April 2018 Hedge a gram

Sketch for 2019 Tiger Book

Happy April,

This is my April hedge-a-gram, the time I take every month to relay my book making activities.   The Tiger story I have had in my mind for 5 years has finally metamorphosized into a dummy. In book terms, a dummy is 32 pages of full color thumbnail sketches made into a small coverless book. Although everyone doesn’t actually make signatures (groups of 4 pages) and sew them into a 32 page booklet, it really helps me to sequence the illustrations in a page turning format rather than a group of illustrations. When I do the final illustrations I will display them on a huge bulleton board within sight of my art desk. There is always that moment of excitement when the first folded and gathered pages come from the printer for me to check. Many times the illustrations look different in a book format. Hopefully better!
Because I visualize a story in pictures rather than a manuscript I decided to present my Tiger story as a dummy. I went to Penguin Random House to have a meeting with my editor and art director to see if they liked it. I had only told them the basic idea, and referenced the Middle Eastern tale it was inspired by. Although my story is hardly recognizable from the original tale I wanted my editor to know the changes I would be making.
I travelled to India 4 years ago to research the main characters, Tigers, and see firsthand the flora and fauna in the huge game reserves of Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park, and Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh Province. The trip was very fruitful because we saw Tigers, smaller cats and many animals and birds I would populate my story with.
My story takes place in that region, but far back in time. Jokingly I say “a time when Tigers wore clothes and Peacocks talked!” In other words it is set in a world made up with children in mind.
I spent many hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC in their Asiatic and Middle Eastern rooms being transported by the exquisite Court Paintings. There are many schools of painting although the flowering of the art was arguably in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries when Princes and people of wealth could enable artists to create. Some of the most wonderful paintings are of wildlife but both Persian and Indian court painting are equally stunning when depicting portraits, scenes of everyday life and illustrating stories. It was an emotional experience to see these paintings that are so vibrant they look like the paint had dried only minutes before. I felt such kinship with these long dead artists it almost makes me believe in reincarnation.
I was so pleased to find the Met had a wonderful bookstore, and many of the treasures I had seen in the galleries could be studied when I got home. I will by no means copy the style but there will be something of color palettes and techniques that will stay in my mind even if I didn’t want them to. The art was very indelible to some deep part of my imagination. There is a great sense of freedom one experiences by viewing magnificent art from another culture. I especially love the subtler expressions and character the artists achieved in the portraits done in profile. Western art loves front on faces I think. I was lucky the Met bookstore mailed my books to me because I made quite a haul. Now it is on to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where I went to the Museum School, to see their collection.
My meeting with editor and art director was very productive. We discussed trim size. The shape and size of a book tells a bit about what’s inside. Beatrix Potter,(my most admired illustrator) famously made little books for little hands. I will continue with my larger sized books so I have room for the borders. I like to think when the book is opened wide, and a child focuses in, that they feel like at any moment they could walk into the page. How wonderful books are that they can take hold of our imaginations and give us worlds we could have never imagined for ourselves.
Happy creating and enjoying the beauty in the world around you.

Your friend, Jan

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)