Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jan Brett Magic

Author-Illustrator Jan Brett's magic began in the parking lot, where her enormous bus proclaimed the stops on her Gingerbread Friends tour. Inside the store stood a large backdrop with a scene from the story. Eager fans of all ages fell under her spell.

Brett told the story and showed the book, adding details only she would know. Ever wonder why she makes her famous borders on the pages of her books? Because she has too many ideas to fit into one book. The extra ideas go into the borders.

The chicken pulling a sleigh idea came from Brett's seeing a real chicken pull a small wagon. She used her own rooster as a model for the book. She baked her own gingerbread boys as models for Gingerbread Baby, posing the out-of-the-oven cookies before they hardened on the pan. She used them to see what Gingerbread Baby would really look like if he were running or jumping. Brett kept her gingerbread boys in a basket on the floor and one day noticed there weren't as many as before. When she took the gingerbread boys out of the basket, she discovered a hole in the basket and a mouse who had been enjoying her baked treats! The basket is in an illustration in the book.

Brett said she knew she wanted to be a children's book illustrator from the time she was five years old. Now, she gets up in the morning, has breakfast, and then goes to her office where "I color all day." She thinks the job is even more fun than she thought it would be.

Next, she gave an art demonstration, giving tips on how to make Gingerbread Baby look three dimensional. She used markers chosen from her Hedgie the Hedgehog shoulder bag/pencil case. For her books, she uses watercolors and brushes working at the pace of an inch an hour.

Here's her advice to young artists: "Look at your first finger and your thumb. Do you see some lines there?" She went on to explain that these fingerprints are unique to each of us. Similarly, no one can draw or write like anyone else. She encouraged young and old in her audience to find their own styles. And, like magic, she made us believe we could do it!

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