January Hedge a gram
Happy New Year!
Our family celebrates two new Year's. Once on January 1st, when the
calendar changes to 2004 and a second time on January 22nd, Chinese New Year. I
usually begin a new book in January, and this year I'll sit down to retell the
story of the Honeyguide, a bird that loves to eat honeycomb. This bird lives in
Africa, and after I write my story, I'll travel to Botswana to get ideas for the
pictures. There will be lots of animals in my book, and a little girl too. My
trip will be like a treasure hunt.
Before I start on my African book, I will be putting the finishing touches
on the jacket of The Umbrella which will be published in the fall of 2004. The
large lettering or display type takes some thought. Right now, the title, "The
Umbrella" is spelled with chunky yellow letters set in a curve. They are shaded
with red just like a Toucan's large beak. They look too smooth as if they were
made in a computer or molded from plastic. After the designer gets the letters
just right, I like to paint on top with my paint brush, so they have a crafty
feel. I want them to reflect the illustrations inside. A fun exercise for you
to do is to draw an object 10 times, each time using a different style. It's
not as hard as you would think, because even when you draw something twice, it's
always a little different the second time. Artists even have a name for this
exercise, it's called variations on a theme.
A theme I like to work on is a border. My goal is to put pictures in the
border that tell a little more about the story -- things that may not fit in the
big picture. In The Umbrella, I used leaf shapes. The cloud forest, where my
story is set, is made up of trillions of leaves. Many of the leaves end in a
long point that cause the droplets of water that fall on it to drip off. My
borders are made up of leaves that end in long curly tips. Many cloud forest
plants climb up tall trees to reach the sun. They hang on with tendrils that
look like curlicues. I put the tendrils in my borders too.
Children sometimes ask, "How do I know a book has ended?" And, "How do I
know a book has begun?" My January Hedge a gram is a perfect time to answer
these questions. I'm finished when I feel I can walk right into my story. I
feel like I can smell the forest, feel the temperature of the air, and hear the
unfamiliar bird calls. I'll be saying goodbye to this year's book, The
Umbrella, soon, and it's kind of sad. I'll miss working on it. What makes me
happy is holding a Guinea Hen feather. I wrote to a man who raises Guineas and
he sent me some feathers. They are beautiful, black or grey with white polka
dots. They will decorate the border of my next book. Guinea Hens are seen
everywhere in Botswana, Africa. They're like wild chickens and everyone loves
them. That feather says my thoughts have turned to Africa, and to the new
book. That's how I know I've really begun.
Happy drawing, Happy exploring!