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

Click on an image for a larger view, large images can be scrolled to see all the image