This is Jan Brett and this is my May hedge a gram. I enjoy sharing my life as an author/illustrator by telling you tidbits about my unfolding book projects. I have just received the proofs from my spring 2010 book, THE EASTER EGG. Printing a book is complicated, because like almost all the printing you see, like the photos in a magazine, only 3 colors are used, plus black. The colors are magenta, a pinkish red, blue, and yellow. The art director and printer work together to combine these colors to make the printed page look as much like the original art work as they can. In my paintings I do not use black, instead I use a mix of ultra marine blue and van dyke brown. I think it makes a more vibrant black. I'm very pleased with the proofs, especially since I always finish the book in a flurry of last minute changes, fixes, and rush jobs. This year I stayed up all night long, three times. It's better to plan, although sometimes I think that if I had longer to work on the book I could find a way to fill the time!
I have written my next year's story, THE THREE LITTLE MAPIMBI, although my husband and I have a hard time remembering how to say the Swahili word, we may have to call it THE THREE LITTLE DASSIES which is the word for the hyrax.
I have a huge pile of books I have brought back from Africa. I need images of the hyrax, of the agama lizard, the leopard tortoise, and the black eagle; the animals that appear in the story. I have many photos I took in Namibia as well. I'll rely on my photos for examples of the Herero people's dress. I bought many of the hand made dolls made to sell to tourists as well, because the cotton cloth used in the women's long, Victorian style dresses and head scarves are unique and very beautiful.
The photographs we took of the landscape are even more valuable to me, because it is stark, but majestic. Because of the lack of tall trees, you can see great distances. The vegetation is dominated by a blubbery odd shaped plant called the euphoria. It's also poisonous to everyone except for rhinos, who can eat it. I hope there will be a place in the book to show fairy circles. These are barren circles about the size of a small car set in areas of grass and desert plants. There are many theories about how they appeared, but it is weird to see ten to twenty on the side of a hill. I would also like to paint the welwichita plant. It looks like beat up green ribbons, scrunched up in a lifeless landscape. There are male plants and female plants. The females have colorful cones. Even though the plant is about the size of a car tire, it can be hundreds of years old. Older than my great great grandparents. If only they could talk!
I have started on my book dummy, a cartoon version of my book that only takes a few weeks. I'll make lots of changes along the way. The dummy is meant to be built and rebuilt in order to reflect the best way to tell my story. Although it's not the easiest part of my project, it will be the most creative. The hardest part is thinking up a good story to start with. It was amusing to retell THE THREE LITTLE PIGS in an African setting, because the mapimbi are chubby like pigs with bulbous noses, and no tails. Mapimbi live in stone houses which makes the indestructible stone house from the traditional tale just perfect for mapimbi.
I hope as you read this, your mind is traveling ahead and thinking about a story you would like to interpret with your favorite animal. In my case, I like learning about an animal I don't know much about. Today I have a stack of books ready to learn about the pimbi, also called rock dassie, also called hyrax.
Good luck and create something wonderful today!