Happy November!

    I am anticipating a nice month of intense work on my Musk Ox book, COZY set in Alaska. As with THE TALE OF THE TIGER SLIPPERS, once I encountered my main character "in the fur", I was a little intimidated by the majesty of the beast. I really struggled with humanizing my tiger character in my story after seeing a large male a few yards away in Bandhavgarh National Park in India. It is a vast, wild area and we were very fortunate to have the encounter. The tiger was so magnificent, dangerous, wild and beautiful that I felt I had overreached my abilities as an artist. I had put so much effort into planning my story and traveling to India that I had to try. I hope teachers who read the book to their students will consider also reading aloud William Blake's Tyger, Tyger Burning bright. I read it at a young age and its poetry was so potent that it is probably the reason tiger has always loomed large in my imagination. Now that THE TALE OF TIGER SLIPPERS is published, and my thoughts have turned to Musk Ox I find the same situation happening all over again. I have visited the Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, Alaska three times, and the LARS, the Large Animal Research Station in Fairbanks once. Seeing Musk Ox is like visiting the Pleistocene in 2019! Musk Ox is a misnomer, because they are more like an arctic goat. Their incredible wooly, silken coats allow them to thrive in 50 degrees below zero temperatures. Also, because I was creating a book about one, I was allowed to be next to an old male that had been bottle fed and was habituated to people. I put my face deep into his soft and fluffy ruff and he smelled really. good. The Alaskan first people called the animal Oomingmak (the bearded one). It certainly would look at home beside the megafauna of the ice age, like the Wholly Mammoth, Short Faced Bear, and Smilodon (Sabre-Toothed Cat) and Wholly Rhino. All animals that lived at the same time as people.  It gave me the shivers at my first sight of the Musk Ox males grazing in their beautiful setting of snowcapped mountains in Palmer.   Their shape is so identifiable. Now that I'm halfway through my book I am getting more comfortable with painting my character cozy.

  I am looking forward to presenting an Alaskan backdrop to my story and introducing some of the flora and fauna of our 50th state to my readers in the lower 48.  The first time i visited Alaska our plane took the route going north from Montana. I had a window seat and I stared out the window for three hours, seeing mountains and more mountains. No roads, roofs of buildings, cars or boats, just a vast wilderness of Canada and Alaska. The airport in Alaska is one of my favorites, tied for first place with Incheon Airport in Korea.  There is a towering Grizzly Bear taxidermized in a standing position and in a predatory stance. There are also Musk Ox, a large Bull Moose with magnificent antlers and a display of Sea Ducks, Geese and water birds. I'm saving the best for last. It is a giant Halibut, estimated at 32 years old and about the size of the back of an SUV. There is also a thoughtfully curated museum of native art. some traditional and some pieces contemporary art with roots in the traditional. The materials used, baleen. hide, fur, cedar, bark abalone, bone and ivory are traditional. I am drawn to animal art, and bird art and creatures are the images used often. Once seeing the airport art museum it's time to make a beeline to the Anchorage Museum, which is outstanding. I hope my book will make readers want to learn more about Alaska, it's people and wildlife.
     I have enjoyed two book signings this fall and will soon leave for a three-week book tour stopping at bookstores across the country in a beautifully decorated bus that we will live on. Hedge the character will be with us as well as my easel and marker for doing a drawing for everybody. My short talk before the book signing is geared to children, teachers and librarians and children?s book enthusiasts. I am looking forward to meeting everyone and hope children will bring their artwork for me to admire. you could even take a photo of your artwork on your phone so it won't get folded on the way.

     Happy Creating,

                           Jan Brett