Bill Petersen Remembered

 

Creator of colorful characters. Custodian of pen and ink. Curator of the fine art of cartooning. For more than 20 years, illustrator Bill Petersen was part of The Rodgers Group team. In addition to creating illustrations, cartoons and caricatures throughout the RGL web site, Bill brought our annual desktop calendar to life with his humorous renderings.

For clients of The Rodgers Group, he offered conceptual input on diverse projects that included employee communications, web illustration, brochures, point-of-purchase and packaging. Bill’s work included development of several key cartoon spokescharacters for Sears Tire Group, in addition to print and web projects for Material Sciences Corporation, Travel Technology Group and many others.

In 2011, we lost our good friend and colleague to cancer. In tribute to his prolific talent, we share a profile created in 2001 for our RGL web site and a gallery representing highlights of the creativity and humor that illustrate why Bill always will be remembered.

Bill Petersen profile

When considering the colorful characters that coexist within the imagination of illustrator Bill Petersen, one might think that a dormitory is the appropriate habitat for this assemblage of cartooned creations. Bill is the architect of the caricatures on this web site including Guy Scrolling and our own staff personal sides in the Break Room. He has cartooned humor-based “spokescharacters” Axel Lugnutz and Captain DieHard for RGL client Sears Automotive Group.

At an early age Bill’s father encouraged regular visits to the local art museum in Omaha, Nebraska. Bill already had started drawing “around the house” when a sixth grade teacher plucked him from class to participate in sessions focused on pastels. “My first memories involve copying Disney characters like Donald Duck,” he recalls. “I also remember being exposed to commercial art through illustrations in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.”

As a state wrestling champ in high school, Bill was able to fund undergraduate studies at Iowa’s Cornell College. Upon graduation, Bill had to wrestle with the decision of pursuing a career in art or coaching. Bill admits, “Under the misconception that it would earn me more money, I chose art.”

Upon graduation, Bill married Sharon, moved to Chicago and launched his career through an internship at a small art studio. Not long after, Uncle Sam called. Boot camp resulted in an unexpected career boost. “I got a position as army illustrator and actually did what I wanted to do,” says Bill. “I spent two years in South Carolina designing training aids for troops and played Special Services baseball. All for $10 a month.”

With his army stint behind him, Bill returned to civilian studio work and eventually broke away as an independent designer/illustrator. Working with an eclectic roster of clients from major ad agencies to book publishers, he has been called on to render characters ranging from Tony the Tiger to Ronald McDonald; has inked CEO caricatures for corporations such as Amoco; and has illustrated numerous educational workbooks aimed at primary grades.

Among his more memorable assignments, Bill recently designed a series of temporary tattoos featuring the likeness of basketball renegade Dennis Rodman. Endorsed by “The Worm” himself, the project netted successful results. Notes Bill: “I was watching a sports show with Rodman as guest when the camera zoomed in on a young fan’s face. She was covered with all these tattoos I had designed. It was pretty cool.”

When not wielding markers, he and Sharon spend time with son, Bill Jr., daughter Ranny and two grandchildren. Wrestling has been replaced with the vigors of platform tennis, golfing and travel.

With a career that has spanned from print design to web illustration, Bill characterizes his biggest accomplishment as resiliency. “I was born and raised in a house the size of the room I work in now and was able to get out of a rural situation and make it in the big city. It’s been satisfying to get paid for doing something I dreamt about as a kid.”