June Hedge a gram

 Happy June!

     This is Jan Brett with my June hedge a gram.  Follow along with me every month and I will give you an overview of how my children's picture books are created.  It doesn't matter if you are under contract, creating a picture book of your own, or have a similar creative project, especially a story for a school assignment.  Many of the hurdles and problem solving are the same, as well as excitement of putting together the pieces that make up a work of art.
     I am retelling the Cinderella story, with a cast of chickens.  The book will be set in the palaces of St. Petersburg Russia.  I have many chickens myself, and I'm fascinated by their luminous plumage and characterfulness.  The personalities within the flock vary according to age, gender, and breed, and it is very easy to imagine them in humanlike interactions.  The romances, petty jealousies and overreaching maternal instincts are just a few of the transparent behaviors the chickens exhibit that bring to mind human counterparts.  The Cinderella story tells of a young girl who was shoved aside and treated meanly by her stepmother and the stepmother's daughters, but in the end she perseveres and makes a happy life for herself.  In my backyard chicken barn, there is a pecking order too, but as the chicken's overseer, I try to arrange things so that no chicken gets bullied!
     Besides creating overdrawn personalities for my chicken characters, I'll be dressing them in outlandishly dramatic ball gowns.  The guys will have an elegant on ornate jackets and britches.  I'll be going to St. Petersburg this month to study the traditional dress and decide where on the scale between colorful folk dress from the provinces and extravagant court dress my chickens be dressed in.
     The festive ball were Cinderella meets the Prince will be set in an ice palace - completely concocted of ice and snow, but in the architecture of northwestern Russia.  The onion domes, wooden gingerbread trim, and fanciful woodwork will be studied and turned to ice in my illustrations.
     Every ball has music for the dancing, and one of my goals is to go to a balalaika concert in St. Petersburg.  I saw the movie Dr. Zhivago in my late teens and I love the soundtrack as well as the sleighs pulled by three horses and the accompanying bells.  Luckily there are scenes in my Cinderella story where I can paint the balalaika musicians as well as a three horse sleigh.
     I'm going to Russia specifically to get ideas for my book, but that doesn't mean that I'm not excited about going to Russia just for the experience of it.  I wrote my version of the story a while ago, and I finished my book dummy last month.  My dummies are rough draft books that are smaller than the final version, but they have 32 pages sewn together like a real book and are quite elaborate.  After reviewing the dummy with my editor and art director I change the art around.  The best part is that I've written the text so I can lengthen it and shorten it to accommodate the scenes that I visualize.  I had an idea to make a foldout page, showing the chicken ball with lots of varieties of chicken breeds dancing to a balalaika orchestra.  It will probably take a month to draw, but it will create the atmosphere I'm hoping for.  This week I'll start my first page of finished art I can't wait.  I went to the art store and bought new brushes and I have stacks of brand-new and vintage books about Russian traditional dress and architecture.  I'm ready to go!
     I hope you think of a story to illustrate or write that pulls in a new frame of reference for you, it's exhilarating!

                                                    Happy creating, your friend,

                                                       Jan Brett