The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems

March 18 - September 25, 2016



 

Set one of images

(above: Mo Willems, Knuffle Bunny, A Cautionary Tale, Published illustration for "As soon as Trixie's mommy opened the door, she asked, "Where is Knuffle Bunny?", © 2004 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2004. Digital print, 13 3/4 x 29 13/16 inches. Reproduced with permission of Hyperion Books for Children.)

Set in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where Willems lived with his family -- and loosely recounting an episode from his own parenting -- his spread from Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Hyperion, 2004) shows Dad's return from the laundromat without daughter Trixie's stuffed animal, Knuffle Bunny. Willems took photos of the neighborhood to create the backgrounds in the Knuffle Bunny trilogy; depicted landmarks include Prospect Park, PS 107, and Grand Army Plaza.

 

(above: Mo Willems, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Published illustration for "I'll be your best friend! / How 'bout I give you five bucks? / No fair! / I bet your mom would let me.", © 2003 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. Digital print, 9 x 9 inches. Reproduced with permission of Hyperion Books for Children.)


(above: Mo Willems, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Preliminary sketch for "I'll be your best friend!", © 2003 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. Graphite, red colored pencil, printed and pasted text on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches.)

These illustrations from Willems' first children's book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Hyperion, 2003), provide insight into Willems' basic working process, which stems from his training and early career in animation. He begins drawing with blue pencil and makes corrections in red. The preliminary sketch reveals Willems' quest for just the right gesture and expression -- particularly conveyed in the eyes. Willems then translates the line illustration, with changes, into the final digital color rendition.

(above: Mo Willems, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Final illustration for "LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!!!", © 2003 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2003. Aquarelle watercolor pencil on paper, 10 x 10 inches.)

This finished line illustration for a spread in Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! shows Willems' love of typography and expressive lettering. Here, the bold text reinforces the Pigeon's tantrum when he finds that his pleas to drive a bus are not getting him anywhere. Both the Pigeon's gestures and his eye variations convey the emotional crescendo, culminating in furious flapping and a crazed, spiraling pupil. Expressive lettering also facilitates dramatic read-aloud sessions.

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