Every month I write a little about what is going on in my professional life
for all those interested in the process of writing and illustrating a children's
book. July holds a special place in my heart because of independence day. My
daughter retired from the Marine Corps a year ago after 22 years. I feel very
fortunate to have met her colleagues in the Marines. They are some of the most
outstanding people I have met. The Marine Corps is an amazing institution
because it is based on merit and motivation.
Writing from our cabin in the Berkshire hills in western, Massachusetts,
where we spend the summer, is very conducive to my illustrating. I get lots of
exercise which is great for my mood, and helps balance all the sitting I do at
my art desk. I go to my husband Joe`s concerts with the Boston Symphony, but
most of the time I can really focus on my work. When I talk to school children,
or on my book tour I always find myself mentioning that when illustrating a book
you are creating a world. One needs first, imagination and second lots of alone
time to sink into another realm. I should also add that reading books, and
loving books since childhood has opened the path for writing my own.
I have been writing and illustrating a book a year for 38 years, and I can't
take credit for all the planning and inspiration. It is hard to put into words,
but once a person puts their mind into a creative project, another less
conscious force kicks in and in the best of times this state of mind expands and
propels ones work.
It is rather mysterious!
Some of my my books are set in familiar territory, snowy scenes, and
northern places, like Scandinavia. I love snow, and some people expect snowy
books from me. But for every beautiful snowflake and snow covered tree there are
beautiful flowers, birds and creatures that live in warmer places. This year s
book is set in India, in the distant past. I like to say ''In a time when tigers
wore clothes and peacocks spoke''. I have been pouring over my art books on
Mughal paintings and Indian Court paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries
and my mind does a leap every time I open their pages. I remember loving and
wanting to emulate the Persian miniatures I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in
Boston as a child and later as a student at the Museum School. Looking back I
feel like I was walking next to a treasure trove that I didn't explore. I love
the opaque watercolor technique and fine detail. The color palette is very
different than European art. If it were music,European art seems more in a major
chord and the Mughal sensibility is in more of a minor chord. I see similarities
with the Japanese coloration. I may have bitten off more than I can chew,
because a through study of the artwork created during this time would be vast
and complex. I will rely on our trip to central India to Madhya Pradesh to help
me along with the wildlife and especially tigers, who are the central characters
of my story. I dearly wish I could take another trip to take notes on flowers,
trees and gardens as I fixated on birds and animals on my trip. It is all alot
to take in.
My illustrations so far have taken about twice as long as I planned, and I
dearly hope as the book gets rolling I will speed up. In the meantime it is
exciting and inspiring to explore my new world.
Happy reading, your friend, Jan Brett