Happy January!

       This is my January Hedge a gram, the time each month I stop working on my book and give you an update on the work I'm doing.  
      I'm painting very intensely the finishes of my 2013 picture book, CINDERS A CHICKEN CINDERELLA, set in olden days Russia. Most of the interior spreads are finished, I have four more to go. The jacket, probably the most crucial art in the book is finished.   Marikka, one of the talented designers at my publisher, Penguin Putnam, has shown me the final design of the jacket. The "display type" is what the the letters spelling the title of my book is called.  Marikka found a type face in a giant book of different type faces that looked like it came out of a fairy tale. Then a calligrapher, a person who artfully forms letters with strokes of a special pen wrote out the title and my name using the type face as a guide. The calligrapher can pull the letters closer or further apart to balance them perfectly.  If you are illustrating a story of your own, the cover of a book report, or any art that incorporates lettering, you have the opportunity to reflect the content with the style of lettering.  For example, if you are writing something short and humorous, like a funny short story, you might choose an informal lettering style.  If you were writing a story about dragons, for another example, you could be a little playful and decorate the display type with reptilian scales.  Let's say you were writing about volcanoes.  The display type could be smokey and vaporous on the top of each letter, and the gray could turn to a molten orangey red an the bottom of each letter.  Next time you are in a bookstore you can see the work of some of the world?s most talented book designers on the jackets of the books.  The size and shape of the letters are important, as well as where they are placed on the jacket, and the color too. Sometimes its easy to guess what kind of book it is by the display type.
     In this book, I have added a fold out page showing the fancy ball at the ice palace, the place where Cinders meets the Prince Cockerel.  I needed a lot of extra room to show the chickens in all their finery dancing and swirling to the music.  Normally, a children's picture book has 32 pages, but in this one instance the printer will configure the dimension of the pages so they will open up from a folded position so I will have twice as much space to draw the dancing chickens. When the pages are folded, it will look like two ornate doors carved out of ice. I admire all the different breeds of fancy chickens, and it was fun painting them and choosing ball gowns for the hens and elegant jackets and britches for the roosters. When my husband Joe and I were in St. Petersburg Russia last spring, we visited the Museum of Ethnography, where I was able to see close up, and from all sides, the traditional dress from many parts of Russia. During early January I'm visiting my daughter and her family in Okinawa, Japan. During the long flight, and a few hours each day, I work on the doors to the ice palace. Because they're ice I mainly use the colors; ultramarine blue (a deep icy blue) Prussian blue (a turquoisey blue),Van Dyke brown(the color of coffee), and Viridian green( a mineral green with not much yellow in it).  I only need a very small palette to hold those four colors and that makes it easy to balance everything when painting in a small space.  I also brought a special lamp that mimics natural daylight, and it takes up almost a whole suitcase. In case you have never noticed, the light bulbs in the lamps one uses can make colors look different.
     Besides working on the finishes for CINDERS I am working on the manuscript for a book titled THE ANIMAL'S SANTA , hopefully for 2014. One night last summer, at about 12:00 AM I got an idea that intrigued me so much I had to write it down.  This never happens to me because my mind is most ready to be creative in the morning.  I couldn't stop writing until the whole story was written down. My editor Margaret likes it but she doesn?t think its quite complete.  During my trip I will work on it by reading it over and perhaps doing a simple dummy version of the book. This is probably one of the more difficult parts about creating a book. The publisher is the final decider so I must push myself more than I normally would to get the results that will make us both happy!
     Since it is the first month of the New Year, I make a New Year?s resolution. This year I'm going to be more prompt about answering emails and phone calls.  I am going to pick up my art desk and surrounding work space more often and not be late on my book next year.  Those are very difficult goals for me.
     I hope you will begin an exciting new creative project as well.  Happy New Year!

       Your friend, Jan Brett