Behind the illustration with Maryanna Hoggatt (and Simon)

When I was approached to participate in the Amazing Storybook project for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and their creative agency, Sockeye, I was thrilled. It was an opportunity to work for a well-respected children’s hospital, and as part of a campaign developed by Sockeye, the theme of the illustration closely aligned with something I identify with in my own work: encouraging children to be brave and face their fears.

Adapting my creative style to this storybook illustration for Doernbecher was very natural. Outside of freelance projects, I’m creating a whole army of animal soldiers for a series called “Animal Battle.” This body of work, while meant for all ages, is really aimed at kids. I’ve taken a complex concept, which is about our internal struggles to makedreams a reality, and dressed it up as fuzzy animals wearing colorful costumes and carrying wooden swords. In “Animal Battle,” brave animals fight against fear and doubt. In the Doernbecher illustration, a brave little boy faces illness. Naturally, I put a wooden sword in his hand.

I scratched out a few rough drafts on paper, tweaking the sketches until I was happy with the composition, then I transferred the drawing to watercolor paper. I’m a traditional-medium kind of girl at heart, so I painted this illustration by hand – sometimes with a ridiculously tiny brush. The final stage includes of few sweeps of digital magic before I packaged the whole thing up and called it done.

I’m in the habit of naming my characters. It makes them seem more real. The name “Simon” popped into my head on the first sketch before my pencil lifted from the paper. He just looked like a Simon, and somewhere in my memory a string tugged, and I remembered there was a Simon in the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” cartoon. He also wore glasses, was incredibly smart, witty, and by far the most responsible of the three chipmunks. It was a good fit.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know if what I’m doing is making any difference. With Doernbecher helping children every single day in the battle against illness and injury, all I can hope is that maybe my characters and drawings can be a small light in the darkness. Maybe a parent will see this illustration and show it to their child, like a page from a storybook, and say, “Look, you can be brave, too.”
Just like Simon.


Maryanna Hoggatt
To find out more about Animal Battle, visit, or visit Maryanna’s portfolio site.