Happy January,

     I am all cozied in to spend hours painting THE TALE Of THE TIGER SLIPPERS. I'm finishing up on the front jacket, and it has to be perfect in my mind's eye. The book designer at Penguin Putnam, Marikka, has chosen an inspired display type for me to work with. For someone who is illustrating their first book, or even appreciating their favorites, it is easy to underestimate how important the display type is. First and foremost, it has to command the viewer's attention. Sometimes a design will purposely use a scrawled informal script, that catches your attention by being different, or a type emblazoned with metallic foil that will draw the eye. But whatever direction, an eye-catching typeface will fulfill the first order of business, which is "look at me" My style, which is detailed but I hope invitational as well relies on beauty. I at least strive toward that end. As a child I was always put off by oversimplified or funny/frenzied jacket art. I remember thinking some books "tried to hard" I always hold my 6 year old self closely when working on a book jacket!
     Specifically, with my Tiger book I will rely on some of my research about Mughal India to help me with the style and details. The Mughal emperors, who were great patrons of art     also loved jewels. There are many portraits of the rulers wearing strands of pearls, and kingly or queenly precious stones, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds as turban adornments, often with a feather, or sometimes in the hand as if just being in the presence of such a rare thing should be commemorated. I adorned my book jacket with precious stones as well. As a personal note, one of the books I most treasured growing up was TALES FROM THE ARABIAN NIGHTS, retold by Shirley Goulden and illustrated by Ben Venuti, given to me by my Grandmother. It's display type is decorated with precious stones. Marikka's type face is nice and bold, using orange and black, but she changes the style of the lettering within the title to vary the impact and then with a touch of whimsy shadows the letters with piercingly pink striping. The graphic and slightly circusy effect puts a little mystery and wonder in the works. I decided to paint a headshot of my leading character, a baby tiger. and have redone it quite a few times to get the right mix of appealing but also of integrity. His story is going to be worth your while! I have also added simplified peacock feathers in the border to project the message that the story inside will take place in India, as complex and storied place as any in the world. The Mughal rulers embraced many cultures and religions, and I have relied on the artwork from the 1600's to guide me, Indian miniatures of the Mughal Court.
      One of my favorite world designs, the paisley was originally going to appear in the borders of my book, but I found that paisley appeared much later, popular under British rule, so paisley designs would not work in my timeframe for the book. Actually, going to India and seeing the flora and fauna was very helpful, and whenever I am in a quandary about a design element I would remember our wildlife tours. When we saw tigers in the wild, I was amazed to see the environs look more like Rhode Island than the Disney version of THE JUNGLE BOOK.
       Travel to India was the inspiration for the colors in this book, I doubt if I could have come up with combinations myself. It makes me incredulous that artists who lived hundreds of years ago can envelope me in their unique vision of beauty in such a vibrant way.
       Have fun creating your own imagined places, your friend, Jan Brett