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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