family tree, please?) helped create simple, functional, and appealing objects. Two world fairs helped to push new inventions and innovations in design into public view.

During World War II, many European designers fled to the United States to escape the Nazi regime. This resulted in a shift of the art centre of the world from Paris to New York City, and helped to modernize art and design in America (a much needed change).


“Divine destiny has given the German people everything in the person of one man. Not only does he possess strong and ingenious statesmanship, not only is he ingenious as a soldier, not only is he the first worker and the first economist among his people but, and this is perhaps his greatest strength, he is an artist. He came from art, he devoted himself to art, especially the art of architecture, this powerful creator of great buildings. And now he has also become the Reich’s builder.”

–Hakenkreuzbanner (The Swastika Flag), June 10, 1938

The Third Reich aimed to control and manipulate every are of its citizen’s lives. Part of the reason why it was so successful in its control was because it utilized many different tactics to target people. Hitler’s plan to create a “synchronization of culture” was made to present a unified Germany, tied together by its shared Aryan culture. To him, art was another method of control, just like propaganda or the military. As an art school reject himself, Hitler wanted to be viewed as a passionate man who understood and valued art.

A painting of waterlilies by Third Reich approved artist Ludwig Dettmann

But exactly how was Third Reich art classified? Finding a definitive answer to that question can be difficult, since it was based on a complex set of ideals created mainly by Hitler himself and his trusted leaders. For the most part, it was any art that well exemplified Nazi ideals. Anything else was considered degenerate art. Hitler hated modernist and expressionist art, and anything he deemed “not serious” enough to promote his ideas. What was not considered degenerate was usually quite boring and classically academic. Third Reich art promoted power, strength, triumph, and optimism. It often portrayed young, beautiful men and women.

“I will not tolerate unfinished paintings!”- Adolf HItler


Hitler handpicked some artists whose work epitomized Third Reich ideas. Josef Thorak and Arno Breker were two such artists. Their work celebrated ideal beauty and power. Interestingly, Breker had artwork that was branded as degenerate early in his career, yet was still highly favoured by Hitler himself.

Hitler’s ideas about art were accepted by his followers and close advisors, but it’s interesting to look at what three of these men thought of art before they came into close contact with him. Joseph Goebbels collected modern art, which he displayed in his home and office, and like degenerate art pieces. Heinrich Himmler liked mystical tribal German art and Alfred Rosenberg liked romantic art portraying rural life, both of which didn’t fit Hitler’s guidelines. Goebbels and Rosenberg would fully support Third Reich art and denounce degenerate art. Himmler, however, secretly stole valuable (yet condemned) works of art from Hitler throughout the war.

The Great Exhibition of German Art

 Hitler had big plans for art in the Third Reich. His "Great German Art...
A room inside the Great Exhibition of German Art.

The Great Exhibition of German Art

The Great Exhibition of German Art was held in Munich in the summer of 1937, and presented a large collection of Third Reich approved art. The exhibition featured sculptures from Breker, as well as plenty of beautiful, muscular bodies and wild animals. Only a few steps away, across the street, was the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibit, created to mock and degrade degenerate art and artists. Unsurprisingly, the degenerate art drew far more visitors. In the long run, degenerate art would have a much stronger impact than the Third Reich art ever did, since it was progressive, powerful, and modern. Thankfully, our ideas of art are no longer restricted like they were in World War II.

View of sculpture exhibited at the Haus of German Art, n.d.
A crowd of people viewing sculptures at the Exhibition of German Art.