This is Jan Brett with my November Hedge a gram. I'm here to tell you what's happening in my year of being an author-illustrator. Although I have written and illustrated children's books since 1981, with the publication of my first book, FRITZ AND THE BEAUTIFUL HORSES, every following book seems like the most important book I've ever done. Like any creative project there is a feeling of vulnerability, because an artist's work is so personal.
My husband and I spent three weeks in October on our tour bus, following down the East Coast of Florida to the South and into Texas, and up the Imperial Valley of California, ending in Washington state. Thank you to everyone who attended my booksignings. I hope many of you had fun drawing Mossy along with me. If you weren't able to go to a booksigning, you can see the How To Draw demonstration on a video on my website. The demonstration also will appear on a smartphone when you place it over the QR code on the flap of the jacket on MOSSY.
The turtle organizations that joined me at many of my stops added a great deal of excitement to my appearances. I hope reptile lovers were excited to see live turtles and that nature lovers learned, as I did, that turtles have rich and fascinating lives. In Fresno, California I was astounded when the gentleman waiting to have his book signed told me of his one hundred and ten year old Sonoran tortoise. It is indigenous to the Southwest United States and lives in the Sonoran Desert. The turtle belonged to this man's grandfather and has been passed down from grandfather to father to the man at my book signings, and someday to the man’s son. And, from the excited look in the boy’s eyes, I hope their turtle will live even longer and be cared for in the future by the boy. I don't think tortoises of this size have natural predators, and the danger would be not having food or water. From what I understood, the tortoise had the run of their large yard.
I saw quite a few turtles that were very beautiful at the signing in El Dorado Hills, California. The local turtle Society brought a huge African tortoise that marched across the parking lot, stopping only to visit with children which it was especially attracted to. The best part of the tour was seeing the wonderful drawing the children bought for me to see. I'm sure they will be well known artists in a few years!
I learned a great deal from booklovers at my signings. I was pleased to hear that ARMADILLO RODEO is often given to children when studying the five senses, that THE UMBRELLA is used when studying Central America, and that THE THREE LITTLE DASSIES is one of the books compared when reading all the versions of the three little pigs folktale.
Now that I'm back in my art studio, I am hard at work on CINDERS which I need to complete by just after Christmas. I took special time with the jacket, a very important element in the book, because it asks the viewer to open the book and read it. I like books that have an element of curiosity or ask a question in the illustration. I picture CINDERS riding her sleigh on the way to the ball. She is wrapped in a down feather cape so her dress isn't a giveaway. I saved the dress for when she stuns the revelers at the ball with her entrance. After seeing the gorgeously lavish and elegant fancy dresses in the St. Petersburg, Russia museums, it was hard to choose the right one. I finally chose white, because it looks innocent and Prince Cockerel was after all looking for a bride. I did add some pink feathers and rubies for glamour. I love working on the final drawings, it's my favorite time in the creation process. The best part is when I start with the basic concept and then as I paint it goes in an unexpected direction. Memories of my trip to Russia flood back to me as well as the happy times I've sat on a hay bale in my chicken barn in the midst of my flock. After the chickens realize I'm not bringing them a treat or (horrors! trimming their beaks and toenails) they hop all around me, often flying onto my shoulder acknowledging it makes a nice perch. The most curious are the young males, or cockerels who often fly up to my shoulder or onto my head. It is interesting to see who's the boss, because it changes from time to time in what season it is.
As CINDERS gets completed, my new story for 2014 is evolving and I have a go-ahead for my editor. It is about the wild animal's Santa, who is a snowy owl.
This is Jan Brett wishing a creative fall as the days get shorter until December and our imaginations, larger!