Balet: A Perfectionist Right Down to Hand-drawn Lettering

To say that Jan was a perfectionist is probably the biggest understatement in the history of understatements. Looking at his paintings, even from afar, it is obvious that he took great pains to ensure that every line was straight, every curve was exact, every color – just right.

Not too long ago, I was talking with some friends about the reissue of Jan’s children’s book, Amos and the Moon, and showed them the original artwork for the cover. Looking very closely, our guests were shocked by the fact that Jan had hand painted the lettering that appears on the book’s cover. It must be that we are all so used to sitting at our computers and choosing from the thousands of type fonts available to us that it seems hard to believe that just 70 or so short years ago, this artist was painstakingly creating title pages by hand.

I joked that my Dad was such a perfectionist, he was convinced that only he could cut lettuce properly for a salad and that reminded me of another story about his perfectionist leanings. At the time he wrote his autobiography, he was negotiating with a famous publisher to handle the book’s printing. Jan, of course, wanted to oversee the production of the book but, the publisher was not inclined to let him do that. Needless to say, Jan chose to have the book published by another firm.

All that said, my father’s work would not be so enduringly special if he had been less of a perfectionist. Let’s just say “the devil is in the details”.