Hardie Gramatky was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1907, but after his father died of illness, he relocated to California as a tiny child. Before becoming one of Disney's early animators in 1929, he attended Stanford University and Chouinard Art Institute, paying for his education by working as a logger and a bank teller. He was a founding member of the California Watercolor movement in the 1920s and 1930s. After a 6-year Disney contract expired in 1936, he left the firm (making $150 per week, a significant figure during the Depression) to pursue a career as an illustrator in New York City with his wife, artist Dorothea Cooke. Gramatky was working in his Pearl Street studio when he noticed a Moran tugboat outside his window that didn't want to work and kept doing figure 8s on the East River.
After painting many watercolors of the bustling waterfront in 1939, Gramatky imagined what might happen if a tug refused to tug and penned the narrative. The book was an instant hit and has been a favorite picture book ever since, while Gramatky's fine art watercolors and giclÃ©e prints have remained in high demand. On April 29, 1979, he died of ileal cancer in Westport, Connecticut.
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