December Hedge a Gram

Happy December,

In December we experience the shortest day of the year. It reminds me of the trip my husband Joe and I took, above the Arctic Circle to Alta Norway to get ideas for my new book Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve. The Norwegian folk tale I was illustrating is set at Christmas time. In northern Norway, the sun doesn't appear above the horizon at this time of year. I wanted to experience what it would be like. It wasn't gloomy or scarry and I didn't feel sleepy all the time. The snow covered landscape reflected the light in the atmosphere. The moon and the stars seemed more noticeable and important.

I have never seen so many shades of blue! From 1100AM until 200PM the sky would get lighter and the clouds at the horizon would turn pink and red as if the sun would rise, but, then it wouldn't. Light became a precious thing, and the candles in people's houses could be seen for miles. It made the houses look very cozy, as if inside the people were gathering around the fireplace for a good story, probably about trolls!

I think going to Norway influenced the colors I chose to illustrate my story. I tried to create many shades of blue. Art teachers might call that a limited palette. In other words, I chose a few colors that appear and reappear in my pictures.

Here's my challenge to you - look over your art materials, it could be colored pencils, crayons, or markers. Choose a color, and then add shades of that color. For example, you could chose dark forest green, medium green, and chartreuse, which is yellow green. Add a few accent colors, maybe yellow and black. When you work on your picture limit yourself to these colors. I think you'll stretch the way you express yourself. Remember any color will work, shades of red or brown or blue.

As you know, my hedge a gram is the time I take to tell young people about my life as an illustrator. Right now, I'm finishing the jacket of my fall 2003 book, On Noah's Ark. Usually about three quarters of the way through my book, it snaps into focus. Now, all of a sudden, new ideas are springing up. Part of being a professional is delivering my book on time, so you can see this part of my craft can be challenging.

I hope that you'll take time to look at the sky on a clear night. Happy drawing!

Bye for now,

Your friend,

Jan Brett