Every month I gather my thoughts and respond to the questions I am asked about my life as a children's book illustrator and author. I am happiest and am on firmer ground when talking about the illustration, because it has been a lifelong goal and achievement to illustrate children's picture books. I think it is the best way I've found of expressing myself because whatever I start out drawing, maybe someone asks me to create a logo, or I try to do a portrait, the artwork seems to metamorphosize into an illustrated story,
I am at my most happiest time in the creative process .Most of my tiger book, THE TALE OF THE TIGER SLIPPERS is well under way. I have a whole shelf of books about Mughal Court art and books about Indian flora and fauna, especially birds. Some of the pages have taken weeks because of the details, and some seem to form themselves. That happens when I get a grasp on the material and I start feeling like I live in the world I am creating. I am so grateful for the trip we took to Magnar Pradesh in central India. India has such a rich and diverse history, and the country has so many geographic areas I am glad my book is a work of fiction. I use my many art books to stay informed and my editor is arranging for a scholar of the art period to look over my art and see if everything I've imagined feels authentic.
The other piece that allows me to feel excited and revved up is next year's project, set in Alaska and featuring a Musk Ox named Cozy. We are hoping for a visit to the Musk Ox farm in Palmer, Alaska. Palmer is located in a beautiful valley just north of Anchorage famous for it's agriculture, giant vegetable and Musk Ox Farm. When we visited on the recommendation of my daughter and son in law who are Alaska residents we went on a tour of the farm and got very close to mothers, magnificent snorting males and adorable yearlings. Every year the youngsters are named according to a theme. Our family adopted a youngster for a year, her name is Teal. She is named after John Teal whose brainchild it was to domesticate Musk Ox and reintroduce wild ones back into Alaska where they originally lived. I am a little vague about calling the creatures bulls and cows because although they resemble a Bison in some ways like in the shape of their bodies, they are more like a cross between a wild sheep and a wild goat covered with masses of long thick fiber unlike any other. The fiber is long, silky and warm, so much so that the native Musk Ox was killed off in the late 1800's. As far as being a character, they are very appealing, nimble despite their bulkiness, with horns that curve downward around the face and then turn up, giving the appearance of a Dutch girl's cap. They have intelligent peering eyes and big lovable noses. When we visited, guided by a friendly biologist we saw all kinds of action and antics in the beautiful meadows where they live, surrounded by mountain peaks. The historic farm houses a small museum about the Musk Oxen and the beautiful "artic lace" knitted by Alaska's traditional craft women each people offering a different pattern. When at the farm I bought some qiviut, the fiber, and on my bus tour I will attempt a lace scarf. I hope to see the Musk Ox in the snow, that is probably guaranteed as long as I can schedule a visit.
I am starting to get ready for the book tour that starts the day after Thanksgiving. I love to have a chance to talk about creating a book, forming the idea, putting together the "book dummy? (or cartoon book) and also doing a drawing. The drawing will be of Hedgie of course since the book js just out, that I'll be signing is THE SNOWY NAP. I can't wait to get on that big bus and meet book lovers from across the country. Please come if you can, you will be welcomed!
Your friend, Jan Brett