This week we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss. I had the privilege of being asked to illustrate Imagine That written by Judy Sierra. This is the story of how Dr. Seuss came to write The Cat in the Hat. I quickly realized that the entire story was about ...SOMEONE WRITING A BOOK!. Do you know how interesting it is to WATCH someone write a book? Not very - so I had my visual work cut out for me.
I did a lot of research and figured out pretty quickly that Ted Geisel was a relentless craftsman. What seemed like a simple task - writing a beginning reader - was in fact, an enormous undertaking. He had to use only words from a predetermined list and he had to make the book rhyme perfectly. So how could I make the enormity of the task apparent to the reader? One idea was to use exaggeration - the way Dr. Seuss might have used it. Why not have him typing at a GIGANTIC typewriter (think Phantom of the Opera at a pipe organ keyboard) with The Cat in the Hat character sketches flying off the page?
In the sketch dummy, the drawing was fairly loose but as I began to work up to a finished painting, I did research on the sort of typewriter he would have used as well as clothing from photographs of him. I also was able to locate reproductions of his sketch versions for The Cat in the Hat. In the finish, I tried to make the characters coming out of the typewriter very close to his original sketches. I even studied photographs of his studio to get the chair right.
All of these bits of information went into the final painting which you can see here.
You'll notice I decided to have him wear a different hat in the finished painting. I didn't want his hat to compete with the Cat's hat for attention. One striped hat was enough! By the way, Dr. Seuss had a large collection of hats and all the hats featured in the book are part of his collection.
I loved working on Imagine That and spending time in the head of Dr. Seuss. I was fortunate to be able to draw all the artwork throughout the book, including The Cat in the Hat himself! Hats off to another year of great reading and drawing!!