Theodore Geisel is an American poet, cartoonist and writer best known for his contribution in children books where he identifies himself as pen names. He is widely known for his contribution in the world of art. Most of the works he created have been adopted on television specials, television series, feature films and Broadway music. The uniqueness of his work was appreciated in the year 1985 when he received the ‘Lewis Carroll Shelf Award’ for his ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’ and also for ‘And to Think That I Saw Mulberry Street’ in the year 1961. Geisel is also recognized for his illustrator work in advertising campaigns.

            His most notable contribution in this field was his Standard Oil, Flit and PM political cartoon work. He also worked in the U.S Army animation department during the World War II. During this time, he wrote the film ‘Design for Death’ which later came to win the Documentary Feature academy award in 1947. Due to his achievements, his birth day has been set aside as the National Read Across America annual date. This is a reading initiative created by the National Education association. Of all his work, this paper is going to focus on Geisel illustrations as a way he chose to get in touch with his wider audience.  

Types of illustrations

Geisel in his works of art in the early stages of his amazing career made use of watercolors and shaded textures made from pencil drawings. He changed his approach when it came to children books where he utilized starker medium of ink and pen, in most cases white and black to illustrate the post war period. Later he changed again and started adapting more colors like in the ‘The Lorax’ book. His figures are in most cases characterized by their droopy and rounded design. A good example is the Grinch faces and the ‘Cat in the Hat’. It is virtually true that all machinery and buildings on Geisel’s drawings though abound to real life in straight lines; they could be as well accomplished in sections through architecture choice. A machine example is ‘If I Ran the Circus’ that included a droopy steam calliope and hoisting crane.

Geisel’s illustrations evidently made use of objects that were architecturally elaborated. He never seized from varying his work of ramps, palaces, stairways that were free standing and platforms in majority of his evocative creations. He also included elaborate imaginary machines. Geisel was fond of outlandish arrangements drawings of far and further. He used these images to vividly convey motion making use of voila gesture where the hand flips outward, with thumb up and fingers spread lightly. This extended to his drawing of interlocked fingered hands that resembled twiddling thumbs.

He never let go of his cartoon tradition and used it to indicate motion using lines. The use of cartoon lines was used to illustrate the senses like hearing, smell and sight. This is witnessed in ‘The Big Brag’ and also in the Grinch conceives. Geisel’s illustrations have over 60 years painted a visual realization to his imaginary words and his fantasies. His work also touched on art works including sculptures and painting.

How he got started in illustrations and his first job

Geisel’s early works can be traced back to the humorous illustrations and articles he submitted to Vanity Fair, Life, Judge and Liberty. The illustration that stood out of his earlier works was the ‘Technology Number’ which featured satirical rhymes to make fun out of the technocracy movement at the expense of Frederick Soddy. His first cartoon publication came in July 1927 in ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ under the penname Seuss. This article earned him the national recognition as a result of his Flit advertisement. Geisel’s impact in the advertisement sector was felt when his slogan became the most popular catchphrase. His first drawings served as the main source for survival with his wife as he earned his living through advertising for NBC, Electric and standard Oil. At the same time, he used to draw comic trips that were short lived.

Most of his works were inspired by life experiences making most of his work to be original and unique. His first book, ‘And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street’, was inspired by his ocean voyage to Europe. It was out of the rhythm of the ship engines he was travelling in that he got inspired to write the poem. The book did not enjoy a ceremonious reception as it was rejected more than 27 times. After the approval of this poem, Geisel embarked on writing and had three more books meant for children before the World War II. In most of his work, Geisel avoided having the characters he used marketed in other contexts that are outside of his own work. He however included a number of several animated cartoons. This was part of the art he had acquired in the Second World War but gradually relaxed this policy as he got older. The first Geisel’s work to be adapted was the cartoon version of ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’ that was animated in 1942 at Warner Bros.

Style of illustration and the influences

Geisel’s style of work in editorial cartooning and advertising in form of sketches received a lot of recognition especially in children’s book. He included a unique inclusion of using expressive and later had images that stood out different from his original work. A good example is his editorial cartoon painted in 1941 which depicted a whale on a mountain. This was interpreted as being a parody of isolationists in America. Geisel credits all his achievements to his mother’s absurdities and sounds of language both in English and German which inspired him in his flight of fantasy.

His writing had great influence especially in the older children books where he stood out as a hero. His working led to a revolution replacing old books with his that included plot twists, clever rhymes, and rebellious heroes who did the unexpected. It changed the type of books read by children from boring to more imaginative illustrations. Most of his writings were revolutionized to animated films. This was an appreciation of the quality of his work. The ‘Lion Wading Pool at Wild Animal Park in San Diego’ is regarded as his greatest work though he considered it as not being an illustration or a book. ‘The Butter Battle Book’ remains his most controversial piece of writing. Geisel is loved by most readers and film lovers for the humor included in his writing, his originality and how he takes into consideration both the young and old in his writing.

Order now

Related essays