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Bob Hiemstra fashion and concept illustrations

Identifier: KA-0132-01


The collection consists of approximately 500 professional illustrations by Parsons School of Design alumnus Bob Hiemstra, from the beginning of the 1980s into the early 1990s, when he produced fashion and spot illustrations for a wide range of magazines, newspapers, cosmetic companies and department stores.


  • circa 1975-1994



7.9 Cubic Feet (approximately 500 illustrations and 50-100 tearsheets and printed work samples)

Scope and Content of Collection

The collection consists predominantly of illustrations that Bob Hiemstra produced for publication in magazines and newspapers, as well as tear sheets of the illustrations in printed form. Many of the original drawings are overlaid with tracing paper or clear plastic sheets bearing instructions for cropping, sizing and page placement. Included are fashion illustrations, as well as spot drawings of household objects and concepts that accompanied articles and promotional materials.

While most of the work is undated, Hiemstra's earliest magazine work in this collection is evident in the Brides magazine folder. Later work is represented by his illustrations for Vogue magazine and the department stores Henri Bendel and Wanamaker's.

Hiemstra's medium for magazines is often brightly-colored pastels, while his drawings for black-and-white newspapers are generally rendered in black charcoal. Much of the work bears Hiemstra's signature, and later work often incorporates words and short phrases in his playful handwriting.

The second series represents work where neither publication nor client is definitively identified. The illustrations are thus organized by broad subject category assigned by New School archivists based upon what is depicted in the illustrations. In strong evidence here is Hiemstra's work for cosmetic companies, which included Revlon, Estée Lauder, Clairol and Almay.

Language of Materials

Most text is in English; some tear sheets are in German.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact:

Biographical note

This note was written by Bob Hiemstra upon request from the archives:

Bob Hiemstra Biography August 2014

I was born in New Jersey in 1956. I graduated high school in 1974, and began college at Boston University, majoring in Biology, with a plan to become a dentist. After one year there, I realized that that plan was not going to work out. As a child I always drew and painted, took art classes on Saturdays, won arts and crafts awards at summer camp, things like that. So plan B became art school. After doing some research on the best art schools, I chose Parsons. I applied, and was accepted, and I transferred from Boston and began my education at Parsons. It was 1975.

New York was a very different place in 1975 than it is today. I loved it. What I really liked about Parsons was that the teachers were working artists. Not just working, but working in New York City where the best of the best were based. I studied illustration as my major, but also took a lot of photography classes. I did fairly well, although one of my teachers, near the end of my time at Parsons said that I might be better off finding a different career, rather than illustration.

I graduated from Parsons in 1979 with a BA in illustration. I needed a job. Through the Parsons Placement Office [as of 2018, Career Services], I found an ad looking for a photographer’s assistant/studio manager. I went and interviewed and got the job. It didn’t pay that well, $25 a day, $50 on shoot days, but I was working and learning. I worked with that photographer for about a year, then started to freelance assist for other photographers. As that was happening, I began to put together a portfolio of illustrations, not really fashion drawings (I had not majored in fashion illustration, but did take some classes,) but my style had a fashionable quality. I began by contacting a few of the art directors I had met on the shoots that I had assisted on. Those people immediately thought I was showing them a photography book, and were very surprised to learn that it was in fact an illustration portfolio. The photographer I began working for right out of school did a lot of work for Brides magazine. I knew the editors and art director well. That was one of my first stops with my illustration portfolio. Brides actually gave me my first illustration job. It was 1981, the drawing was what was called a spot drawing, meaning tiny, and it was of an Easter Basket with decorated eggs in it, that held rice, for an Easter wedding, you could throw the rice at the bride and groom. It was in black and white.

I continued to show my portfolio to other connections I had made, I created my first card, with my telephone number on it, mailed some out, and people actually called to see my book. At this time, illustration was becoming increasingly popular. In the beginning I worked mostly for magazines, directly with the art director and editor. I was doing more general illustration at this point, illustrating stories, or small spot drawings of objects, or ideas. I worked for Brides, Essence, Seventeen, Young Miss, Mademoiselle, and more. My style was more controlled at this point, not as loose and confident as the later work. That came with time and experience.

I had a friend who had become the art director at Henri Bendel, at that time a cutting edge store. Their advertising was known for its unique look. He asked me to do an illustration of a French perfume, Fracas, for a New York Times ad in black and white. That began what became my fashion illustration career. I worked with the art director, Jeff McKay, and the then head of advertising, Pat Petersen. It was 1983, and crazy at Henri Bendel. I would go up to 57th Street to meet with Jeff, Pat, and Geraldine Stutz, the president of the store, and literally go into the windows at night to look at the clothes I had to draw. I wasn’t much for drawing on site, but would take some Polaroid pictures and make notes about what they all said was important about this particular dress. I did many ads for Bendel's and it was a fantastic, very visible, client.

Around this time I received a call from Roger Schoening at Vogue magazine. He was, at that time, the head art director. He asked me to come in to the office for a meeting because they had a hair story they wanted me to illustrate. I could not believe it! I truly thought one of my friends was pulling a fast one on me, but no, it was in fact true. Somewhere around this time, I began my working relationship with Tom Booth. He was a very well-respected photography and illustration agent. He began to market my work, and soon I was working for Barneys, doing black and white illustrations for The New York Times, mostly of men’s suits. I worked with Gene Pressman, one of the sons of the founder of Barneys, and if memory serves, an ad agency was also involved, but the final approvals for the drawings always came from someone in the Pressman family. Illustrating menswear was a very new concept for me, as it required great attention to detail. The lapel width had to be correct, the collar spread on a shirt had to match the type of shirt chosen, and on and on.

Barneys led to Wanamakers in Philadelphia, and to the Oval Room (designer salon) at Dayton's in Ohio. At the same time I was doing more and more magazine illustrations. Tom had moved the focus to more advertising work and therefore more money. I worked with Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, Macy’s, all the major department stores, working directly with a staff art director at each store. I also began to work directly with cosmetic companies, including Revlon, Estée Lauder, Clairol, Almay. I drew many different things for them, from in-store posters, to prints to go onto makeup bags, to the blank face pads provided at makeup counters to demonstrate how the makeup should be applied to the customer. In this case, I worked directly with art directors within the companies. Tom would send my portfolio to prospective clients, secure a job and ask me if I wanted the job. Then he would negotiate my fee, taking a percentage for himself. He truly catapulted my career to an entirely different level. I worked for Lear's magazine, doing a portrait of Jessica Tandy and a cosmetic illustration that won several awards.

Tom and I eventually parted ways, but work continued on. I started working for a magazine in Germany, Miss Vogue. They would call me, tell me what the story was about, and I would do the drawing and send it to them. No rough sketches, no corrections, and they always loved what I did. Many of the drawings in this archive are for them. These are the drawings that illustrate a concept rather than a piece of clothing. Miss Vogue was a fantastic client.

I continued to be incredibly busy, sometimes working on ten jobs at once. It was a crazy time. I rarely went to meetings, the clients would send me their ideas by messenger, and we would speak over the phone. I would send three or so rough sketches for their approval or direction. They would send them back and sometimes I had to do another rough sketch based on their comments. Other times I went right to the finished drawing. I hardly left my apartment/studio (they were one and the same). I saw more of messengers than of my friends at that point in time. Clearly I did not need to find a different career, as my one teacher had suggested several years before.

At this point I created several ad campaigns. It was unusual for ad agencies to use illustration--photography was the usual medium of choice. I did campaigns for Diane von Furstenburg, Maxims of Paris, and Ladies Home Journal, all of which were featured in magazines, newspapers, and on bus shelters throughout New York City. I worked with advertising agencies on these. The first two campaigns were with Peter Rogers Associates. The Ladies Home Journal campaign was with Lotus Minard Patton McIver. They were famous for being the only ad agency with all women as the principals. I worked with both the art directors and the copy writers on these ads. They required many rough sketches, and meetings, not to mention revisions of the finished artwork. These were not only great fun to do, but paid quite well, too. I did work for Harper's Bazaar, a great story for New York magazine with Michael Gross, during the time that Anna Wintour was editor-in-chief. Yes, I did meet her. I did a really fun story for the New York Times fashion supplement with Carrie Donovan, who was their fashion editor at the time. She was someone larger than life, and a blast to work with. She called me and the first words out of her mouth were, “I had a dream last night about this story, and in that dream I knew I needed you to work on it!” I went up to her office, with its leopard carpet, and a leopard skirt on Carrie, very Funny Face.

We sat on the floor of her office and she drew sketches of her thoughts. To me they looked like blobs, but not to her. Somehow I understood what she wanted and the story looked great. It was a combination of photos and illustration, and I got to use my handwriting on them. I had done this before in a few other pieces, the first of which was for Linda Wells at The New York Times. It was for an article on cellulite, and the writing said, "I wish it were this easy.” Soon after this I was being hired just for my handwriting, a whole new subset of work for me.

Illustration began to lose favor in the early '90s. Work was not as easy to find. I continued to work sporadically, and continued to sell my handwriting for advertisements, as well. Computers were beginning to be used in the commercial art world. I knew things were changing when a young client had hired me to do some handwriting, and needed a few words changed. She wanted to know if I had created a font on my computer. I told her that no, I had not, that I actually wrote the words by hand.

I began to use my computer to mix illustration with photography, going back to my beginnings in photography and using Photoshop to combine the two. I got positive reaction to it, but I believe I was ahead of my time. No one could figure out a commercial application. I did a couple of stories, one for Brides magazine, one for Elle Décor, and a great fashion story for Out magazine. Eventually I dropped the illustrations, and began what became my second career as a still life photographer.


Arranged alphabetically in 2 series: 1. By publication, department store or brand; 2. By subject

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Bob Hiemstra in 2014.

Guide to the Bob Hiemstra fashion and concept illustrations
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
January 23, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note