Forever Young is in the stores. Illustrating a book for kids that takes one of Bob Dylan’s most loved songs was a challenge. Ginee Seo and Ann Bobco at Simon and Schuster laid this story on me that parallels the lyrics, and brings to it a narrative line that fits and isn’t too corny. My idea was to bring elements from Dylan’s life and lyrics from other songs to the book. I set up the illustrations as sort of stage sets, New York City became a character in the book, and I squeezed in as many references as I could without being obnoxious. This book is for children and their parents, and I also wanted to make a book that Dylan fans would enjoy.
This is the first illustration I did, and it set the tone for the look of the book. We sent this to Dylan for approval, he had seen the book I did with Wynton Marsalis, “Jazz ABZ,” and picked me to be the illustrator for this book. There was really no need for us to get on the phone, and everything we sent over was approved right away. This drawing shows a block of Greenwich Village that includes clubs Dylan played in when he first arrived in New York.
Café Wha? was a pass-the-hat joint, and Dylan says he spent a lot of time in the NY Public Library.
The kid in the story lives next door to Gerde’s Folk City, and that VW bus and ’51 Chevy are still parked on Jones Street where they were on the cover of Freewheelin.’
I found a photo from the sixties of this cat’s sidewalk record stand that he rigged up from a bicycle, so I filled it with records that Bob plays a lot on Theme Time Radio Hour.
Woody Guthrie’s influence on Dylan was immeasurable, the first song Bob wrote was “Song to Woody” and he name-checks Cisco, Sonny and Leadbelly too. This illustration was an early style exploration that didn’t make it into the book.
The kids room is loaded with references to many things and people Dylan mentions in his memoir Chronicles Vol 1.
The portraits of Cisco Houston, Sonny Terry, and Leadbelly found a place. All good illustrators know not to throw anything away, and to never draw something you can trace, and never trace something you can cut out and paste down.
Milton Glaser’s poster shows up next to Willis Reed. The radio has words coming out of it that read “the country music station plays soft,” a line from Visions of Johanna. I tucked some tiny handwritten lines into a number of the illustrations.
Maggie’s Farm becomes a pawnshop with electric guitars and a polka dot shirt in the window.
This drawing of Dylan was done for the endpapers, but we didn’t use it.
The book jacket is a wrap around drawing that includes a train and a signpost that refers to Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land. My brilliant wife, Jill von Hartmann, handled the book design and made everything look good. I asked her if anyone would get that the windmill and the dandelion were in reference to Blowin’ in the Wind and she said “Not one person on earth.”
Paul, this is a beauty in every way; type, art and subject. Each image here is stellar and though my son is out of picture books, he's getting this one then I'm keeping it.
Doug FraserOctober 11, 2008
Paul, the details in these images are great. The details alone could be pieces on there own. Congrats!
Kyle T. WebsterOctober 11, 2008
how many times did you pinch yourself during this project?
Calef BrownOctober 11, 2008
Fantastic work, I can't wait to see the book.
So much detail and references to Dylan's history.
I love the rolling record store.
Hanoch PivenOctober 12, 2008
Beautiful, Smart, Emotional, Elegant
I saw the book at Bobco's office and I'm getting it for my 15 year old son who is into Dylan.
I love the lettering at the end.
Oh and what with the little animation they did? can you post it as well?
Robert SaundersOctober 12, 2008
Beautiful. Brings up a lot of nostalgia in me. I especially like the wraparound jacket with train, signs, and all. It evokes a childlike wanderlust for taking to the road and the modern troubador.
Nancy StahlOctober 12, 2008
Beautiful..! It's a shame the Dylan from the back didn't make it. That's one of my favorites. But with all the other great drawings to look at, no one but us will miss it.
Mark FisherOctober 12, 2008
Paul, wonderful art and details galore, love it.
Nick WrightOctober 13, 2008
Paul- this is awesome- love the color palette.
Barnes and Noble, amazon, etc.?? want it.
Jim PaillotOctober 13, 2008
Man, this is some nice stuff!
Mike MoranOctober 13, 2008
Love the book Paul. I was in Barnes and Nobles and they had a nice display front and center for you.
josh cochranOctober 14, 2008
Leo EspinosaOctober 14, 2008
Edel Rodriguez was visiting over the weekend and we spotted you book at my favorite children's book store. I have to admit that I'm not a Dylan fan but the book is a beauty, Paul.
Lou BrooksOctober 14, 2008
Paul Rogers = HERO!
felix SockwellOctober 15, 2008
i saw dylan with my folks
about 20 years ago with Petty.
He sucked so bad my mother
broke down in tears.
Forever Young is her
favorite song btw.
WardOctober 20, 2008
Paul, I saw this in Powell's the other day and couldn't put it down. It's a beautiful book. And I loved all the little asides and hidden details that you've filled with each page. Some wonderful, amazing stuff.
Congrats on a job well done! Looking forward to seeing more from you. Love love love your work.
Chris L.October 27, 2008
Beautiful work - I was wondering if you could explain this comment a little more:
"All good illustrators know not to throw anything away, and to never draw something you can trace, and never trace something you can cut out and paste down."
I don't quite understand what you mean by 'never draw something you can trace'. I'm guessing this means to trace 'sketches' and incorporate them into more developed work.
Your work is really inspiring, thanks again.
Dave LDecember 19, 2008
Just learned of your book via a BobDylan holiday email rec'd today.
What a treat! A favorite song married to very endearing illustration. A great looking book that I look forward to sharing with friends old and young.