July Hedge a Gram

 Happy July!
     It's the month in which our country's independence is celebrated.  I'd like to thank all the men and women in the armed services for serving our country.
     Every month I take some time to talk about my life as an illustrator.  I hope there's a person who I've never met, who shares my ambition to be a children's book illustrator and they will hear this.  When I was a child I thought it would be great to wake up every morning and draw all day long.  It's even better than I thought, but there are other things I have to think about, and that's what I write about in my monthly hedge a gram.
     I've just received my first bound copies of The Umbrella, my fall 2004 book.  Today I worked with my husband on a blackboard border to give away on my website that uses artwork from this book.  Because it's set in the cloud forest in Costa Rica, we hope teachers will like downloading and printing my artwork for when they teach about the tropical rain forest in their classes.
     Because I put a lot of details in my work, the pages take a long time.  When I do a spread, or two pages joined together, it usually takes two weeks.  Since I've just begun my book, Honey, Honey, Honey, I'm researching my characters.  Characters are one of the things children do best.  When I draw them, they fill up with character traits all on their own.  I am so inspired when I go on my bookstore tour, because children show me their drawings.  Often I laugh out loud, not because the drawings are funny, but because children are so unrestrained and uninhibited with their drawings.  I also like to put designs in my pictures, mostly in the borders.  Honey, Honey, Honey is set in Botswana, Africa, and when I was there I saw beautiful baskets that gave me ideas for the borders in this book.
     Do you like honey?  It's one of my favorite food sensations.  The character in my book, the honey badger loves honey too.  Whenever I go to a new country I like to buy some honey to bring home.  If the honey is from one place, not a blend, it will have a unique flavor.  I like to test my taste buds and experience the different honeys.  Because I'm so fascinated by bees and beehives I'm going to draw a little worker bee on each page of Honey, Honey, Honey, very discretely.  It will be fun to see if anyone notices.
     One of the reasons I illustrate children's books is because children are such good observers of the illustrations.  They notice things that sometimes are overlooked by us grown-ups.
     Since it takes me a year to plan, write, research, and illustrate a book, I've got plenty of time to puzzle together the different pieces.  Right now, my editor and I decided we would like my two characters, the honey badger and the honey guide bird, to have nicknames.  We'd like them to have Botswanian nicknames, the language is Tswana.  For example in the USA we might call a dog Rover, a horse Nellie, or a cat Fluffy.  I have a friend in Botswana named Ali, and I'm going to ask him about animal nicknames.
     Now that summer vacation is here, I hope you'll spend some time drawing.   I like to draw when my life situation isn't very fun because it's an escape.  When things are great, I draw to explore things I'm fascinated with or to make them last longer.  But the reason I can spend day after day creating my world on paper is that I'm never really sure what will come out.  It's kind of a cross between discovering something and something discovering me!
     Bye for now.  Happy writing and drawing and imagining.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett