This is Jan Brett and I'm going to give you an
update on my work as a children's illustrator and author. My book year begins in
late January, when I write up a manuscript, and ends in mid-December when I
finished my final illustrations.
I work on the jacket of my book in October so my publisher, Penguin Putnam, can start rolling on presenting the book to buyers. I've been home for one week after a 2 1/2 week book tour. I spoke to different journalists and interviewers in the weeks that preceded the tour. I'm very glad to be back at work on HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Just before I went on the trip, I brought the nine finished spreads to New York City to show my editor, and art director and designer, as well as a sketch for the jacket. No matter how good copies are, or how long a telephone call is, there is no substitute for showing the actual artwork and discussing it face-to-face. It is an intense time. It is difficult to keep an open mind when I've invested so much time and effort into my book. However, the team I work with has a tremendous amount of talent and experience. I often go from feeling despondent to exhilarated and back again. Most times I leave New York in a positive state of mind, but utterly exhausted. The experience of looking at one's characters and artistic ideas through another person's eyes is illuminating. It is funny how an image can be jarring even if it is out of proportion a bit, or an expression is off. I spent a week or more on each double page spread, so it's easy to accept things in a picture just because I've seen them over and over that is why I welcome my colleague's opinions.
The designer, Marikka, is tremendously talented, and has a whimsical and buoyant approach to designing the typeface and display type. She will work very hard to make things work. I've just received a design sketch of the jacket which will tell me how much room I have for the art. The publisher asked that my name appear above the title which gives me more room for the art at the bottom of the jacket. Last year, we changed the jacket at the last minute, making lots of extra work for Marikka and for me. I'm hoping to get the jacket right the first time.
I'm looking forward to planning a great big moose face in a snowy background for the jacket. Often people ask me why I always write snowy books. It's really not true, because only about one half of my books are snowy. I think it's because my artwork is very detailed and busy. Snow makes a good contrast and gives the image a chance to shine. When I was little, I would fill up every last inch of paper. Now, I edit heavily, and use snow to simplify things! Sand works too!
Now that I'm home, and have started to work on the jacket, I can reflect on the people I met at my book signings. I was thrilled to see kid's drawings. Some were done during my presentation, when I gave an art lesson, and some were masterpieces the kids did at home. I'm so wowed by the imagination and exuberance of style that seems to come so naturally to children. I always think of the fairy tales that have a scene when the fairy godmother gives a gift to the child character. I wish I could wave a magic wand and give children the gift of time. It's in our nature to imagine, transform and create. I think of the real people I've known on Earth, and there are as many fictional people in my mind that seem as present. I like to think the children will have the time to go into themselves and create characters that will someday be as memorable.
My mother, who taught three-year-olds, encouraged me and my sisters to draw but she didn't believe in art lessons for young children. I think she believed the ability to be artistic was inherent. I remember being eager for tidbits about shading, perspective, and for shadows, but I had to figure them out for myself, using my picture books and real life as guides. Maybe that is why my pictures are somewhat primitive. I do know, that the one factor that is still important is time - to feel unhurried enough to play with ideas but still feeling the import of creating a picture. So I will sign off wishing you some extra hours to create a memorable character in your drawing.
Good luck with your creative time and have fun, your friend,