June 2001 Hedge a Gram

It's June, but up at our lake in the Berkshire hills of Massachusetts, we would be happy in a parka and mittens! Brrr, it's cold! I'm glad to be settling down to work on my polar bear book, I can daydream while I work and remember some very happy times in May. My husband and I were invited to South Carolina as guest of Governor Jim Hodges and first lady Mrs. Rachel Hodges. We were part of a reading program called Reading with Rachel. South Carolina school children were invited to the Governor's mansion, they took a tour and learned about their state government and then, Rachel (Mrs. Hodges) and I read to everyone in a pretty garden. I told the children about how I got the idea for Hedgie's Surprise. I was amazed at all the perceptive questions, and happy to hear that almost every child had seen and held a baby chick! The publisher of Hedgie's Surprise, Penguin Putnam, gave every child their very own copy of my book. The mansion was very fancy. The palmetto is a state emblem and a beautiful clear blue is the state's color. There were palmetto's on the wallpaper and the wallpaper was blue! Even though the mansion look like it came out of the olden days, it has a modern side too. The Hodges' sons live in the mansion and they make it warm and peppy. Both boys love to read and I'm sure they will have many stories to tell about the many authors that come to visit.

Before I go on to tell about my writing and illustrating (the real purpose of the hedge a gram), I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the Country Fair Day at Thayer. We've been sending out the original artwork and signed books that were the prizes. Please double check and make cure you've emailed me if you won a prize. You can find all of the winners on my Home page. I'm excited about visiting the winning school, Parkside Elementary in Des Moines, Washington next January -- the Grand Prize winner.

Usually by this time of year, I'm working on the finishes of my book and it's starting to take shape. Stephen King the famous best-seller writer wrote that when he writes it's more like uncovering a fossil dinosaur than like building a bridge. I agree, especially at the beginning of a project. I don't want to plan for every last detail of a project because I'd miss the spontaneity of having the pictures unfold by themselves. The hardest thing for me to accept is that it takes time. I'll prop up a page so I can see it when I'm not even thinking about my work, and if I'm fortunate I get some vibes from it that will lead to paths in my imagination. Next time you do a drawing, one that you want to be a real masterpiece, tell yourself you're not going to finish it that day. Stop drawing when things are going well. Then, tape it up in your room. Think about what's going on in the picture. Please don't be too hard on yourself! Remember it's only 1/2 done. When you finish the drawing, you'll be pouring lots of new energy into it. Most professional artists don't create a work of art at one sitting, and you might like to try creating your picture in stages.

When you're finishing your work, think of someone you can give it to. Someone who is able to appreciate your thoughts on paper. Ask that person, "What are your impressions?" It's hard to describe a piece of art. The persons comments will give you some insight into your artwork. The most effective artist are the ones who can communicate visually better that any other way. You may be one of them.

Happy drawing and happy reading!

Your friend,

Jan Brett