Hardie Gramatky's Story

Hardie demonstrates precocious early talent in art

My mother actually heard about Hardie long before she met him. About 1923 or 1924, she noticed his name as the leading artist in the Los Angeles Times young folks section, edited for several years by an "Aunt Polly". Hardie, my mother and her best friend (Dorothy Feldman) sent in contributions that were accepted on a regular basis, but Doppy and Dorothy would lament that “Oh no, that Hardie Gramatky’s art was on another cover this week!” He also drew "Captain Kidd Jr.," a weekly comic strip on outer space. It had rocket ships and all sorts of strange creatures, and he was really `way ahead of his time. Hardie once told a reporter [Paul Vandeventer in the Pasadena Star News April 20, 1979, published nine days before Hardie’s death], "I always wanted to be an artist and a writer from the time I was in the fifth grade, I’d go out with a friend at 6 a.m. to sketch."

Hardie attended Stanford for two years (from 1926-1928) and worked his way through college with a variety of jobs: he worked in a logging camp near Hoquiam, Washington, was a teller in a local bank and ghosted "Ella Cinders," a well-known comic strip. At Stanford, he majored in English, but after one assignment in an art class where he finished his painting, went to get lunch and came back to find the others in the class hadn’t gotten started, one of his professors said to him, “Hardie, there is really nothing more the Stanford art department can teach you.” He encouraged him to go down to Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles, but since he had noticed Dad’s writing abilities, the professor encouraged him to keep working on his writing skills on his own time. [Hardie was a lifelong learner and omnivorously devoured classic books until the last days of his life. His journals in preparation for each children’s book he would write in later years were filled with quotes of things he was reading, as well as offbeat observations about his life and of quotes from his grandchildren.] In later years, he would use his writing talent as a pictorial reporter and as an author-illustrator of fourteen children's books. In 1979, he described the way he used both abilities: "Writing is very difficult and sometimes I get stuck. So, instead, I'll just do a watercolor of the mood I want to create, and soon the words are there. My visual mind and writer's mind work hand in hand." [Another quote from the Paul Vandeventer article.]