A great deal of mythology has built up around the life of Jack Kerouac, and especially around the experiences that went into his best-known work, the 1957 novel On the Road. Even the very act of its composition — perhaps especially the act of its composition — has, in the imaginations of many of Kerouac’s readers, turned into an image of the man “writing the book on a long scroll of teletype paper in three coffee-soaked-benzedrine-fueled days.” With this image in mind, illustrator Paul Rogers of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design created On the Road, the illustrated scroll, featuring “a drawing for every page” of the novel, and depicting the historically researched “cars, buses, roadside architecture, and old signs” from Kerouac’s America of the late 1940s and early 50s, one that “looked awfully different than it does now.” You can scroll, as it were, through this work in progress at Rogers’ site.
We’ve here included only four of the over 100 drawings Rogers has so far made, but these examples capture the novel’s multigenerationally intoxicating mix of Americana and pure momentum. You’ll also notice that, underneath each image, Rogers excerpts a passage of Kerouac’s. “Adding Kerouac’s words as captions to the drawings makes the series feel like a journal and not a carefully planned out illustrated book,” he writes, “and it seems to capture some of the spirit of Kerouac’s ‘this-happened-then-this-then-this’ writing style.”
You can read the scroll part-by-part on these pages: one through three, four, five, six, seven. Though I never took quite the lifestyle inspiration from On the Road some have, I can’t wait to see what visual inspiration Rogers draws from the bit about fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.