August 2001 Hedge a Gram

For many months of the year I work away at the paintings that will illustrate my book. It's my favorite time. I always say it takes an hour to do an inch because many children tell me it's easier to understand how a finished book looks, when they know someone has devoted so much time to it. Right now I am working on a page full of trolls. It's especially fun because when I wrote it I imagined the illustrations to be full of silly, delicious fun.

In the text I said, "There were bat-eared trolls and bug-nosed trolls." These words let me make the trolls noses and ears any which way, since bats and bugs have any number of ear and nose types! The trolls I have in mind for my book are wild and uncivilized, but they aren't really bad, just a major nuisance. I tried to show this with humor in their body language and antics. One troll is stirring soup with his nose, another troll has proudly put an onion on each finger. Her hand looks like a tree frog paw. They are eating Kyrie's Christmas feast while breaking every rule of manners one could imagine, starting with standing on the table.

When it came to the troll's clothes, I used some guidelines I made up and some that are traditional. My trolls are very old, they live underground and they aren't very well groomed, they also have tails. They are often good gold or silversmiths, so they wear jewelry and fancy buttons. When I was in Norway I bought many books about the olden days. One had a painting from 1699, showing men, women and children. I copied the men's pleated bloomers, they domed caps and the band encircling their shoulders. Then from a 17th century tapestry, I saw in the Museum of Applied Art in Oslo I added ruffs around their necks. Of course the trolls ruffs were ragged and dirty since they would be very, very old.

As you are reading this, your imagination may be making some additions! That's your creativity going into gear. No one works in a vacuum and I hope my descriptions of page number twenty from my new book will make you want to do a drawing of your own. Whether it's dragons or unicorns, trolls or elves, mythological creatures stir us to creativity because something about them makes us ask- did something like them really exist, now lost in time? Good luck following your imagination.

By for now, your friend,


Jan Brett