Authentic visual messages

Illustration students work with traditional and digital media to develop the conceptual, technical and aesthetic skills necessary for success in the diverse range of practices in this evolving field. Courses such as Drawing and Design Systems, Exploring the Narrative and Visual/sequential Storytelling are geared toward enabling students to simultaneously express themselves as artists while learning how to communicate substantive visual messages.

Students work on collaborative assignments and are required to participate in an internship that provides real-world exposure to creative issues in professional work settings. The department features studio and classroom technology to prepare students for diverse areas of professional practice. Work in digital and analog environments is designed to facilitate creativity and interdisciplinary approaches to image making.

Department faculty members are all practicing professionals working in the four corners of the illustration field: publishing, editorial, advertising and institutional. The faculty’s combined experience is passed on to students in preparation for their own careers.

Take a look at our department’s website to learn more.

Full-time Faculty

Steve Mayse

Professor and Chair

Steve Mayse brings to the teaching profession over 40 years of practical experience as the owner of his free-lance business as a practicing illustrator and designer. His client list has included Sports Illustrated, Arthur Anderson, McDonald’s, Boys’ Town, Employers Reinsurance Corp, American Airlines, Mohawk Paper, Cessna Corp., Sprint, Cerner Corp., the Los Angeles Times, the Kansas City Star, Emerge magazine, Physican magazine and many others. His work has received awards for excellence from the Art Directors and Illustration Awards Show in New York City, the Society of Illustrators NYC, the Society of Illustrators L.A., the Kansas City Art Directors Club, the Addy Awards and others. He is an alumnus of the University of Central Missouri, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree with the double major in Art Education and Commercial Art and the University of Kansas, where he earned the M.F.A. degree in Design. In addition, UCM awarded Steve the Distinguished Alumni Award for his work as a practicing visual artist. He has also served as a visiting artist/guest lecturer at the State University of New York (Buffalo), the University of Kansas, William Jewel College, Graceland College, Northwest Missouri State University, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the International School in Prague, the Czech Republic and at ACE International Artist Residency in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Héctor Casanova

Assistant Professor

A native of Mexico City, Héctor Casanova graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1998 with a double major in illustration and art history. He has been working as a fine and graphic artist for more than 15 years, doing work for collectors, magazines and corporations, nationally and abroad. He is a staff artist at The Kansas City Star, where he has illustrated hundreds of articles and stories. His illustrations, including many comic illustrations, have been honored with several awards.


Maura Cluthe

Assistant Professor & Associate Chair

Blurring the lines between fine art, illustration and design, Maura Cluthe has spent much of her career as a collaborator, combining all three disciplines. As a young student in illustration, she first interned at Hallmark and continued to work there for twenty years as an illustrator, designer and art director. While at Hallmark, she helped launch the “Fresh Ink” alternative card line and helped in the redesign of Kaleidoscope (a creative, fun place for kids). Maura continues to freelance and show her mixed media work which, shown nationally, integrates text, drawing, photography, painting and other “stuff” she has collected into her art.

Find out more at and


John Ferry

Associate Professor

John Ferry is an accomplished illustrator whose work has been featured in national publications such as The New York Times and American Illustration. He is represented, locally, by the Dolphin Gallery, and can also be seen at the C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore. “Ferry’s works reveal the aesthetic beauty of the overlooked and forgotten urban environment and brilliantly portray the cycle of change in our cities,” said Will Hipps, art museum and gallery director at Kennesaw State University. Ferry received his B.F.A. degree in illustration from KCAI and his M.F.A. in illustration from School of Visual Arts, New York.


Il Sung Na

Assistant Professor

Il Sung Na is an author & illustrator of many picture books for children, including A Book of Sleep, Welcome Home Bear, The Opposite Zoo and Bird Balloon Bear. Originally from South Korea, Il sung received his B.F.A degree in illustration from Kingston University in London, UK and his M.F.A in illustration practice from MICA. Il Sung’s picture books have gained acclaim with Kirkus starred reviews and recognition in prestigious book lists. Alongside illustration, Il sung also works as a ceramicist. Just as with his works on paper, these pieces are about telling a story. He opened Clay and Wish, his hand-made ceramic shop, in 2013.

David Terrill

Assistant Professor

David Terrill has been creating compelling illustration and design for over 20 years. He studied illustration at Miami University in Ohio, impressionist painting in Giverny, France, and has held positions at Kansas City-based marketing and design companies Blacktop Creative, Barkley, Hallmark Cards and most recently, C3. Terrill has been the recipient of numerous honors, including being named an Outstanding Achievement winner in HOW International Design Competition, being recognized in Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annuals as well as receiving national and regional ADDY awards from the American Advertising Federation and recognition from the American Institute of Graphic Arts.


Adjunct Faculty

Elizabeth Baddeley


Elizabeth Baddeley, Lecturer, is a freelance illustrator based in Kansas City, Missouri. She earned her MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts in New York City an an undergrad degree in design from The University of Kansas.

She has been very fortunate to receive awards from Communication Arts, American Illustration, 3×3 Magazine, Print, and The Society of Illustrators NY for which she was awarded a gold medal for my Swimmer Girls series. She has illustrated three children’s books: A Woman in the House (and Senate) (Abrams 2015), Women Who Broke The Rules: Mary Todd Lincoln (Bloomsbury Dec. 2015), and I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark (Simon and Schuster, Fall 2016). She is currently working on a fourth, The Good Fight, to be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, Spring 2017.

Clients include: Simon & Schuster, Knopf, Bloomsbury, Abrams, Penguin, Highlights, Cricket, The New York Times,  St. Louis Children’s Hospital/BJC, Hallmark, Tiny Prints, Storybird, The Stranger, Improper Bostonian, The Nashville Scene, Sarah Lawrence College, Notre Dame Magazine and Deloitte.


Frances Baszta


Frances Baszta brings over 35 years’ experience as a graphic designer, event planner, gallery manager and corporate design director working for clients in retail, consumer, agri-business and business-to-business arenas. At Black & Veatch, she helped shape the brand of the $2 billion global company as well as supervising and mentoring 6 staff designers.

As President of Boszta Coszta Advertising and Design she developed the original identities, advertising and promotions for some of Kansas City’s iconic brands including Roasterie Coffee, Farm to Market Bread, The Classic Cup and William Jewell College.

Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including Print Regional Design Annual, AAF Addies, OMNIs, NAMAs and Bronze Quills.


Kellie Bloxsom


Joe Hoffman


Joe Hoffman comes to the Kansas City Art Institute with more than 20 years of experience in the interactive and online industries as a graphic designer, illustrator, creative/art director and user-experience specialist. Hoffman earned a B.F.A. degree in illustration and design from KCAI in 1996.

Hoffman’s teaching philosophy is geared toward providing students with as many conceptual tools as possible to enable them to make informed decisions in their work and so their work will stand on its own visual merit. He has a disciplined approach to visual arts and holds high expectations for his classes. When focusing on the fundamentals of 2-D design and color theory, Hoffman places a high degree of emphasis on Gestalt Theory, as well as the use of core visual principles and communication techniques.


Bob Kolar


Bob Kolar’s professional career has been focused on creating products and illustrating books for children. Two of the books he created have been turned into animated television series that air on PBS and NBC. Kolar is also a consulting artist for Hallmark Cards. He received a B.F.A. degree in illustration from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio and an M.F.A. degree in visual communications from Syracuse University in New York.


Jeremy Luther


If you asked Jeremy Luther where he was from, he’d probably say everywhere and nowhere. He’s bounced from Kansas City to Milwaukee and back with an extended stay in Norway and Tulsa that taught him how to see the world from a different perspective. He has acted as graphic designer, illustrator, art director, and production director for several publications while also practicing fine art, running Tiny House Creative with his wife, and building a tiny 160 square-foot house on wheels. He’s a jack of all trades, master of all, but has enough modesty and humility not to tell you thereby forcing his wife to write the more flattering parts of this bio for him. He wears a lot of different hats, both figuratively and literally. Actually, he seems to always be wearing a hat, which is really just a suspiciously accurate metaphor for how hard he works. His skill set includes but is certainly not limited to designing for print, layout, idea generation and art direction, storyboarding, drawing, carving wood with x-acto knives, printmaking, illustration & sequential composition, community engagement, volunteerism, Lonerism, and furniture making.


Johne Richardson


Johne has been illustrating for more than thirty years, creating animation and design work for the Kansas City Royals, greeting card illustration for Hallmark Cards, and mural work for Samsung headquarters, among others. His fine art has won national awards in oil, watercolor, and acrylic. Johne is an instructor of illustration, painting and art history,

and a lover of great art wherever he finds it.


Kyle Strahm


Kyle Strahm has been a freelance comic book artist since 2006. In that time he has worked for Marvel Comics, DC Entertainment, Todd McFarlane Productions, IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, Dynamite, Valiant Entertainment, Black Mask, Boom! Studios and others. He has self-published numerous volumes since 2002. In 2014 Kyle’s creator-owned title SPREAD launched from Image Comics with Kyle taking on duties as interior artist, cover artist, art director, co-editor and co-creator. The book’s issues currently number in the double digits. Having exhibited at comic book conventions for fifteen years, Kyle has extensive experience forging a career path in an industry that historically has no clear point of entry.



Once you declare your major, illustration students take the following core courses as they progress from sophomore to senior year. For additional electives and liberal arts courses, download the complete course catalog.

Illustration Major Requirements Worksheet

Double Major Art History & Illustration Requirements Worksheet

Double Major Creative Writing & Illustration Requirements Worksheet



Like What You See?

For additional examples of student-produced work that displays a wider range of styles, technique and subject matter, browse our expanded photo gallery.


Professional Practice

Professional practice is a compulsory component of the KCAI program in which students benefit enormously from insights provided by world-renowned visiting artists, scholars and professionals. Mentors include such artists as Danielle Corsetto, Micah Lidberg, Nathan Fox and Elsa Chang. Students have interned at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the American Jazz Museum, Porter Teleo design firm, Boulevard Brewing Company and other noted businesses in the area.

Technical Requirements

All illustration students must have a laptop computer and must master a range of applications, including InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, and more – available through KCAI within the Adobe Creative Suite Cloud.

Jobs + Internships

Job opportunities are wide-ranging and include magazine and book illustration, greeting cards, editorial illustration, Web design, digital animation, advertising, graphic novels, comic books, computer gaming, fashion illustration, CD & DVD covers, movie & music posters, children’s books, product design/branding, and more. Students have gone on to work at Nickelodeon, M-TV, the Kansas City Star, Hallmark Cards and American Greetings.

Read more about our work shown here at Scarritt Elementary School on our department’s website.

Visiting Artists

Many artists visit the illustration studios each year to share their knowledge and inspiration with KCAI students. Here are a few that have recently stopped by:

Daniel Zender, Tomer Hanuka, Yuko Shimizu, Victo Ngai, Edel Rodriguez, Dustin Summers, Scott Bakal, Esther Pearl Watson, Mark Todd, Joohee Yoon, and Jim Mahfood.