The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems

March 18 - September 25, 2016


Set two of images


(above: Mo Willems, The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? Final illustration for "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!", © 2012 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2012. Aquarelle watercolor pencil on paper, 8 3/4 x 17 5/8 inches.)

The Pigeon's chutzpah doesn't necessarily yield results, especially when it comes to getting the many things he wants. Duckling, a foil to Pigeon's bombast, gets a cookie by asking politely in The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (Hyperion, 2012). Pigeon, who is often told "no," is driven topsy-turvy when recounting all the ways he doesn't get what he wants, and his thundering "NO" --with 27 "O's" -- upends both Duckling and cookie. Here again, the power of the lettering helps convey the power of the moment.


(above: Mo Willems,The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! Final illustration for "I've changed my mind.", © 2008 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2008. Aquarelle watercolor pencil and red colored pencil on paper, 13 x 21 inches.)

In The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (Hyperion, 2008) Willems zeroes in on the essence of a child's yearning. Pigeon's plaintive, inexorable pleading for a puppy works. Clearly, he has miscalculated, and Willems conveys his change of heart in the bird's slightly recoiling stance, the pinhole pupil of his eye, and the tiny, seemingly fragile lettering. Throughout his work, Willems achieves a masterful balance between too much and too little.



(above: Mo Willems, Cat the Cat, Who Is That? Final illustration for "Blarggie! Blarggie!", © 2010 by Mo Willems. Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2010. Ink brush on paper, 13 15/16 x 16 15/16 inches.)

In 2008 Willems began a new series featuring Cat the Cat. Geared to the beginning reader, the books' repetition and limited vocabularies are key ingredients. Willems compensates for textual restrictions by using bold and dynamic graphics, uncluttered settings, and an irrepressible sense of humor.



(above: Mo Willems, Leonardo the Terrible Monster. Preliminary sketch for "Leonardo researched until he found the perfect candidate.", © 2005 by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, 2005. Blue colored pencil and graphite on vellum, 13 3/8 x 15 7/8 inches.)

The protagonist of Leonardo the Terrible Monster (Hyperion, 2005) believes he is a terrible failure as a monster because he is incapable of scaring anyone. Desperate, Leonardo researches and identifies his most likely prospect. In this early drawing, Leonardo's horns are quite large. For the final drawing, Willems shrunk them in size to underscore Leonardo's lack of physical intimidation.

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