Shrek’s New (Old) Look

When I think of Shrek in my mind’s eye, I envision a larger-than-life version of one of William Steig’s most endearing and hilarious characters. Not the movie or Broadway version, but a giant version of the image that graces the cover of the original jacket for Shrek!

We were loaned the original jacket art and dummy from the Eric Carle Museum when we started the redesign of the jacket for the twentieth anniversary edition. I was very surprised by the actual size of Shrek in the original drawing. He’s small—4 7/8″ tall. For the new jacket, we made Shrek as large as we could make him.

It is thrilling to see and hold the original art. It appears that Mr. Steig made a blank dummy, the same format as the book would be printed, and with a black pen drew the whole thing out in sequence without changing any lines. It seems when he committed pen to paper, he never second guessed his marks or changed or patched anything. His words were typed out on an old typewriter and attached to the pages in scotch tape. He added pencil line notes. On page 6 for example, he indicating steam coming out of Shrek’s nose or “she should be kicking him too” scribbled beside Shrek being kicked in the air by his parents. The final art is more decorated, colored versions but very true to his original sketches. What confidence!

We added endpapers to the new Shrek!, scanning the black and white pen drawings from his dummy. It’s terrific fun to show all the energy and humor of some of Mr. Steig’s first drawings of Shrek.


Robbin Gourley is a children’s book author and illustrator and the creative director at Farrar, Strauss and Giroux.

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