Friday, July 26, 2013

We Saw a Nook

Heritage Auctions, in a 2002 sale, described this Dr. Seuss character as "reminiscent of the Cat in the Hat." That's not all that helpful, is it? Actually, this drawing is of the Nook from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960). The good doctor has made extensive use of blue pencil before completing the drawing in black ink. The question is, why?

This post is prompted by an inquiry from a reader who knows personally of two other examples like this one rendered with black ink over fairly copious blue pencil.  The reader's conjecture is that these might have been done for a commercial or animated project. Presumably the blue pencil lines would not show up when the image was reproduced. So why did Dr. Seuss use these uncharacteristic blue pencils and for what purpose was the artwork initially created? I cannot provide an answer, but I'm hoping that someone else reading this can.

Dr. Seuss, Nook

Dr. Seuss, Nook

 Dr. Seuss, Nook from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1960)

Dr. Seuss, Nook

The reader who made this inquiry has another piece similar in technique to this one of the character Sam-I-Am from Green Eggs and Ham. It came with this information from the art dealer:
The provenance is excellent, it came from the US printer of Dr. Seuss books, this picture was drawn for an advertisement for Green Eggs and Ham. There is only a minor note in the artists hand (printing instructions) to the margins in blue pencil.

July 27, 2013 Update:  One thing I was wondering was, if this and similar artwork was used to promote these books, and the drawings are close to images from the books, why not just use the actual artwork from the books for the advertising? We may not be able to find the answer to this. Possibly someone will have the advertising piece this appeared on--that would be a coup! Perhaps Geisel was simply trying to reproduce the image without the boy and the girl.

If one were trying to create similar art in a different size, I would think an overhead projector and non-photo blue pencils would be extremely helpful. For a tool Geisel used only rarely, he seems quite proficient at it.

Note:  If you know what this was created for please leave a note in the comments section.



  1. A discussion on why artists use blue pencil (non-photo blue)to make preliminary sketches.

    1. Thanks, Leocadia. It's fairly unusual, so far as I know, for Dr. Seuss to use the blue pencil. If this drawing was meant for reproduction, what was the context? Why have a drawing so close to an image from a book? The way he signed it, it looks like a souvenir drawing rather than a commercial work. But why use the non-photo blue on a drawing meant as a gift?