Every month I stop everything in order to write an update on my progress with my current children's book. I am at my favorite stage right now - the coloring! I say that jokingly as I remember back at a book signing when a very adorable and serious child gave me a very big compliment. He said, "He liked my coloring!" I smile when I think back, because I could sense that this child really loved to draw, and get lost in the same world that I like to get lost in, our self-made place where you can design the props, and weather, construct the characters and the costumes, and create the drama and lessons learned.
I won't be the first to try and describe that transition, but many tales will begin with getting lost in the woods, falling asleep or finding and touching a magic something. Today there is the constant patter of rain on the roof and it hasn't rained in a while. It makes me remember books (with illustrations) I haven't looked at in years. I have a huge library and I love going to antique stores and finding books, especially ones with embossed covers that when opened, emit that sweet old book smell. Somehow, evoking that feeling of time standing still as a book casts its spell on you inspires me to raise the bar a little higher when I'm painting. Perhaps the hardest balance to achieve is that of creative energy and deadlines. This other worldly feeling of living in the story, needs to be respected when rushing through would diminish the outcome.
I once read an essay by author Amy Tan who said after the huge success of THE JOY LUCK CLUB, that she had to work with earphones on, playing music, so she wouldn't hear the voices of others, especially critics in her head. I'm sure she meant positive comments as well. Part of the excitement is having one's own voice be heard, and following it.
I'm working on a Russian folktale called THE TURNIP and relying on the books I brought back from Saint Petersburg on a trip three years ago. One shows pages and pages of weathered, ornate ornamental wood work. Another is filled with traditional clothes in bright colors and folkloric patterns. One of my biggest influences for this book are the remarkable colors of a certain variety of turnip that features violet at the top, that contrast wonderfully with the green tops, and then fades to ivory, which then darkens to an amber gold. My book starts at harvest season as a Badger family try and pull up the giant turnip, but as the day wears on it starts to snow. The blue-white of the snow makes the turnip colors even more unusual. Mother nature sends us the most imaginative and inspiring gifts of all when it comes to creative color choices!
I'll spend the next few months trying to hold onto my ideas as I finish the final spreads, and I'll look forward to the book tour for this year's book, THE ANIMALS' SANTA that will begin on the day after Thanksgiving.