Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

The Illustration Academy

I was looking through the various posts I’ve made since I upgraded this blog from my old artblog and realized that I haven’t posted about the Illustration Academy on this new version. Crazy! Since it’s getting close to the summer I thought I should rectify that. Scattered throughout this article are shots from last year’s Illustration Academy. I hope they entice you to explore further what the Illustration Academy has to offer by going to their website:


I was honored to have my image on the Academy poster last year.

The Illustration Academy is where I go to recharge my batteries, both as an artist and as an instructor. All the instructors there are working professionals and include some of the top talents working today. I always feel incredibly privileged to be friends with these wonderful artists. What always impresses itself on me is that each and every one of these individuals is also still a student. They are constantly experimenting and striving to discover new ways of working, of stretching their skills to the next level of their personal artistic development.

Mark English drawing demonstration

John English drawing demonstration.

 The Illustration Academy is a five-week program designed to push you as an artist in your technical skills, but also in how you solve problems and interpret the world visually. It’s also heavy on process, steps that, if relied upon, can make picture making a success. It has been described for years and years as “bootcamp” for artists because it is an intense learning experience. And as intense as it is, everyone also has a great time sharing a lot of laughs and making a pile of artwork.

Jon Foster and John English working with students.

A typical week at the Illustration Academy: We begin at 9AM. An assignment is given and for that week we work with the students to hone their solutions through the process of ideation, composition, tonal plans and color studies. If you’re able to get approval early then you have more time to work on the finish. Generally many don’t get to hit their finish until Friday or Saturday. The finals are due the next Monday morning.

We encourage everyone to make their space their own.

Bud Cook’s final cover design.

On Monday a new instructor arrives, let’s say Gary Kelley, and he along with myself, Mark English and John English, critiques the work. Gary is the new pair of eyes and is able to approach the critique with a fresh sense of perspective.

After the critique Gary delivers his assignment for that week (And he, along with the other instructors work with you that week to help you create the best solution possible). Gary then gives a presentation/lecture about his career and work. During that week Gary will also give demonstrations and how-to’s on various techniques and aspects of, say, book design, etc.

Sketchbooks get filled at an alarming rate!

George Cwirko Godycki was a sketch machine!

The next Monday another instructor or instructors arrive and it begins all over again. Throughout each week there can also be impromptu demonstrations and lectures on various techniques and topics. Students are encouraged to shoot reference for their pieces so they’re working with real information as opposed to making stuff up. It is for “reference” not for copying.

There’s so much information being imparted and so many wonderful pieces of art being creating. Lots of laughs. Just a great crowd of serious, like-minded artists to be with.

Mark English mixed media demonstration.

John English Oil Pastel demonstration.

Your’s truly doing an oil demonstration.

My putty knife and acrylic demonstration.

My mixed media demonstration.

Visiting Mark English’s studio.

Jon Foster demonstration.

Jon Foster digital painting demonstration.

Francis Livingston oil demonstration.

Chris Payne

Chris Payne mixed media demonstration.

Jeff Love and Ted Kinsella by Chris Payne.

Ted Kinsella explaining his process.

Ted Kinsella roughs.

Ted Kinsella roughs.

Jeff Love shares his work.

Jeff Love’s work.

Jeff Love demonstration.

Gary Kelley lecture.

Gary Kelley tissue demonstration.

Gary Kelley tissue drawings.

Bud Cook checks out the originals that Gary Kelley brought with him.

Sterling Hundley lecture.

Sterling Hundley painting demonstration.

Sterling Hundley painting demonstration.


Drawing Night at the Academy

We draw from life three times a week at the Academy. All poses are 15 to 20 minutes long. Mark English does the first demonstration highlighting a form of drawing he utilizes to get students to see the whole figure and not concentrate on details by working with two tones on a toned paper. It’s a pretty heady experience to get to draw in the same room with Mark English, John English, Gary Kelley, Chris Payne, Sterling Hundley, Jon Foster, Francis Livingston, Ted Kinsella, and Jeff Love.

Drawing Night at the Illustration Academy.

Mark English and Gary Kelley drawing.

Sterling Hundley drawing.

Mark English drawing from life.

Chris Payne life drawings.

Chris Payne life drawings.

George Pratt life drawings.

George Pratt life drawings.

Mark English life drawings.

John English life drawing.

Sterling Hundley life drawing.

Gary Kelley life drawing.



The usual gang of idiots: Mark English, John English, Gary Kelley, Sterling Hundley, Francis Livingston, Jon Foster, George Pratt, Ted Kinsella, and Jeff Love.

New instructors include: Bill Sienkiewicz, Bill Koeb, Bill Carmen, Wes Burt, and Victo Ngai.


A Short History

The Illustration Academy, was founded by Mark and John English in 1995. It’s first summer session was at William Jewell College and remained there until 2001. It moved to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in 2002 – 2004. It moved to Ringling College of Art and Design in 2005 – 2009. It then moved to Kansas City in 2010 where it has remained.

The Illustration Academy was an outgrowth of the Illustrators Workshop. Art Center approached Mark English to teach on their campus, however he did not want to go to California. Instead he suggested the school send a group of their best students to Connecticut where he would arrange the introduction to some of the stars in the Illustration field — Bernie Fuchs, Fred Otnes, Bob Peak, Bob Heindel, and Alan Cober.

The first group from Art Center arrived in 1974. The program was a success and the instructors began to organize what became the Illustrators Workshop.

Left back: Bob Peak, Mark English, Bob Heindel. Front left: Bernie Fuchs, Alan Cober, Fred Otnes.

 The first Illustrators Workshop was held at Marymount College in Tarrytown NY, 1976 -1979 (1980 Paris, 1981 Monterey, CA)  

In fact, Chris Payne and Anita Kunz both attended the Illustrators Workshop as students and credit it with getting them prepared for the illustration field. Both Chris and Anita have taught at the Illustration Academy.

Left to right: Bob Heindel, Fred Otnes, Bob Peak, Alan Cober, Bernie Fuchs, Mark English.


Hope to see you this summer!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s