This is my February hedge-a-gram, the time I take to give a picture of what
is current in my life as an author/illustrator. When I was an aspiring
illustrator, I took to heart any information I could get on the profession. I
hope my thoughts will help you achieve your goals, or at least give some
understanding about creating children's picture books.
I am currently reading a revealing and thoughtful biography of Beatrix
Potter, my idol in the field. It is by Linda Lear, and was given to me by an
artist cousin, Judy Haas who is known for her trout pastels. She makes the
pastels herself and I am lucky enough to own one of her originals. My sister,
Jeannie Brett, also a children's book illustrator visited Beatrix Potter's house
in the Lake Country in England. I am eager to make that pilgrimage myself. The
most admired talent had, among many, was her relationship with her child
readers. She had great respect for them, and never made her books too precious
or too simple. I am a big beliver in not dumbing down children's literature and
I often wonder if I feel that way because of two important influences, Beatrix
Potter and her great champion, my mother, Jean Brett.
These thoughts are very important at the moment because at the beginning of
the month I passed in my last page of art for GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS that will
come out next fall. I did the endpapers last. I have the option of having
illustrated endpapers or not, but I find it fulfilling to create a mood filled,
light hearted addition to the story in the endpapers for Christmas. I have
showed the musical instruments as they have come out of the oven, and then
facing each on "flopped" as the say in the design world, the same instrument
after it has been decorated. The background is white frosting, and I've
scattered candy decorations, all around them, and musical notes.
I hope someday music will be written to go with my story. My mother, who
was a teacher, always had a piano in her classroom. She never missed an
opportunity to play a tune on the piano and teach her students a song. Music is
a big part of my life, my husband being a double bass player in the Boston
Symphony. I have had many a great idea listening to the exciting and varying
programs in Symphony Hall.
This week, I'm planning a trip to the Boston Aquarium, a world class
aqua-museum not far from where we live. I'm going to see the octopus and peruse
their book section. My new book, and under-the-sea Goldilocks envisions her
exploration of the Three Octopus' sea shell and coral house. I've set the book
in Okinawa, a Japanese island placed in the Southern part of the archipelago.
My daughter and husband, and two children have just moved back to the US after
living in Okinawa. We all just loved it there. It was their trips snorkeling,
and they inviting me to go along that have inspired an undersea book. Although
the tropical beauty of the creatures is very daunting to paint. I feel similar
to when I saw the incandescent hummingbirds in Costa Rica. Some of the
creatures such as corals, nudibrach (sea slugs - yes they are often beautiful)
and ornamental sea worms are so colorful that I worry if I paint them, no one
will believe they really exist. And that is if I can paint them! The colors
are so intense I don't know if I can come close.
I will spend the next few weeks sketching my little mermaid. Because she
lives in Japan/Southeast Asia, I would like her to look Asian. On the other
hand she is called Goldilocks so her hair color will have to be ...gold! I
would like the tail portion to be similar to some of the reef fish in Okinawa.
In my mind, as in keeping with the traditional tale, she will be a child, rather
than a teenager or young woman.
Not only does my Goldilocks character give me many choices, but Octopus are
even more varied. A single octopus can not only change color, but its skin can
form textures. Luckily, in the story there is a father, large, a mother,
medium, and a baby small. When I saw a baby octopus in the ocean around
Okinawa, it was lightly sand colored, with speckles.
There are beautiful shells in the water around Okinawa, and in my story, I
would like her to leave a beautiful shell for the octopus family when she exits
their beautiful watery house. I brought back many shells and pieces of coral
from Okinawa, never imagining I would use them in a book. Sometimes, I'm
critical of myself for collecting all sorts of stuff. Now I am very happy I
Good luck with your collecting if its collecting words, shells, feathers,
or whatever, maybe it will become something new and beautiful with your