Every month I talk a little about my job as a children's book author and illustrator. I imagine there are children and adults who think they might like to try writing and illustrating a children's book, or even better, are curious about creating childrenís books as a profession. Although I find most of my inspiration comes from the art side, I do love story telling and I enjoy telling about where ideas come from. That is, when I know myself!
Last weekend, I went to one of the Boston Symphony's concerts at Tanglewood, their summer home. I was looking forward to hearing Mahler's First Symphony, especially because there is a Double Bass solo. You may know that the Double Bass is the lowest of all the stringed instruments in a symphony orchestra. It has a deep and majestic voice,which isn't surprising since it is over six feet tall. You may not know that my husband plays the Double Bass in the Boston Symphony. Even though I go to all the concerts, I was particularly struck with this symphony, the first Mahler wrote. It sounded so complete and perfectly imagined even through four movements and many complexities and combinations of instruments assembled to make up the whole. It was a world unto itself! After the last note, there was a tremendous uproar of emotional clapping and bravos. In the aftermath of the concert I thought about the creating of a world of music that I had just experienced and how there were similarities to creating an illustrated book. Scholars often talk about an artistís "vocabulary" and an artistís "voice". Much is said about constructing a work that takes on a life of its own. I like to think that in a small way I enjoy that creative building. Choosing a character that sometimes starts with a sketch then becomes more defined as that character reacts to my story has a dreamlike quality.The plot is usually my starting point since it is the most difficult, but even that is made up of twists and turns that seem to come from another place. The setting, including objects, colors, and many thousands of techniques to paint them, gain momentum as the work goes on. Listening to the Mahler gave me the most odd sensation of connecting with a mind that existed in the past, Mahler died in 1911 and yet this work seems such a part of our would. It is remarkable that humans are capable of this. The book I'm working on THE MERMAID, is far simpler, but it too has moments when all the pieces I've assembled, the story-line, the research of an island in Japan, the curiosity and goodwill of my character seem to gel into a story that is far more than my original plan. People from all cultures and from what we know from ancient times to the present day have told stories and accompanied them with illustrations. I hope all children are given a chance to try to tell their stories. If there is one thing I could say in the way of encouragement, and what was so striking in the Mahler symphony it would be that the way and end may not be clear, but the actual creating and assembling can work its own magic. Right now I am almost 1/3 through my mermaid story, and it seems like all by its self it is getting more real.
Happy creating. Your friend, Jan