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The 13th Annual Illustration Research Symposium

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

This event was jointly hosted by Washington University Libraries, the Dowd Illustration Research Archive, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, and the MFA in Illustration and Visual Culture program (IVC).

The conference was held in November 2023. Papers and other proposals on the theme of Blind Spots (whether presented at the conference or not) are invited for The Journal of Illustration, Spring 2025 issue. Please send an expression of interest in the form of a 300-word abstract, using the Journal's submission system. Deadline for submissions is June 1, 2024. See here for details.

See below for CFP, programme, and gallery.


PDF of Abstracts download



Illustration research has undeniably expanded and deepened over the past decade. What remains to be discovered or critiqued? What are our blind spots?

As a field illustration has suffered from obstructed views. Traditional art history and institutions of high visual culture once looked past it, due in part to the interdependence of illustration and text. Writers since Wordsworth have pooh-poohed the presence of images in print as a distraction from “discourse.” These ancient blind spots have been well documented, and some progress has been made in positioning illustration in the broader universe of visual culture. Indeed, for the last dozen years, through a program of annual symposia, the Illustration Research Network has fostered and promoted research on illustration history, theory, practice, and pedagogy as a vital subject of inquiry. But blind spots remain, both within and beyond the field.

What are some of these blind spots? For starters, our histories are incomplete. Many illustration and cartooning careers from the last century remain un-excavated or under-contextualized, particularly those of women and people of color. Despite efforts at diversity, equity, and inclusion across the field, questions concerning sensitive representation of all people(s) in contemporary illustration practice remain live ones—both quantitatively and qualitatively. Who gets seen, and in what light?

As a mass market form often driven by advertising revenue, illustration long relied on fixed gender and racial tropes, obscuring fluid identities in communities of production and reception. Practitioners and audiences were obscured in that process. How did creators subvert or even sidestep enforced compliance in the representation of gender and race? How have the costs of access to the means of production and/or networks of distribution changed? How do illustrators navigate these questions today?

The institutions that collect illustration-related materials––relatively few in number, and less well-networked than ideal––face their own challenges of perspective and practice. Their contents—typically ephemeral and fugitive—remain invisible to many audiences who would value them. Not unrelatedly, academic study of such materials has tended to privilege elite or “influential” cultural forms, obscuring demotic or vernacular ones, How do curators, archivists, and other professionals overcome these challenges, or struggle and fail to do so?

How do practitioners and scholars account for and manage the complexities of reception, use, and translation of illustration, which tends to migrate into “hidden” or “invisible” corners of private enjoyment, topical fandom, even cultish fixation. What are the benefits and costs of addressing such audiences?

New trends in public life and culture, including new habits of censorship—book banning, mural covering, online iconoclasms, “cancelling”—have raised the stakes of engagement with illustration and its cultural meanings. How are illustrators coping with these challenges? Due to the realities of practice—long hours at their drawing tables and computers—illustrators have always fought isolation. The atomization of online culture has made things worse. In this bewildering cultural moment, how do illustrators manage getting safely “seen,” and by whom? What could a new, healthy visibility look like?

Other blind spots have emerged with the mass-technologization of visual culture. On one hand, large technology firms like Google and Meta/Facebook now hire staff illustrators at enviable salaries to address multilingual audiences. On the other, illustration labor has become increasingly hidden and devalued due to the contraction of print and especially online piracy and appropriation. AI image production threatens to eliminate the illustrator altogether.

More foundationally, there are the blind spots that are built into a field rooted in the widespread practices of reading from codexes, which dominated in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and accompanied the emergence of illustration as a profession. These practices have since been substantially replaced by screens, scrolling, and audiobooks. Undeniably “the text” has changed—has illustration? Are such changes visible, or hidden in ubiquity?

Illustration research has undeniably expanded and deepened. How have such alternative and expanded practices––in pedagogy, publishing, and exhibition––expanded sight lines, and what remains to be discovered or critiqued?

Omissions, occlusions, under-seen developments, hidden opportunities: so much to see past and through! 



Day 1 (Thursday): Workshops & Keynote

Workshop 1: Round Table Discussion for the Journal of Illustration: Looking Ahead
(Hybrid Event)
1:00 – 3:00 pm, Weil Hall 230


  • Nanette Hoogslag, Anglia Ruskin University

  • Desdemona McCannon, University of Worcester

  • Adrian Holme, UAL Camberwell (Online Moderator)

  • Rachel Emily Taylor, UAL Camberwell (Online Moderator)


Workshop 2: Illustration Pedagogy
3:30 – 5:00 pm, Steinberg Auditorium

  • Alison Nowak – Research and Observation as Liberatory Practices in Illustration
    Minneapolis College of Art and Design

  • Robert Young – Research and Writing in the Illustration Classroom
    Pennsylvania College of Art & Design


Workshop 3: Collecting and Exhibiting Illustrated Materials [note: SOLD OUT]
3:30 – 5:00 pm, Special Collections at Olin Library
Presented by Interim Dowd Illustration Research Archive Andrea Degener, Curator of Rare Books Cassie Brand, and University Libraries Exhibitions Manager Jessi Cerutti

Keynote Address: Charles Johnson
“Drawing at the Margins: A Black Cartoonist’s Journey Through the Arts”

5:30 pm, Umrath Lounge

Q&A Moderator: Chris Dingwall, Washington University in St. Louis

Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night Hawks, Dr. King’s Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.

Reception Following Keynote
7:00 pm, Olin Library Ginkgo Room

Day 2 (Friday): Panels

Please see the Presentation Abstracts page for details. All panels on Day 2 (Friday) take place at Umrath Lounge.


Panel 1:
Illustration Practice Today

8:45 – 10:15 am
Moderator: Nanette Hoogslag, Anglia Ruskin University
  • Stephanie Black & Luise Vormittag – Colouring In: Polyvocal Publishing
    Kingston University

  • Hilde Kramer – Tactile Picture Books: Illustrations to Be Read Through Our Fingertips
    University of Bergen

  • Beth Duggleby – Lullabies in Lockdown: Illustration Exhibition to Address Isolation and Document the Experiences of New Parenthood
    Leeds Arts University


Panel 2:
Excavations 1: Recovering and Recontextualizing Women in Illustration
10:15 – 11:45 am
Moderator: Erika Doss, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Sarahjane Blum – Hiding in Plain Sight: The Relationship Between Models and Artists in Classic Pin-Up Illustration
    Grapefruit Moon Gallery

  • Carey Gibbons – Uncovering Jessie Marion King and Revealing “The Great Within”
    University of North Texas

  • Priyanka Kumar – At Work, At Rest: Women, Labor and Domesticity in Indian Illustration
    Maryland Institute College of Art



Interstitial Presentation: The TL;DR Zine Archive
11:45 am – noon
Speakers: Shreyas R. Krishnan & Aggie Toppins, Washington University in St. Louis



Panel 3:
Lightning Round 1: Illustration and Counter-Narrative

1:00 – 2:00 pm
Moderator: Stephanie Black, Kingston University
Graduate Student Panelists:
  • Danielle Ridolfi – Overlooked Rebellion: Postmodernism and Social Protest in the Picture Books of Seymour Chwast
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Selen Sarikaya Eren – Illustrating Dissent: An Exploration of Illustration in the Case of Gezi Protests
    Middle East Technical University

  • Cora Trout – Marianne in Le Petit Journal: Visualizing French Identity in the Illustrated Press
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Emily Bielski – Horrible Pictures, Dark Undercurrents: Gothic Horror and Violence of the Illustrated News, and the Specter of the Second Industrial Revolution
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Madalyn Drewno – The Kaavad and Kamishibai: Narrative Illustration Beyond the Page
    Maryland Institute College of Art


Panel 4:
Recasting Illustration

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Moderator: Jaleen Grove, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Christopher Lukasik – We Are the Blind Spot: Rethinking the Place of Illustration History
    Purdue University

  • D.B. Dowd – Pieces of Eight: A Mnemonics of Illustration
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Erika Doss – Honest Illustration: Maynard Dixon and the American West
    University of Texas at Dallas


Panel 5:
Preserving and Presenting Illustration

3:30 – 5:00 pm
Moderator: Georgia Barnhill, American Antiquarian Society Emeritus
  • Heather Campbell Coyle – Building New Narratives: Reimagining American Illustration at the Delaware Art Museum
    Delaware Art Museum

  • Steve Compton – Rethinking our Collections
    The Society of Illustrators, New York

  • Stephanie Haboush Plunkett – Imprinted: Illustrating Race
    Norman Rockwell Museum


Day 3 (Saturday): Panels

Please see the Presentation Abstracts page for details. All events on Day 3 (Saturday) take place in Weil Hall.


Panel 6:
Issues in Contemporary Illustration Practice
8:45 – 10:15 am
Moderator: Desdemona McCannon, University of Worcester
  • John Hendrix – “Three True Outcomes: Tool, Trend, Tragedy” – A Perspective on Art-making and Artificial-Intelligence
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Roderick Mills – Expanded Fields: Illustration beyond Definition a Speculative Discourse
    University of Brighton

  • Carolyn Shapiro – The Blind Spot of the Blind Spot: Re-thinking the Lustre of the Illustrator Today
    Falmouth University


Panel 7:
Lightning Round 2: Illustration as Evidence


10:15 – 11:45 am


Moderator: Shreyas R Krishnan, Washington University in St. Louis

Graduate Student Panelists:

  • Julien Posture – How to Do Things with Style
    University of Cambridge

  • Deanne Fernandes – The Missing Degree in the India Education System
    Rhode Island School of Design

  • Danielle Gro’ak – Coney Island Postcards: Mementos of the Working Class at the Turn of the Century
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Phoebe Santalla – Angel in the Centerfold: Finding Queer Community in the Masculine Physique of J.C. Leyendecker’s Illustration
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Charlotte Fleming – Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: Packaging Nature Through Weyerhaeuser Advertisements
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Sigrid Peterson – Lithopinion (1965-1975): Craftsmanship, Creatives and the Commonweal Combine in a Midcentury Lithographic Labor Periodical
    Washington University in St. Louis

  • Evie Yuqing Zhu – Immersive Study in Illustration Narrative of Vernacular Culture: A Practice-Based Research in North Italy
    University of Bologna


Interstitial Presentation: Journal of Illustration Editor
11:45 am – noon
Speaker: Nanette Hoogslag, Anglia Ruskin University

Panel 8:
Excavations 2: Recovering and Recontextualizing Race a
nd Gender in Illustration

1:00 – 2:30 pm

Moderator: Robyn Phillips-Pendleton, University of Delaware


  • Theresa Leininger-Miller – If You Don’t Get It, Tain’t No Fault of Mine: Illustrated Sheet Music by Albert Alexander Smith in the U.S. and Paris, 1919-1925
    University of Cincinnati

  • Christopher Lee – Yellow Peril to Blade Runner: The Persistence of Anti-Asian Tropes in Illustration and Science Fiction
    Pratt Institute

  • Daniel Yezbick and Christy Knopf – Aluminum and Lace: Milton Caniff’s “Bombshells” at the Intersections of World War II Illustration and Insignia
    STLCC-Wildwood / SUNY-Cortland


Panel 9:
Illustration History: Unseen Artifacts

2:30 – 4:00 pm

Moderator: Heidi Kolk, Washington University in St. Louis


  • Lauren Freese – Gender, Agricultural Science, and USDA Pomological Illustrations
    University of South Dakota

  • Melissa Geisler Trafton – A Part for the Whole: Anatomical Transformation and Juxtaposition on Trade Cards of the 1880s
    College of the Holy Cross

  • Matt Johnston – “Scarce a Dozen Steps Will Take Us Where We Wish to Go”: Sentimental versus Sensational Narrative and Illustration in Jacob Riis’s How the Other Half Lives
    Lewis & Clark College


Plenary Session
Moderator: D.B. Dowd, Washington University in St. Louis

Steven Guarnaccia, Parsons School of Design Emeritus
Jennifer Greenhill, University of Arkansas
Jaleen Grove, Rhode Island School of Design
Nanette Hoogslag, Anglia Ruskin University
Christopher Lukasik, Purdue University

Blind Spots Gallery

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