The next few months are intense ones for me, because my deadline for GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS is looming! In some ways I welcome the pressure because I make my own hours and it is hard to say "no" to activities and invitations. A fixed finish date helps me make hard decisions. If I didn't have a finish date each book would probably take two years instead of one. I'm working on the jacket art which has been a long process. The jacket not only summarizes the book in a visual way, but it should create curiosity that will encourage the viewer to look inside. The jacket for a children's book should reveal what age the book is meant for, it's general tone for example - serious, funny, mysterious, and give a glimpse of the main characters. I hope when potential readers see my jacket they will think to themselves, "Aha! A whimsical, musical story starring Gingerbread to be read at Christmas time!"
I begin by sending several sketches to my publisher, meaning three people. My editor, the art director of the children's division, and the designer who does the type face. They all weighted in on what they liked and didn't like about the sketch, and they all gave suggestions to add to my ideas. The finished jacket, before the type was added, took about two weeks, but the reception was lukewarm and I went back to try again. I love drawing the Gingerbread Baby and all the gingerbread instruments and the borders that look like frosting. The only trouble is after working long hours, gingerbread, cupcakes, and frosting decorations keep appearing in my mind's eye, and it makes me very hungry! For me, the writing of the story is the difficult part, and the art brings the story line into focus. It is very exciting and satisfying to be at the point where I can solve problems with images, and to dwell on the positive and be inspired by how potent they can be.
Illustration is really its own language, but one that all people understand. Often one hears of a writer or artist say that their work takes on a life of its own. It is really a big mystery when it happens, but because so many experience it, I believe that it is a real thing. When I work for a publisher I have to walk a thin line. On one side, my book is a commercial enterprise. If a book is publicized and distributed well, there is a greater likelihood that more people will read it. On the other hand, schedules, criticism and questioning diminish that magical moment when the book takes flight and takes unexpected turns and deeper meaning. The Beach Boys had a hit song in the 70's called, IN MY ROOM, a beautiful song that described how a room - in my case my studio, could be a lovely familiar protected place where one's thoughts can roam and explore, an inner sanctum. I hope I can gather strength in my art space and create a strong aesthetic that will serve my book well.
The book tour will begin next month, and you can see all of the cities we will be going to on my website. I am looking forward to giving a drawing lesson and telling about my new book THE TURNIP before the booksigning at each stop. My favorite part of the booksignings are when children bring me their artwork to show me. It's inspiring and I love to match the artwork with the child. I am astounded at the innate talent so many children have.
Your friend, Jan Brett