This is Jan Brett and I'm going to give you an
update on my work as a children's illustrator and author. My book year begins in
late January, when I write up a manuscript, and ends in mid-December when I
finished my final illustrations.
I work on the jacket of my book in October so my
publisher, Penguin Putnam, can start rolling on presenting the book to buyers.
I've been home for one week after a 2 1/2 week book tour. I spoke to different
journalists and interviewers in the weeks that preceded the tour. I'm very glad
to be back at work on HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Just before I went on the trip, I
brought the nine finished spreads to New York City to show my editor, and art
director and designer, as well as a sketch for the jacket. No matter how good
copies are, or how long a telephone call is, there is no substitute for showing
the actual artwork and discussing it face-to-face. It is an intense time. It is
difficult to keep an open mind when I've invested so much time and effort into
my book. However, the team I work with has a tremendous amount of talent and
experience. I often go from feeling despondent to exhilarated and back again.
Most times I leave New York in a positive state of mind, but utterly exhausted.
The experience of looking at one's characters and artistic ideas through another
person's eyes is illuminating. It is funny how an image can be jarring even if
it is out of proportion a bit, or an expression is off. I spent a week or more
on each double page spread, so it's easy to accept things in a picture just
because I've seen them over and over that is why I welcome my colleague's
The designer, Marikka, is tremendously talented, and
has a whimsical and buoyant approach to designing the typeface and display type.
She will work very hard to make things work. I've just received a design sketch
of the jacket which will tell me how much room I have for the art. The publisher
asked that my name appear above the title which gives me more room for the art
at the bottom of the jacket. Last year, we changed the jacket at the last
minute, making lots of extra work for Marikka and for me. I'm hoping to get the
jacket right the first time.
I'm looking forward to planning a great big moose face
in a snowy background for the jacket. Often people ask me why I always write
snowy books. It's really not true, because only about one half of my books are
snowy. I think it's because my artwork is very detailed and busy. Snow makes a
good contrast and gives the image a chance to shine. When I was little, I would
fill up every last inch of paper. Now, I edit heavily, and use snow to simplify
things! Sand works too!
Now that I'm home, and have started to work on the
jacket, I can reflect on the people I met at my book signings. I was thrilled to
see kid's drawings. Some were done during my presentation, when I gave an art
lesson, and some were masterpieces the kids did at home. I'm so wowed by the
imagination and exuberance of style that seems to come so naturally to children.
I always think of the fairy tales that have a scene when the fairy godmother
gives a gift to the child character. I wish I could wave a magic wand and give
children the gift of time. It's in our nature to imagine, transform and create.
I think of the real people I've known on Earth, and there are as many fictional
people in my mind that seem as present. I like to think the children will have
the time to go into themselves and create characters that will someday be as
My mother, who taught three-year-olds, encouraged me
and my sisters to draw but she didn't believe in art lessons for young children.
I think she believed the ability to be artistic was inherent. I remember being
eager for tidbits about shading, perspective, and for shadows, but I had to
figure them out for myself, using my picture books and real life as guides.
Maybe that is why my pictures are somewhat primitive. I do know, that the one
factor that is still important is time - to feel unhurried enough to play with
ideas but still feeling the import of creating a picture. So I will sign off
wishing you some extra hours to create a memorable character in your drawing.
Good luck with your creative time and have fun, your