Happy December,
      This is my December Hedge a gram, the message I send out to future illustrators and all of you interested in how children's books are created.
      December is the month that I gather my forces for a final push to finish my current book, THE EASTER EGG.  For me, it's my favorite time of the year, because I love the painting.  Although storytelling is something I do naturally and have a fascination with, the writing down of my stories is difficult.  I know I express myself effortlessly when I draw.  Not to say I'm always satisfied, but it's more of a natural process.    Oddly, the best work doesn't always come from what seems like the easiest effort.  I once had an art director who I think believed that the best art comes from the outcome of a mental battle within ourselves.  There are lots of points of view on this.  For me, tapping into one's creativity  often involves eating something with carbs and sugar (like pancakes), exercise which involves sweating for at least an hour, and no distractions except maybe music.  Personally I like classical music like Mozart or Bach when I'm thinking  up ideas and jazz when I'm designing and, books on tape when I'm rendering or coloring in.  There are lots of things that discourage creativity for me, and one is a messy desk.  My desk has piles of stuff to do all over it.  Maybe cleaning up my desk everyday will be a good New Year's resolution!  If you are wondering about why I'm bringing up the creative process, it's because I have come back from the book tour having met so many young people with artistic talent and potential.  I think creativity is a force inside us that is just waiting to come out.  It's a chain of events that makes us feel a deep kind of happiness that doesn't have a name.
     With the Holidays coming, and possibly some extra time, I'd like to encourage you to spend some hours drawing.   You can use my How to Draw videos as a starting point, or if you like cartoons and characters, use your favorite animation to inspire you.  Here's some advice, very few artists are good at everything.  Some excel at color, others design, some can tell a story.  Try lots of techniques and points of view so you can discover where your talent is.
     If you are going to be receiving holiday gifts, here are a few recommendations for gifts that will help you draw.   A set of markers such as Prismacolor or AD markers that have a wide point on one end and a fine point on the other.  They work well with a paper with a smooth tooth or surface, as paper that is rough will absorb their ink too quickly and they will get used up.  A series of gray shades may be helpful too.   Because the markers are transparent, you can blend colors which will give you more options.  A second suggestion is high quality colored pencils with an electric pencil sharpener.  Use the pencil sharpener to get a sharp point for details, and it allows the tip to be long so you can use the pencil on its side for shading.  Don't forget a white pencil, which you can use on top of other colors.  The electric pencil sharpener is necessary because it's unproductive to have to stop and manually sharpen you pencils.  A smooth paper - even copier paper is great for pencils.
     Good luck on your creative holiday this month.
                                  Your friend,
                                   Jan Brett