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.
In 2019, KCAI was named #15 in the top 40 Illustration schools in the U.S. by Animation Career Review.
Take a look at our department’s website to learn more.
Professor and The Charlie Sosland Chair in Illustration
Steve is an alumnus of the University of Central Missouri where he graduated in art education and design, and an alumnus of the University of Kansas where he earned an M.F.A. with honors in design. Presently, he brings over 45 years of practical professional experience to his teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute where he is the Charlie Sosland Professor and Chair of the
Illustration Department. His corporate client list has included, among others, Sports Illustrated, Arthur Anderson, Chevron, McDonald’s, American Airlines, Cessna, Sprint, Cerner and many others. His editorial clients have included The Los Angeles Times, magazines: Cable in the Classroom, Physician, Ingram’s, Vision, Emerge and many others. Steve’s work has received numerous awards for excellence from the 3-Dimensional Art Directors and Illustration Awards Show in New York, the Society of Illustrators in New York and in Los Angeles, the Kansas City Art Director’s Award Show and the Addy Awards. He enjoyed serving as a visiting artist at the State University of New York, Graceland University, the University of Kansas, University of Central Missouri, Northwest Missouri State University, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, at the International School in Prague, the Czech Republic and recently in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His work has been included many times in juried fine art exhibitions and solo exhibitions nationally and regionally. In the past, he served in the U.S. Army as an infantry sergeant (’69-71), taught art in the outback of Australia (’74-’77) and lived in Chicago (’77-’80), at that time beginning a career in illustration.
He continues his experimental visual work in a self-made home studio in Lenexa, Kansas and is surrounded by his wife, Shelley, four children, Shayne, Summer, Macklen and Teale and 7 grandchildren.
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 artist and illustrator in Kansas City for over 20 years, doing work for collectors, magazines and corporations nationally and abroad. His work ranges from editorial illustration and comics to large mural projects and multi-
media collaborations with other artists and musicians.
As a staff artist at The Kansas City Star (’99-’15), he illustrated hundreds of articles and magazine covers, winning a handful of awards and accolades. He was co-founder and curator of the Green Door Gallery, an alternative art space dedicated to showcasing the work of established and emerging artists from Kansas City and beyond. His comics work includes Screamland with writer Harold Sipe (Image Comics), and The Lurkers with writer Steve Niles (IDW), as well as his own weekly comic strip Guffman & Godot. Héctor has received awards from American Illustration, Print and Society of News Designers, and was the recipient of The Pitch’s 2008 Mastermind Award for his artistic contributions to Kansas City.
Associate 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.
John Ferry is a 48-year-old painter who resides in Prairie Village, KS with his wife and two daughters. Mr. Ferry is also an Associate Professor in the Illustration Department at Kansas City Art
Institute. John Ferry has been working as a professional painter for over 20 years. He has been represented by a variety of galleries including in the past by Jan Weiner Gallery, Kansas City, MO, Dolphin Gallery, Kansas City, MO, Blue Gallery, Kansas City, MO and C. Grimaldis Gallery in Baltimore, MD. Ferry is currently represented by Sherry Leedy Gallery in Kansas City, MO. Mr. Ferry’s work is in corporate collections such as H & R Block, Sprint, Stowers Institute and Hallmark Cards, Inc. Ferry is also in the collections of The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. A Silver Medal winner from The Society of Illustrators Museum of American Illustration, Ferry’s work has been reviewed and featured in numerous magazine, book and newspaper publications. Ferry has also been selected into juried exhibitions such as New American Paintings, International Painting Annual, (INPA), OPEN 15 and Wichita Center for the Arts, and from this competition Mr. Ferry won the Director’s Purchase Award. “Ferry’s works reveal the aesthetic beauty of the overlooked and forgotten urban environments and brilliantly portrays the cycle of change in our cities,” said Will Hipps, Art Museum and Gallery Director at Kennesaw State University.
Il Sung Na
Il Sung Na was born in Seoul, South Korea. In 2001, he moved to London to pursue a BFA in Illustration and Animation at Kingston University, where he discovered a passion for children’s books. Spending much of his spare time perusing book stores, Il Sung realized that he wanted to be like his new favorite authors and to tell his own stories. He began trying out illustration with various materials – which was a phase of great trial and error! Since those days of experimentation, however, Il Sung has published several books, some of which have gained acclaim with Kirkus starred reviews and recognition in prestigious book lists. His clients are included Random House, Chronicle Books, Macmillan and Holiday house. He went on to complete his MFA Illustration Practice at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in 2015. Currently based in Kansas City, Il Sung spends time teaching illustration courses at KCAI and working on new books.
He is represented by Painted-words which is a curated group of award-winning illustrators & authors creating across many industries. Lately, he has enjoyed working with ceramics.
David Terrill has been creating compelling illustration for 30 years. His journey from laboring in an Ohio steel mill, working as a freelance illustrator, to wearing many creative hats in design agencies. David’s storied path led to his ultimate destination as Associate Professor of Illustration, Kansas City Art Institute, and part-time Creative Director/Director of Talent at C3, a leading family design agency. David enjoys family travels while recording adventures in his sketchbook. On their recent experience in China they swam in the South China Sea, hiked Great Wall of China (slept in an ancient watchtower), traveled 1,400 miles by train, and resided in a Beijing Hutong.
David has been the recipient of numerous honors, most recently recognized by Communication Arts, The Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles and 3X3, The Magazine for Contemporary Illustration. David has lectured at ICON9 Illustration Educational Symposium: Radical Teaching; New Approaches in Pedagogy in Austin, ICON10 Educational Symposium on The Sketchbook: Let’s Connect, in Detroit, and KU’s Design Department Hallmark Symposium Series. In 2017 David was awarded the inaugural Alumni Masters Award from Miami University, Regionals. David currently serves on ICON 11’s education advisory board.
Kellie Bloxsom is an artist/designer who lives in the Kansas City area. Her artwork uses cut paper, collage, mark making and bold color palettes. She loves the simplicity of mid-century design and is drawn to create pieces that have an imperfect, simple, honest quality. She’s a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute with a BFA in design and currently works at Hallmark Cards, as a Senior Card Designer. When she’s not making stuff you can find her walking her two dogs, hiking with her husband, reading or planning her next trip.
An award-winning advertising/marketing copywriter, Julie Cortés has run her own freelance business for more than 20 years. She is the founder of The Freelance Exchange—a professional trade organization for those who are self-employed in the advertising/marketing industry. Recognized with awards dozens of times over for her work, leadership, volunteerism and community involvement, this freelance rockstar is regularly sought out for media interviews, public speaking, and professional coaching for freelancers as well as those who hire them. Cortés is loving life, living out her passion of helping others succeed.
Artist and Co-Owner /Operator of Two Tone Press and Print League KC. Michelle's love of relief printing and the letterpress process began at the Kansas City Art Institute when she was a student back in the early 2000s. This love was then fostered during her 5-year stint at Hammerpress, another KC printshop. She is particularly passionate about creating hand-carved linocut illustrations. At Two Tone Press, Michelle designs, illustrates, and letterpress prints everything from wedding invitations, business cards, to poster art. In the past, she has worked with various design firms such as VML, Barkley, and Bernstein Rein.
Additionally, she enjoys teaching and has taught classes at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art since 2006, workshops at Print League KC since 2017, and as an adjunct at the Kansas City Art Institute since 2018. Michelle enjoys science-fiction immensely, but is wary of the day the aliens actually invade.
Peter graduated from KCAI in ’93 with a BFA in Illustration. He’s been in product development and licensing for 25+ years. As the Vice President of Product & Marketing for DEMDACO, he finds artists from around the world to build product lines with their work. Peter has traveled extensively throughout Asia to develop home decor, wall art, baby products, fashion, and other items sold in stores around the US. Early in his career, he worked for Hallmark as well as his own toy company. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and 5 boys. 3 of them have ventured into college and careers. Peter is passionate about working in the arts and working with talent early in their career.
Bob Kolar grew up in the farmlands of Ohio. As a kid, he dreamed of being an astronaut, a paleontologist, or a jungle guide. Becoming a children’s book artist seemed like a logical first step to achieve these goals. He received a BFA in illustration from the Columbus College of Art & Design and a MFA in Visual Communications from Syracuse University. He has created over thirty picture books which have been translated into ten different languages. Two of Bob’s books have been turned into animated television series. In addition to books, he creates an array of products for children including toys, puzzles, games, apps, media concepts, plush, cards, and apparel.
Dean Kube was born in St. Louis, MO. Kube is a figurative painter and works predominantly in the medium of acrylic/mixed medium on birch panels. Kube completed a BFA at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1993. He has had several solo shows and group shows in Kansas City at Weinberger Fine Art, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Blue Gallery and numerous juried national exhibitions in Atlanta, New York City and Taos, NM. He lives and works in Kansas City, MO and is represented by Weinberger Fine Art and Moberg Gallery.
Lacey Lewis draws and paints realistic images that prominently feature the human form and portraiture. While earlier paintings focused on burlesque and sideshow performers, her recent work has shifted toward nature as adornment. She studied at the Art Students League of NY with Max Ginsburg, Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia with Robert Liberace and Daniel Sprick, and with Steven Assael, David Kassan, and Graydon Parrish. Lacey’s paintings have been exhibited at the Salmagundi Club in NYC, the MEAM museum in Barcelona, and various galleries and venues from the midwest to Australia. Originally from Syracuse, NY Lacey now works at her studio in Mission, KS and lives with her husband, dog, and cat in Kansas City, KS.
Livy Long is an illustrator whose work is inspired by a dual appreciation of illustration and graphic design. Her artwork is as much about clarity and order as it is about plays on color, movement, and pattern. Originally from New Oxford, Pennsylvania, Livy grew up with four older brothers, a few pets, and a pencil in hand. She attended Ringling College of Art and Design, majoring in Illustration, thereafter accepting a design position with Hallmark Cards, Inc. She is now a Senior Lettering Artist at Hallmark and works on a variety of projects including visual merchandising, product design, greetings and gift presentation, and lettering and illustration for social platforms. When she’s not lettering, Livy can be found cooking, working out, or enjoying the outdoors with her dog and boyfriend.
Jeremy Mohler is an illustrator, creative director, college instructor, and the founder of Outland Entertainment ( www.outlandentertainment.com ). Jeremy’s art has been featured in projects by companies including Marvel and IDW Comics, Blizzard Entertainment, Goodman Games, Inhabit Media, Upper Deck, and Learning A-Z. He has directed projects and installations for Amazon Studios, Moving Pictures Media Group, The Canadian History Museum, and the History Colorado Museum. As an educator, Jeremy has taught courses including Drawing for Design, Storyboarding, Making Comicbooks & Zines, Character Design, Background Design, and Visual Communications.You can find his illustration work at www.jeremymohler.com .
Jesse Molina is a visual identity designer & illustrator for artisan small businesses. She is currently the owner & designer of two design agencies with different target audiences: Momo Creative Studio and Awake Creative Studio.
Her education background includes: Graphic Design, AAS • Johnson County Community College & BFA, Expanded Media • University of Kansas Her professional work experience includes Senior Graphic Designer and Art Director positions in a variety of advertising agencies and branding firms with a collective experience of over 10 years. She also instructed Graphic Design for the MyArts KC program, a Jackson County Prosecutor’s Arts Initiative to provide arts education and mentorship to inner city youth.
Some of her awards include: AXIII AIGA – Illustration | AXIII AIGA, Invite & Illustration | AXII AIGA – Illustration | AXII AIGA- Book Design | Print Regional Design Annual | Quill awards
She lives in the heart of downtown Kansas City where she embraces the philosophy of kindness, receptivity, and quality work that the midwest offers. As well as her local client base, she works with thriving entrepreneurs all over the United States and Europe.
Kyle Strahm was spewed from the American Heartland to draw and write dope comics. Since 2006, he’s had work published by Image Comics, Marvel Comics, DC Entertainment, Dark Horse, Todd McFarlane Productions, Heavy Metal, Oni Press, Aftershock, IDW Publishing, Dynamite, Lion Forge, Valiant Entertainment, Black Mask, and others.
In 2019 he wrote and provided cover art for the Image Comics series Unearth, drawn by KCAI Illustration alumnus Baldemar Rivas. Kyle is currently writing a project for Dark Horse and drawing a project for Image Comics. Both are in active development.
Kyle has been an adjunct professor at KCAI since 2013.
Brent Watkinson received his BA at Missouri Southern State College in 1982. After working as a photographer for a year, he began interning and working as an illustrator. Two years later, Brent was represented nationally in Kansas City, Los Angeles, and New York City, and was an illustrator in private practice for twenty-three years. In 1992, he was invited to become a member of the NASA Arts Program, and has since completed two paintings for NASA’s permanent collection. A few of Brent’s clients include: American Express, Contadina Products, Cook’s Illustrated Magazine, Geffen
Records, NASA, Putnam Publishers, Science Magazine, Sony Music, U.S. Pentagon, William Morrow Publishing, Time/Warner, The Franklin Mint, Doubleday/Bantaam Books, and Random House
His work has been in the Society of Illustrators New York, the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, and Communication Arts. His digital work was featured in an article in Step-by-Step Electronic Design Magazine. In the recent past, Brent has been a part-time instructor at the Kansas City Art Institute, and full time faculty and co-director at The Illustration Academy, as well as The Art Department. The Illustration Academy is a seminar program, based in Kansas City, but also based three years in Richmond, VA, at Virginia Commonwealth University, and five years in Sarasota, FL, at Ringling College of Art and Design. Brent also was a computer programmer for a national company, writing web applications and algorithms for businesses in 2015-2016. A licensed Apple Developer from 2011-2016, Brent had a total of eight iPhone and iPad apps in the Apple App Store.
Brent has written several computer programs using code to produce images that are a type of cooperation between “human and computer”. The programs run based on inputs from Brent, but the computer is given permission to inject random elements of code and math to produce results that cannot be replicated by the human or the computer on their own. Brent is currently teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute and The Illustration Academy, as well as producing a podcast titled EveryDay Artist.
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.
- Organic Perceptions
- Analytical Drawing Systems
- Color & Space
- Story-tellers & Myth Makers
- Image and Form
- Mechanical Perceptions
- Graphic Form for Illustrators
- Conceptual Problem Solving
- Paper & Ink
- US: Collaboration, Teamwork and Flexibility
- Exploring the Narrative Image
- Covers & Pages
- ME: Individual Expression
- Image Thesis I
- Professional Practice
- Launch Pad
- Image Thesis II
- Cultural Safari
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, The Kansas City Star, Porter Teleo design firm, Boulevard Brewing Company and other noted businesses in the area.
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.
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.