Children's author encourages Crossroads audience

Ismael Perez By Ismael Perez

Dec. 5, 2017 at 9:21 p.m.
Updated Dec. 6, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Jan Brett, author of children's books, signs "The Mitten," for Reagan Horn, 7, after a lecture and drawing demonstration at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. An  estimated 500 area students and parents learned about Brett's inspiration for her characters and the artist's techniques Tuesday night. Brett is on a 23-stop tour and will be in El Paso on Wednesday.

Jan Brett, author of children's books, signs "The Mitten," for Reagan Horn, 7, after a lecture and drawing demonstration at the Victoria Fine Arts Center. An estimated 500 area students and parents learned about Brett's inspiration for her characters and the artist's techniques Tuesday night. Brett is on a 23-stop tour and will be in El Paso on Wednesday.   Evan Lewis for The Victoria Advocate

Pat Blanchard watched from the audience as an artist carefully held an indigo blue marker and shaded in a kimono worn by a Japanese sea creature known as Father Octopus.

Creatures like Father Octopus helped introduce Blanchard's kids to reading. And almost 30 years later, Blanchard was able to see the author's creative mind in action.

"She made us feel like we could draw it exactly the way she did," said the 65-year-old grandmother who was taking three signed books back to her grandchildren. "She made it look effortless."

About 500 people attended a presentation from children's books author/illustrator Jan Brett on Tuesday at the Victoria Fine Arts Center.

Victoria was one of the stops during Brett's 23-market tour on a blue bus wrapped in artwork from her latest book.

"The Mermaid" is an underwater version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" starring a mermaid and three octopi and set off the coast of Okinawa, Japan.

Laurie Vogt, library media specialist at Hopkins Elementary, wrote a proposal to have Brett come to Victoria. She thought the event would help promote learning in the community.

"Bringing an author here will hopefully get the children excited about reading and writing," she said. "It helps them realize that they can do it, too."

Brett spoke to the audience about finding inspiration, making their ideas come to life and even gave an art lesson for people who were interested in illustration.

She was teaching the crowd how she draws her creatures, but before she drew Father Octopus, she had a live example waiting in a box.

The author pulled out a white rabbit from the box, which she said was inspiration for another character in one of her books.

"I couldn't bring an octopus with me, of course," she said as she described how the rabbit turns from brown to white in the winter.

Brett told the audience that it was good to know in great detail about who you write about. As she drew the octopus, she spoke about its anatomy and character.

At the end of the presentation, Reagan Horn, 7, of Cuero, rushed to be the first one in line to meet Brett. Reagan had read two of the author's books in school - "Gingerbread Christmas" and "The Mitten."

Reagan, a student at St. Michael's Catholic School, said she is an aspiring artist and had four books she wanted Brett to sign.

"It was awesome. I told her, 'I wish I could draw like you,'" Reagan said. "And, she told me, 'You can do it, you just have to practice.'"

Brett said she does not have a detailed purpose in her presentations; she just wants to show the audience how she starts a creative project so they can be inspired to do the same.

For people to expand their own ideas, she encouraged them to be alone in a room and let their "creative force just flower."

"Using the imagination is like a muscle - the more they use it, the more that they will grow," she said. "It will help them out in life and in their learning styles."


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