This is my November hedge a gram - the time I take each month to tell you about what is happening in my life as an illustrator. 
     It's been quite a few months now that I have been talking about working on the finishes, or completed pages for my spring 2010 book, THE EASTER EGG.  It's probably hard to imagine that book authors and illustrators work so far in advance, or that it takes so long to paint the pictures.  I might spend the whole day just painting one rabbit holding an egg, like I did today.
     I recently went to my publisher, Penguin Putnam, in New York City to review the book pages I have done so far.  We have a huge conference table to spread the art out on and we move around the table looking at the pages, comparing one with another and trying to flag any image that looks confusing, or doesn't reflect the text.  Since I'm the author, I always have the option of changing the text, but that rarely happens by default.  Sometimes we'll change the text if it furthers the story line and gives the characters more oomph.  In one spread for example, I picture Hopi, the young rabbit racing toward a mother robin who is flying frantically around her egg which has fallen from her next.  I also drew the father robin flying around looking upset.  We decided to take out father robin because the page was overly complex.  In a few days there will be a patch of sky and ferns where father robin once flew.  One of the biggest challenges is to make the rabbits look happy.  Since rabbits have furry, puffy muzzles (the part where their whiskers stick out from), the mouth area is hidden from view.  I will try to show their expressions in their eyes.
    The editor, art director, and I looked over my jacket sketch.  It was approved and I will start on it when I come home from my book tour, which takes up a good part of November.  I have always been drawn to eggs, in all shapes and sizes, and I am looking forward to drawing a wreath of eggs around Hoppi for the jacket.
     In the last few weeks, I have been talking to journalists about my book signings across the country.  My husband, Joe, and I have been working for weeks to get everything ready.  We have lots to bring to make the signings fun.  I bring an easel and markers so I can give a drawing lesson.  We have buttons for everyone, bookplates for extra books, 100 posters for each book signing and newsnotes about GINGERBREAD FRIENDS for all who attend.  I hope everyone will like our free place holder tickets to remember the day.
     Drawing and writing are free, they don't cost anything, and that kind of creativity is one passtime that makes a person fell alive and vibrant.  It may be that thinking about how we spend out time can be a life changing experience.  Instead of going to the movies - write a play with your friends.  A few hours at the library may give you an idea for a project that you can make with materials you already have and I can't say enough about the lowly pencil.  A pencil creates a warm gray line that can be erased or darkened.  Many times I have tried to mix my watercolors to match that beautiful pencil lead gray.  On its side, the pencil makes nuanced shading.  By controlling the pressure of your hands you can darken or lighten your line, and end a stroke with a feathery touch or a staccato barb.  One year on my book tour, a young girl showed me a pencil drawing all made up of dots that she had done.   It was not like the French impressionists who used pointillism as a technique, which also has small dots.  It was her own texture invention.     It's fun to explore techniques and unleash ideas that may surprise and delight you.  As I travel down the down the road on my tour bus, doing the line drawings for my GINGERBREAD FRIENDS mural, I'll be thinking of all the kids at home drawing away.  Give it a chance!  You'll be glad you did.

                                              Your friend,

                                                     Jan Brett