C A R E E R . S U M M A R Y

For more than twenty years, I've been an artist, designer, illustrator and instructor.
As a designer, my strengths include imaginative use of images, typography, branding and information design. I enjoy working with clients and designers to transform their ideas into effective visual communication. I strive for the moment when my client says, "Yes! That’s what I imagined."

Since 1993 I've taught visual design, digital production, critical thinking and portfolio development, through hands-on, project-based classes which meet real-world objectives. Since 1999, I've created and taught print design and portfolio development curriculums at San Francisco State University, Center for Electronic Art, The Graduate School (Washington, D.C.), Touro College (New York), The Cooper Union for Science and the Arts, and elsewhere.

I founded Artist Resource in 1997. This non-profit online art organization and information clearinghouse served almost a million artists, designers, writers, students and teachers every year until 2006.

As an art director and teacher, my goal is to find a starting point for inspiration, foster teamwork, provide constructive feedback, encourage critical thinking, and motivate designers to try it one more time, with feeling.

I love watching the light go on.


I've split my life among three cities, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. I loved living in San Francisco the best, but enjoy working in New York the most. I grew up in Chicago in the '60s.

My memories of Chicago are mixed. When I was young, it was a tough, bigoted city ruled by Richard Daly's iron fist. In spite of that culture, I have fond memories of riding my bike around the University, studying in the summer at the Art Institute, protesting the war with a fervent cast of thousands, and attending a tiny, storefront 'alternative' school for the children of liberal parents associated with the University.

I also have angry memories of being arrested, being beat up by neighborhood bullies, attending the Chicago Seven trials and seeing Bobby Seale gagged and chained (see Chicago). In my teens, I and my girlfriend searched in vain for a club where young whites and blacks could dance. There was one – The Happy Medium. Chicago has changed, of course, but remains less cosmopolitan than New York or San Francisco.

I went to high school in New York. Roslyn High was one of the top-rated public schools in the country. My classmates got status cars for graduation presents and went to Yale and Sarah Lawrence. I studied art at Goddard College in Vermont (long, lonely winters); the Art Students League in New York (a wonderfully eclectic bunch of pros and amateurs); SUNY at Oneonta (inspirational printmaking, thanks to Ed Mullen); and the University of Urbino in Italy. Ahh. . . golden light, cafe mornings.

I received a Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts from the State University of New York at New Paltz, where I graduated magna cum laude. This degree has served me not at all in my art career, but I had a wonderful time learning about working in different media, and my art history and critique classes have had a lasting impact on my understanding of art-making and its function in society.

So I worked in graphic design at small agencies in New York, designing advertising layouts, managing print production, and creating traditional and computer illustration.

After I moved to San Francisco in 1986, I continued to work in design at publications like The Bay Guardian, the Jewish Bulletin, Film/Tape World and marketing and production firms. But I also joined art organizations. Associating with other artists is inspiring and a wonderful confidence-builder. These memberships kept me active and have been a source of many friendships and professional opportunities, leading to exhibits and sales of my work in galleries and public spaces throughout the Bay Area.

I began teaching digital design in 1993, and discovered a wonderful way to give back everything I had learned so far. As a designer, I work full-time, part-time and freelance, in a variety of roles, but making art and teaching are my passions. Eventually, I began to move away from freelancing, to devote more time to teaching, my own art work, and developing the Artist Resource Web site and online community. I became committed to connecting, educating and promoting artists who, like myself, are still struggling.

In response to a family illness, I moved back to New York in September, 2002. I now teach digital design, prepress and portfolio development at Touro College in Manhattan, and I train private and corporate clients. I also teach fun and productive collage workshops to private groups, as a source of inspiration and creative problem-solving. In 2003 I and my husband built a business in Manhattan which offered a variety of small-business services, including digital document services, design, output and reproduction. We took the business from zero to half a million in annual revenues over three years, but competition and the slumping economy took a toll on our lives and health (see Another Summer). So we walked away.

In the spring of 2008, I was accepted to the graduate program at FIT for a Master's in Illustration. This is the best thing I've done in a long time and the realization of a lifelong interest in visual storytelling. I have come full circle and look forward to returned to making images of dreams, fables and worlds that exist only in the imagination and the collective unconscious.

Thank you for reading. May you walk always with beauty before you.

Regards, Li Gardiner
January, 2009

P.S. For the detailed story of my struggle to become a fine artist,
please read Fear of Falling, An Artist's Life.
For my approach to making art, read my Artist's Statement
and view the rest of my portfolio.