Every month I stop everything in order to write an update on my progress with my
current children's book. I am at my favorite stage right now - the coloring! I
say that jokingly as I remember back at a book signing when a very adorable and
serious child gave me a very big compliment. He said, "He liked my coloring!" I
smile when I think back, because I could sense that this child really loved to
draw, and get lost in the same world that I like to get lost in, our self-made
place where you can design the props, and weather, construct the characters and
the costumes, and create the drama and lessons learned.
I won't be the first to try and describe that transition, but many tales will
begin with getting lost in the woods, falling asleep or finding and touching a
magic something. Today there is the constant patter of rain on the roof and it
hasn't rained in a while. It makes me remember books (with illustrations) I
haven't looked at in years. I have a huge library and I love going to antique
stores and finding books, especially ones with embossed covers that when opened,
emit that sweet old book smell. Somehow, evoking that feeling of time standing
still as a book casts its spell on you inspires me to raise the bar a little
higher when I'm painting. Perhaps the hardest balance to achieve is that of
creative energy and deadlines. This other worldly feeling of living in the
story, needs to be respected when rushing through would diminish the outcome.
I once read an essay by author Amy Tan who said after the huge success of THE
JOY LUCK CLUB, that she had to work with earphones on, playing music, so she
wouldn't hear the voices of others, especially critics in her head. I'm sure she
meant positive comments as well. Part of the excitement is having one's own
voice be heard, and following it.
I'm working on a Russian folktale called THE TURNIP and relying on the books I
brought back from Saint Petersburg on a trip three years ago. One shows pages
and pages of weathered, ornate ornamental wood work. Another is filled with
traditional clothes in bright colors and folkloric patterns. One of my biggest
influences for this book are the remarkable colors of a certain variety of
turnip that features violet at the top, that contrast wonderfully with the green
tops, and then fades to ivory, which then darkens to an amber gold. My book
starts at harvest season as a Badger family try and pull up the giant turnip,
but as the day wears on it starts to snow. The blue-white of the snow makes the
turnip colors even more unusual. Mother nature sends us the most imaginative and
inspiring gifts of all when it comes to creative color choices!
I'll spend the next few months trying to hold onto my ideas as I finish the
final spreads, and I'll look forward to the book tour for this year's book, THE
ANIMALS' SANTA that will begin on the day after Thanksgiving.