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 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.
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.
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 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
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 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.
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 six 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.
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.
Lacey Lewis is internationally known for her rich paintings of burlesque and sideshow performers. Her work has been exhibited at Peter Walker Fine Art in Adelaide, Australia, MEAM Museum in Barcelona, Spain, The Salmagundi Club NYC, and in the inaugural Women Painting Women show at Robert Lange Studios, Charleston, SC. In 2015 Lewis was awarded a month-long residency with the Art Students League of NY with a full scholarship to work with NYC’s world-famous burlesque stars.
Lewis studied art primarily through workshops at The Art Students League of NY, Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, and other locations with Steven Assael, Max Ginsburg, Robert Liberace, David Kassan, Daniel Sprick, Graydon Parrish, and Romel de la Torre. Spending her formative years in Syracuse, NY, she moved to Kansas City and in 2009 opened Red Door Studios. Here she teaches classes and workshops and hosts life drawing groups.
Raised in a small Pennsylvania town with four older brothers and a pencil in hand, Livy Long is now a Kansas City-based illustrator and lettering artist. she earned her BFA in illustration from Ringling College of Art and Design, where she began to develop a portfolio of hybrid work that showcased a budding passion for hand-lettering and graphic design.
Since 2014, she has enjoyed a full-time position with Hallmark Cards, Inc., working as a lettering artist and illustrator. As a freelance designer, she has also created lettering or illustration for clients including Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Good News Publishers and Southern Living Magazine.
Tim has called Kansas City home since moving to the area upon graduating from Kansas State University with a BFA in Graphic Design. He has spent his career in the publishing, marketing and design fields. After 23 years as Creative Director of the book division of Andrews McMeel Publishing, Tim is starting a new chapter, and will serve as an adjunct professor at the Kansas City Art Institute in the fall of 2018. Throughout his career, Tim has placed an emphasis on mentoring young designers and illustrators. By providing projects, guidance insight and guest lecturers, he hopes to help further his students’ understanding of how to build a long-lasting career in a creative field.
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.
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.
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
View Samples of Our Work
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 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.