In Conversation: David Lee Csicsko on his People Series

In Conversation: David Lee Csicsko on his People Series

Award-winning artist, designer, and Chicago mainstay David Lee Csicsko never backs down from a challenge. A frequent collaborator with Trope, David has now created four dazzling books featuring “icons” throughout the ages in the realms of music, arts, science, and soon to come, fashion. Paired with expert commentary and forewords, David’s jubilant illustrations bring life back to important trailblazers who have paved the way in art and science. 

David Lee Csicsko’s newest addition to his People Series, Fashion Icons, features 50+ color illustrations and will be available in the US September 2023. 


What made you want to begin the People Series in the first place? Did you always envision a series, or did the idea take off after the first book? 

I often work in a series, creating sets of images on a theme. Back in the early ‘90s, I was a very busy illustrator and designer, working on festive celebratory projects. I yearned for grit and complex themes. I wanted to flex my artistic muscles, and began working on “Saints in the Garden,” my very personal art project. It's a collection of close to 40 images of black and white serigraphs, very woodcut looking, inspired by the German Expressionists, Folk Art, and Art Deco. These are dark psychological portraits based on “The Lives of the Saints,” really striking imagery, and slowly, a sense of humor and harmony emerge in the later images. 

I became a visual storyteller of sorts. My projects were packed with detail and information. Twenty years later I revisited the "The Saints,” but this time it was in color, more uplifting, and more from a child's view of the saints as good guardians who are hopeful and fun. 

Then, I started working on other series at the same time featuring architects, composers, the bohemian art set of Parisians in the 20th Century, and scientists. These would turn into all the books I've created with Trope.   

A lot of research went into creating each and every book. Which book taught you the most or brought you the furthest outside of your comfort zone? 

I happen to be someone who loves research, and doing visual research is my favorite. I never felt out of my comfort zone. The big challenge is creating 50 images that relate as a set. Each of these books has its own set of tasks. I’m a big believer that the artist needs to communicate. I’m the opposite of the Talking Heads song “Stop Making Sense.” I want to be understood, and that’s part of what I do artistically.  

Why is this series so important and necessary for readers ranging from children to adults, and what do you hope it inspires? 

I firmly believe in looking at the past and into the lives and efforts of those who were the mavericks of their age. I adore history, art museums, heck, going to any museum. A history museum, science museum, town museum, it's all inspiring to me. The responsibility they take on of showing the past with the present, that’s important. Presenting connections, such as who was friends with who, is all relevant. I see these books as mini, concise, smart visual encyclopedias that aim to inspire the reader to look further and search for more information. 

Is there a book in this series that you keep coming back to again and again? 

Getting through each book is a giant effort from me, the writers, and the books’ design teams. It’s like running a marathon. Happily, when I look at each finished book and hold them in my hands, it's a very special personal experience, and a fine feeling of fulfillment knowing that we really did something.

Do you have any news books or ideas on the horizon? 

I'm very excited about the newest book Fashion Icons, and an upcoming book tentatively titled Iconic Artists that is set to release summer 2024. I'm hoping to do a book on dance icons, architects & design icons, cooking icons, and LGBTQ+ sports icons. I'd love to keep it going. 

Fashion Icons, our fourth book, is very exciting. We are visually telling the story of fashion history, from the past to the crazy present, and presenting the great style pioneers, all in one compact, chic, and exquisite volume. When the team at Trope suggested doing a book on fashion, I thought, we need a great fashion historian, and Gillion Carrara came to mind. She is a writer, educator, fashion collector and curator that teaches fashion design history at the School of the Art Institute.  

For the foreword, there was only one choice: Ikram Goldman, the fashion maven who is so experienced, knowledgeable, respected and has a front row seat to all the fashion shows the world over. The three of us put our heads together and came up with a list of 50 fashion icons. It was not an easy task, but we did it.   

The design of the book is so handsome. A big credit goes to publisher Sam Landers, book designer Jack Van Boom, and editor Michelle Fitzgerald. Bravo and brava to team Trope. I hope readers will love it. It's a delightful, informative coffee table book treasure. So put on your wildest outfit, take a seat, and flip through this glamorously unique book.

Enjoy it darling!   



Learn more about David's People Series