February Hedge a gram

     This is my February Hedge a gram, when I share my art routine with kids that are interested in what's it like to be a children's book author and illustrator.
     I've just seen the proofs from next fall's book, The Umbrella.  The printing company does a practice run so the art director at my publisher, Cecilia can check them.    Because she is trained at correcting the proofs she can see things that I would miss.  Did you know only four colors are used to print a book?  All the colors you see are combinations of red, called magenta, yellow, and blue, called cerise, plus black.  Also the paper the image is printed on has an effect.  Cecilia balances the colors and makes sure they are lined up properly.  She does this with a jeweler's loop, that is like having extremely high power glasses.  I'll look at the proofs too.
     I'm also working on the end papers of my book.  Often the end papers are a plain color that we think frames the inside art, and creates an effect.  In On Noah's Ark the end papers were the silvery blue of rain.  The Umbrella takes place in the cloud forest of Costa Rica and I wanted to re-create that moment of mystery when you enter a world of green.  The end papers for The Umbrella will be many, many leaves and tree trunks all in shades of green.  Everything will be vegetation except pairs of eyes peeking through.
     I am going to Africa later this month to get ideas for my next book.  I am admiring of the beautiful handmade baskets we saw on our last trip to Botswana.  They are made from palm leaves that have been dyed by different roots and berries.  The colors are rich and subtle.  A reader wrote to me about these baskets and told me some of the names for the patterns they are woven in, one was "Elephant's Tears" and another was "Head of the Zebra".    I would like to put this beautiful work in the border of my book.  I also loved the Guinea Fowl we saw in Africa.  Like the Zebra, the Guineas blend into the environment perfectly.   But when you get close, their patterning is stunning.  The Guinea's feathers are black with white polka dots.  I collect feathers because I think they are so beautiful and I can't wait to draw them.
    In Africa you have to wear a shade hat.  On our last rip, I brought my hat from home.  It has a gorgeous feather that I found on the ground near our house in Norwell and stuck in the band.  It's all stripped and I'm guessing it came from a hawk.  On the way home from Africa, we passed through customs.  A big sign said, "$10,000.00 fine for bringing hides or feathers out of Africa."  I was worried the customs person might think my hawk feather came from Africa!   Luckily, no one checked, but on this trip, I'm leaving my feathers at home!
     Going on a trip like this is like a treasure hunt for images.  I will be looking for different kinds of habitat for my book, Papyrus swamp, termite mounds, a Baobab tree and a sausage tree.  I'll be hoping to see a Honey Guide bird and a Honey Badger -- two animals that will be important in my book.  I'll be looking for a house typical of rural Botswana and a little boy who will inspire me.  We have a plan to go back and see Doug and Sandi Groves' semi-habituated elephants because I couldn't illustrate a book about Africa without painting in that magnificent creature.  I know right now, the hardest thing to do will be to decide what animals to leave out of my book!
     I hope when you read about my plans, a little voice is saying that you can do it too.  Kids have the best imaginations, and are always ready to take on new ideas.  Join me in telling a story, doing a little fun research in order to learn about your subject and then settle in to write or draw a unique book of your own!
    Good luck and happy drawing.
                                  Your friend,

                                      Jan Brett