Happy New Year!

     This is my January hedge a gram, the monthly update I write to tell you what is happening in my world.  I'm an illustrator and in the back of my mind, I always envision a child somewhere thinking they might like illustrating to be their job.  We have just spent some time in New Mexico.  It's a good time for me to appreciate Native American artwork.  I love to look at the realistic, but designful painting in the "studio" style.  Many of the paintings tell a story, and many show dances that have a spiritual purpose as well as being entertaining in a very complex way.  I love horses and birds, and I am always excited to see the way the horses are described as unique individuals.  The birds sometimes look humorous, perhaps because the ground birds have a self important air.  Three of the birds I see when I visit New Mexico are fascinating to me, the quail, the roadrunner, and the raven.  One of the other unique treasures of the southwest is the turquoise gems that are showcased in Indian jewelry.  Turquoise is my birthstone, and if you haven't seen this gem before, presented as jewelry, it looks blueish green.  Sometimes it is crisscrossed with black, gold, or red in a design like a spider web. Sometimes it forms blue figures on a black background.  Other times turquoise is a milky green.  It all depends on what minerals form the stone.  I hope someday to illustrate a book with turquoise in it.
     Right now, I am hard at work painting the last three spreads of THE EASTER EGG.  I've often wondered how the Easter bunny travels, and I put my imagination to work in order to show his wagonnaire - fancy wagon, to pull all the Easter eggs.  In January, I'll go to two chicken shows, one in Florida, and one in Springfield, Massachusetts in order to see the regal Cochin chickens that will pull the wagonnaire in a six hen hitch!   The Cochin chicken is very rounded, its tail is not prominent and it is set low to the ground with feathers on its feet.  Even its head is relaxed into its body so the image is of an elegant ball of feathers.
     When I've been illustrating THE EASTER EGG, I often reflect on Beatrix Potter's wonderful rabbits in BENJAMIN BUNNY and THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT.  I am drawn to the way Ms. Potter made her rabbits full of personality.  They are not photographically realistic, too cutesy or cartoonish.  They make the reader care about their story.
     If you are working on a book, here's a little story about what happened to me.  I've been on the home stretch for this new rabbit book, getting lots of momentum and energy to finish the story.  Then two things happened.  My publisher asked me to stop work so I could design and paint a jacket for A SNOWY TREASURY, a book of four snowy tales I have already published, but will be together for the first time.  Secondly, we traveled to New Mexico for a week, where I've been painting every day after skiing.  It's hard to change gears, and juggle all the components of a project, but sometimes a new idea will jump in.  The borders of THE EASTER EGG are pussy willows that grow as time in the story progresses.  Suddenly I thought, what if the pussy willows, which are fluffy grey catkins, morph into little bunnies and scoot off the page as the story comes to a close?  I don't think I would have thought of this idea if I hadn't stop work, begin another project, and then set up in a strange place with lots of stimulating artwork around me.  As artists and writers, remember that no matter what your commitment or gifts are, those creative moments come to us just because we're human beings.  We just need to give them space and time to appear.  Let it be a very creative New Year for all of you!
                                  Your friend,
                                   Jan Brett