History of Illustration at WdKA

Insight in the history and development of the department of Illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy.


The department of illustration had its origins within the Willem de Kooning academy (WdKA) as part of the part-time studies within a course called : visual communication. Around the 1985 -1989 ‘illustration’ could be chosen as an ‘elective course’. In 1989 J. Bloks was asked by both deans L. Penok and A. Verhoog to write a curriculum for an independent illustration course. The mission of this program was to fill the cap for fine art students who desired to study in an applied context. In order to create the curriculum Bloks assembled a team with: fine-artists, painters, drawers, and illustrators such as: Lawrence Gerner, Peter Blokhuis, John Verbeek, Koos van Oosterom, Burgert Konijnendijk en Philip van Pieterson.

This team had a strong ambition to develop a curriculum for commercial/applied artists because they had never had the opportunity to study illustration themselves. Teachers only had their own experiences and were eager to pass their knowledge into the curriculum. After the initial start of the illustration course the team of teachers was enhanced by designers and illustrators who had experience as ‘image-makers’. These included people from photography, installation, and other skills (Eric van Straaten,Marc Terstroet, Pia Terstroet, Helen van Vliet, Theo Seesing and Iwan Gonda). In the early years there was a lot of discussion within the department about the role of drawing and painting for illustrators. The general concept was that Illustration should include many more techniques. Students from the first class of illustration included; Raoul de Leo en Dadara. Since 1993 the educational program Fine Arts & Design (CROHO 04699)  became seperated in a Fine-Arts program and a Design program. Since then the department of Illustration has become one of the nine major studies with the Design program. In the beginning of 2000 Theo Seesing became the new head of the department. During that time the WdKA bachelors became devided into a major and minor program.


The illustration course has a long tradition in conceptdevelopment because this was strongly embedded in the general WdKA curriculum. In the beginning this included a line of consecutive courses over 3 years (Ideadevelopment,Image studies, Concept). The aim of these courses was to allow students to orientate and research their own interests and inspirations. It included a “Dummy-assignment” in which every week students collected images that inspired them. They researched these finding, reflected and made new works based on these findings. The teacher who had a central role in the first two years of Ideadevelopment and Image studies was Frans van Lent.


Entrepeneurship can be seen as one of the 4 pilars of the department (research, innovation, collaboration).There has always been a strong market-driven approach in the illustration course. Many of the tutors worked for commercial agencies. Clients who have since 2007 frequently worked together with Illustration students include: Beeldfestival Rotterdam, Central Library Rotterdam, Intermezzo Gallery Dordrecht, Hotel Mozaique, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Kunsthal Rotterdam, Leyp-Rotterdam, Malmberg, NRC, Profielen Magazine, Pictura-Dordrecht, R-Uit Magazine, Shop Around, Sober Concept-store Rotterdam, TDS-drukwerk Rotterdam, Volkskrant.


Printmaking has been an important part of the department since the start of the program with tutors such as Hans Andringa. Next to the traditional forms of printmaking there were also more experimental classes. In a way the experiment with printmaking techniques can be seen as a way to search for a new visual language, for which nowadays often the computer is used. Since the introduction of the Adobe programs in 2000 software has become increaslingly important. The department has always been focussed on new technologies to create new images and search for innovation. Innovation

International collaboration

The department has a long tradition of international schooltrips. Cities which have been visited include: Antwerp, Berlin, London, New York and Venice. The ammount of international projects between institutes has been limited. Around 2004 there has been a project with an external partner in Japan for which students visited Japan. There have also been several students who have been on an international exchange. International academies visited by WdKA Illustration students include: Art institute of Boston (U.S.A.), Gent (Belgie), School of Visual Arts (New York).

Recent Developments

From 2007 Danai Fuengshunut became head of the department which brought new teachers such as: Luuk Bode, Simon Buijs, Cesare Davolio, Geeske de Graaf, Han Hoogerbrugge, Gert Jan Pos, Pim Palsgraaf, Willemijn Schellekens, Loes Sikkes, Robert Wittendorp.

From 2011 – 2013 the WdKA initiated a major educational change for all design departments and fine arts. This change is described in the WdKA publication: Reinventing the Art-school 21st Century (chapter 3).

In May 2016 the Illustration team of teachers came together to plan for the future. These first ideas and ambitions were illustrated by Kim Raaven: WDKA – illustratie verkend-2016 copy. The results of this meeting were printed in a small publication: WdKA-Illustration-adventure2016. In September 2016 has planned to design a  publication about the education of Illustrators at the WdKA.The expected date of pubication is January 2017. A new brochure with information about the Illustration course was first published in November 2016 WdKA-Illustration-Brochure-2016 (Design&Illustration by Mingsin Ho). The team has also launched an online platform about illustration: www.allthinsgillustration.com.