July 2001 Hedge a Gram

Today is 90 degrees and sunny and the illustrations I am working on are snowy and set high above the Arctic Circle in winter, where it is dark all day and all night. That's the fun of using your imagination and being a children's book illustrator.

When I was about eight and wanted a horse more than anything in the world, and my best friend Marla and I drew horses. Yankee was my horse, a sorrel with a flaxen mane and tail, four white socks and a blaze. Marla was the owner of Rebel, a dapple grey with raven black tail and mane, a white star and one white sock on the "off" or left hind foot. Marla had read the adage, "One white sock buy a horse, two white socks, try a horse, three white socks watch him go, four white socks, no, no, no!" We drew our stables, our barn colors, and even a list of famous horse ancestors.

Days would stretch into weeks as we assembled elaborate stories around our Yankee and Rebel modeled after favorite horse author's creations, Walter Farley's The Black Stallion, Margurite Henry's, King of the Wind, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty, and Maureen O'Hara's My Friend Flicka. The boy hero of My Friend Flicka lived on a ranch in Wyoming and tamed wild horses. We weren't sure if we were in love with Ken, or if we wanted to be Ken!

All these years later, some things haven't changed. Stories get assembled, a world is created, roles are tried on, wishes are painted on paper. I often wonder about the kids that today have that same interest - to create a world in their drawings. If you are a child that has this enjoyment, you have my best wishes and understanding. If you are a teacher or parent who knows a child like this how wonderful that you're in a position to offer a future illustrator or writer encouragement!

The summer months are really the only time in my professional life is like what I imagined in it would be when I was little. I have breakfast, feed my chickens, and then I draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, paint all day and all night long. My book begins to come into focus and it's a roller coaster of dismay or happiness according to how each page comes out. The amazing part is how little my feelings have changed from the days my friend and I colored in our horses with crayons and made up our special world.

By for now.

Your friend,

Jan Brett