The next few months are intense ones for me, because my deadline for
GINGERBREAD CHRISTMAS is looming! In some ways I welcome the pressure because
I make my own hours and it is hard to say "no" to activities and invitations. A
fixed finish date helps me make hard decisions. If I didn't have a finish date
each book would probably take two years instead of one. I'm working on the
jacket art which has been a long process. The jacket not only summarizes the
book in a visual way, but it should create curiosity that will encourage the
viewer to look inside. The jacket for a children's book should reveal what age
the book is meant for, it's general tone for example - serious, funny,
mysterious, and give a glimpse of the main characters. I hope when potential
readers see my jacket they will think to themselves, "Aha! A whimsical, musical
story starring Gingerbread to be read at Christmas time!"
I begin by sending several sketches to my publisher, meaning three people.
My editor, the art director of the children's division, and the designer who
does the type face. They all weighted in on what they liked and didn't like
about the sketch, and they all gave suggestions to add to my ideas. The
finished jacket, before the type was added, took about two weeks, but the
reception was lukewarm and I went back to try again. I love drawing the
Gingerbread Baby and all the gingerbread instruments and the borders that look
like frosting. The only trouble is after working long hours, gingerbread,
cupcakes, and frosting decorations keep appearing in my mind's eye, and it makes
me very hungry! For me, the writing of the story is the difficult part, and
the art brings the story line into focus. It is very exciting and satisfying to
be at the point where I can solve problems with images, and to dwell on the
positive and be inspired by how potent they can be.
Illustration is really its own language, but one that all people
understand. Often one hears of a writer or artist say that their work takes on
a life of its own. It is really a big mystery when it happens, but because so
many experience it, I believe that it is a real thing. When I work for a
publisher I have to walk a thin line. On one side, my book is a commercial
enterprise. If a book is publicized and distributed well, there is a greater
likelihood that more people will read it. On the other hand, schedules,
criticism and questioning diminish that magical moment when the book takes
flight and takes unexpected turns and deeper meaning. The Beach Boys had a hit
song in the 70's called, IN MY ROOM, a beautiful song that described how a room
- in my case my studio, could be a lovely familiar protected place where one's
thoughts can roam and explore, an inner sanctum. I hope I can gather strength
in my art space and create a strong aesthetic that will serve my book well.
The book tour will begin next month, and you can see all of the cities we
will be going to on my website. I am looking forward to giving a drawing lesson
and telling about my new book THE TURNIP before the booksigning at each stop.
My favorite part of the booksignings are when children bring me their artwork to
show me. It's inspiring and I love to match the artwork with the child. I am
astounded at the innate talent so many children have.
Your friend, Jan Brett