Willi Baum

Willi Baum

Adven­tures with pen and brush and camera, and trave­ling the world, would describe my life.

Born in Swit­zer­land, my school years in Dresden, survi­ving the city’s destruction in WW2, I was fortu­nate to spend a 4-​year appren­ti­ceship in Graphics in Swit­zer­land after the war. At age 20, I won the nati­onal compe­ti­tion for the design of a poster for the Swiss Nati­onal Phila­telic Exhi­bi­tion, also chosen among the best Swiss posters of 1951. It is now in the MOMA collection of N.Y.

After 4 years, adven­ture called, so I accepted a job as Art Director at South African Adver­ti­sing in Cape Town. My earnings there allowed me to discover S.Africa and even­tu­ally roam East Africa on a motor scooter, with a stint at East African Adver­ti­sing in Nairobi. On safari with my Lambretta. I deve­loped my love of wild life photo­graphy. Life was as inte­res­ting as the magic images on the stamps of my boyhood collection. Many exci­ting adven­tures alone in the bush living in a pup tent, got me as close as possible to amazingly tole­rant wild­life.

Before retur­ning to Europe, I earned my seaman`s papers on a Pana­ma­nian tramp steamer in the Indian Ocean.

1956. Back in Europe and in need of income, I joined Unilever as Art Director in Hamburg and London.

1958. Left for the U.S., touring the country in a used Ford. Ended up in Denver, finding plenty of work in design free-​lancing, and most rewar­dingly desig­ning and illus­tra­ting nati­onal ads for “Martin- Denver” Space program. After a short-​lived marriage, took off for a 10-​month trip to Japan, S.E. Asia and from there, over­land to Europe, recor­ding with sket­chbook and camera.

1961. Return to U.S., free­lan­cing for adver­ti­sing in San Fran­cisco. Discover kaya­king on the beau­tiful bay. In 1962 start many fruitful VW trips to Mexico, drawing and water-​coloring.

A long sojourn in San Miguel Allende offered a chance to study mural fresco pain­ting, and a chance at lear­ning horse jumping.

When the savings ran out, I returned to S.F. and on to N.Y.C. where good free­lance work was to be found. From there a passage on a large ore-​tanker to Rotterdam, drawing and pain­ting on board.

1964. Again in S.F., design and illus­tra­tion shif­ting to illus­tra­ting for the emer­ging crea­tive nati­onal school­book market, laun­ched by the most promi­nent publis­hers.

1969. Move my studio from Pier 39 to a house in Mill Valley. Work lead to illus­tra­ting children’s books and even­tu­ally writing around a dozen of my own picture books mostly for Euro­pean publis­hers. Many story ideas origi­nated on travels. Obser­ving dance drama in Bali lead to a visual trans­la­tion in the form of a large port­folio of 32 hand printed and hand colored lino­leum cuts, the “Bali Rama­yana”, still looking for a book publisher for the collection.

Having my own letter­press, allowed for an output of private lino­leum cuts over the years. A home dark room allowed for prin­ting my own b/​w travel photos.

A very crea­tive rela­ti­onship with a book publisher in S.F. allowed for steady work in book dust-​jacket design which allowed for conti­nued travel, now with my shutter-​bug wife Kimiko, who shares my love for Africa and it’s wild animals. The backyard of our home in Mill Valley is a favo­rite hangout for the local wild life.

Willi Baum

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One thought on “Willi Baum”

  1. I just presented the story of "The Mitten" to my language impaired students! They loved it and so did I!!!!!! says:

    Loved “The Mitten!”

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