For every grass-stained childhood, every nightmare you hoped would never end, for every mischievous flight of fancy, Maurice Sendak had a picture that could tell you more than words could say. His work is a legacy that for decades has equipped artists, illustrators, and dreamers with a new language of imagination.
Cory Godbey is a South Carolina-based artist who has illustrated picture books, book covers, and other projects for the likes of HarperCollins, Random House and Jim Henson Corporation. In 2009, he put together a tribute page to Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." He included some of his own art -- beautiful send-ups of Sendak's monsters and magical environments, but when he opened up the page to other artists, his small collection took on a life of its own.
Now, hundreds of contributions from a spectrum of artists live on "Terrible Yellow Eyes." For Godbey, it was the best way to explain how an artist had changed his life.
"When I was a kid, I was familiar with Sendak's books, but I kind of rediscovered them later in school, and they just became a defining moment for me," Godbey says. "There came a point where I would try to explain to people what it was that got me so much about his work, and I would struggle to explain it. I wouldn't be able to explain it in words. Then it got me one day, I didn't have to explain it in words."
Once Godbey started adding other contributions, the project experienced a "gradual, growing, swelling response." Artists of all sorts, from students to some of the best working illustrators in the business, shared their interpretations of Sendak's classic work. Now, after his death, the collection serves as a perfect tribute to a man admired by adults and children hungry for a walk on the wild side.
"He just did what he wanted," Godbey says. "It's incredible, to be free enough to paint the work you want. He just knew. Children are smart. They know when they're being talked down to. As a child, you knew how you were being talked to, or when something was being held back from you, for whatever reason. And Sendak knew. He absolutely changed my life."
For all of the wonderful Sendak-inspired work, visit Terrible Yellow Eyes.