This is my new hedge-a-gram, the time I take every month to relay my book
making activities. The Tiger story I have had in my mind for 5 years has
finally metamorphosized into a dummy. In book terms, a dummy is 32 pages of full
color thumbnail sketches made into a small coverless book. Although everyone
doesn't actually make signatures (groups of 4 pages) and sew them into a 32 page
booklet, it really helps me to sequence the illustrations in a page turning
format rather than a group of illustrations. When I do the final illustrations I
will display them on a huge bulleton board within sight of my art desk. There is
always that moment of excitement when the first folded and gathered pages come
from the printer for me to check. Many times the illustrations look different in
a book format. Hopefully better!
Because I visualize a story in pictures rather than a manuscript I decided
to present my Tiger story as a dummy. I went to Penguin Random House to have a
meeting with my editor and art director to see if they liked it. I had only told
them the basic idea, and referenced the Middle Eastern tale it was inspired by.
Although my story is hardly recognizable from the original tale I wanted my
editor to know the changes I would be making.
I travelled to India 4 years ago to research the main characters, Tigers,
and see firsthand the flora and fauna in the huge game reserves of Kanha
National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, and Panna National Park in Madhya
Pradesh Province. The trip was very fruitful because we saw Tigers, smaller cats
and many animals and birds I would populate my story with.
My story takes place in that region, but far back in time. Jokingly I say "a
time when Tigers wore clothes and Peacocks talked!" In other words it is set in
a world made up with children in mind.
I spent many hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in their Asiatic
and Middle Eastern rooms being transported by the exquisite Court Paintings.
There are many schools of painting although the flowering of the art was
arguably in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when Princes and people of wealth
could enable artists to create. Some of the most wonderful paintings are of
wildlife but both Persian and Indian court painting are equally stunning when
depicting portraits, scenes of everyday life and illustrating stories. It was an
emotional experience to see these paintings that are so vibrant they look like
the paint had dried only minutes before. I felt such kinship with these long
dead artists it almost makes me believe in reincarnation.
I was so pleased to find the Met had a wonderful bookstore, and many of the
treasures I had seen in the galleries could be studied when I got home. I will
by no means copy the style but there will be something of color palettes and
techniques that will stay in my mind even if I didn't want them to. The art was
very indelible to some deep part of my imagination. There is a great sense of
freedom one experiences by viewing magnificent art from another culture. I
especially love the subtler expressions and character the artists achieved in
the portraits done in profile. Western art loves front on faces I think. I was
lucky the Met bookstore mailed my books to me because I made quite a haul. Now
it is on to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where I went to the Museum
School, to see their collection.
My meeting with editor and art director was very productive. We discussed
trim size. The shape and size of a book tells a bit about what's inside. Beatrix
Potter,(my most admired illustrator) famously made little books for little
hands. I will continue with my larger sized books so I have room for the
borders. I like to think when the book is opened wide, and a child focuses in,
that they feel like at any moment they could walk into the page. How wonderful
books are that they can take hold of our imaginations and give us worlds we
could have never imagined for ourselves.
Happy creating and enjoying the beauty in the world around you.
Your friend, Jan