June Hedge a gram
This is Jan Brett with my June hedge a gram. Follow along with me every
month and I will give you an overview of how my children's picture books are
created. It doesn't matter if you are under contract, creating a picture book
of your own, or have a similar creative project, especially a story for a school
assignment. Many of the hurdles and problem solving are the same, as well as
excitement of putting together the pieces that make up a work of art.
I am retelling the Cinderella story, with a cast of chickens. The book
will be set in the palaces of St. Petersburg Russia. I have many chickens
myself, and I'm fascinated by their luminous plumage and characterfulness. The
personalities within the flock vary according to age, gender, and breed, and it
is very easy to imagine them in humanlike interactions. The romances, petty
jealousies and overreaching maternal instincts are just a few of the transparent
behaviors the chickens exhibit that bring to mind human counterparts. The
Cinderella story tells of a young girl who was shoved aside and treated meanly
by her stepmother and the stepmother's daughters, but in the end she perseveres
and makes a happy life for herself. In my backyard chicken barn, there is a
pecking order too, but as the chicken's overseer, I try to arrange things so
that no chicken gets bullied!
Besides creating overdrawn personalities for my chicken characters, I'll be
dressing them in outlandishly dramatic ball gowns. The guys will have an
elegant on ornate jackets and britches. I'll be going to St. Petersburg this
month to study the traditional dress and decide where on the scale between
colorful folk dress from the provinces and extravagant court dress my chickens
be dressed in.
The festive ball were Cinderella meets the Prince will be set in an ice
palace - completely concocted of ice and snow, but in the architecture of
northwestern Russia. The onion domes, wooden gingerbread trim, and fanciful
woodwork will be studied and turned to ice in my illustrations.
Every ball has music for the dancing, and one of my goals is to go to a
balalaika concert in St. Petersburg. I saw the movie Dr. Zhivago in my late
teens and I love the soundtrack as well as the sleighs pulled by three horses
and the accompanying bells. Luckily there are scenes in my Cinderella story
where I can paint the balalaika musicians as well as a three horse sleigh.
I'm going to Russia specifically to get ideas for my book, but that doesn't
mean that I'm not excited about going to Russia just for the experience of it.
I wrote my version of the story a while ago, and I finished my book dummy last
month. My dummies are rough draft books that are smaller than the final
version, but they have 32 pages sewn together like a real book and are quite
elaborate. After reviewing the dummy with my editor and art director I change
the art around. The best part is that I've written the text so I can lengthen
it and shorten it to accommodate the scenes that I visualize. I had an idea to
make a foldout page, showing the chicken ball with lots of varieties of chicken
breeds dancing to a balalaika orchestra. It will probably take a month to draw,
but it will create the atmosphere I'm hoping for. This week I'll start my first
page of finished art I can't wait. I went to the art store and bought new
brushes and I have stacks of brand-new and vintage books about Russian
traditional dress and architecture. I'm ready to go!
I hope you think of a story to illustrate or write that pulls in a new
frame of reference for you, it's exhilarating!
Happy creating, your friend,