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
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