Friday, July 31, 2009


When photographing wild animals under the cover of darkness one might have to modify the approach.

Finding my new friends...

Whether I am working with animals or with people I like to get to know them, personally. That includes imaginary characters as well as those in real life.

However, with the imaginary ones it is hard to 'see' them unless I create lots of preliminary sketches on paper and in the computer. And here I can see the subtle differences that must not occur in the final sketches or paintings. Consistency is the keyword.

Once I have a good idea of who is who, I will print out a collection like this one and go back to the drawing board with pencil or pen and continue the process until I really know who these people are. They will become my friends, and I often find that they are in part based on people I have known. In this case I was well acquainted with all three of the real people that eventually made their way into this imaginary world.

I am sure that often happens to other illustrators. Does it happen to you? How do you arrive at the final destination for your characters? If you have time, post your thoughts here *:)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Road less Taken... or the Crossroads

I have come to a conclusion about the book dummy I an currently creating. A new style popped up while I was doing some character sketches and color studies. What does this mean? It means I am going to redo the entire batch of sketches I have done so far and redo the one or two finishes that I was planning on including. The style is looser and easier, but for me to create this same style page after page is going to be a bit of a challenge.

But it will still be fun! And as long as it is, I will enjoy this journey.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Patience and Perseverence

Having sent out my dummy and facing the long wait for any answer...any kind of answer, I have started work on the OTHER story I was working on before this last story crowded its way into my brain.

The sketches for this one are taking a new turn... slightly more of an edge to these. I am not an 'edgy' illustrator, so to you my edge may seem a bit more rounded *:)

This is a study for one of the spreads in the book. I'll spend some time defining the characters and then strive to keep them consistent throughout the book. Occasionally I'll do a thumbnail color study to use as a reference later. Sometimes I toss these out in favor of another color combo.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dream Sweeper

This image kept me awake most of the night. I just had to get it out of my system! Does that ever happen to you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My 500th POST *:) ~ Illustration Friday - IDLE

One might say this pair is IDLE spending time under the stars and keeping each other warm. Since it is my 500th blog post, I would say that I, on the other hand, have not been IDLE.

For my 500th Post I wanted to show something I really loved from my most current work. This is an illustration from a story I have completed in dummy form and have sent out for one publisher to consider. "The Star Giver" is a legend of the far, far, far north, in which a mother bear supposedly explains where the stars come from.

I chose this image because I love the softness of the piece and the colors. Just as little bear falls asleep, his mother tells him the story of the Star Giver. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor appear in the sky above by the story's end.
©Ginger Nielson 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Using Clip Art Wisely

Are you a teacher? Do you create newsletters? Are you planning a poster, TeeShirt, invitation?

My friend Mark Hicks has a new blog that is informative, fun and full of whimsical and inventive illustrations, projects, books and more.

His suggestions for using clip art wisely and his links to sites where you can find just the right blend can be found on his blog at Planet MARKIX

Mark has been illustrating for children for over 25 years and is tuned into their needs as well as the needs of adults who work with children or are the parents or adults caring for and teaching children.
I know you will love visiting his site, so hop, crawl, swim or leap on over and take a peek at all his wonderful work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Tentacle TANGO

Okay now... If you really want the TANGO, go to this YouTube link and see one of my all time favorites! Al Pacino dancing to Por Una Cabeza. It is a delight!

A stretch to enable this interpretation....
The tentacle tango is to be avoided at all costs, no matter how beautiful and enticing the music may be.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One step at a time

Scientific tidbit:

When an elephant raises it's trunk it is threatening or intimidating a predator or intruder... as if to say.."You better get out of here."
When an elephant lowers it's trunk and runs at you.... "YOU'd REALLY Better Get Out of HERE!"

I am moving very slowly along the last few spreads of my dummy. The story is finished...somewhat. I have a habit of working inside out. That is, I write, then draw then maybe change a word, a line a paragraph, and that affects the drawing a bit.

This way works for me, although it may not seem even sane to others. Having the control over both the manuscript and the illustrations is a blessing and a curse. So far, as one of my artist friends pointed out, there can be multiple changes to a sketch or painting before we see it as done.

This particular sketch depicts two paragraphs from my story and it has changed several times since I first began to visualize the moments and movement. Now I think I am happy. The text changed along with the illustration... as often happens when one has Ultimate Control...but I am moving on to the last three spreads. Maybe by this fall I'll be able to say, Dummy done! Then what?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


This is one of my favorite illustrations from the book, "My African Bedtime Rhymes" by Brettell Hone. I illustrated this last year and it is now available at Amazon.comand Barnes and Noble and other bookstores.

Tedious but well worth the effort

Overnight Prints was offering 50 free UV coated post cards. However they could only be printed on one side. Since I normally do a mailing with contact info and a small image on the reverse of the postcard, I needed a way to easily put that info on the back side of the card.

I decided to create a 2" x 4" label with all the info that I could just stick on the back along with the address label.
It took a while but it works really well, and now I have 50 extra postcards for my summer mailing.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Happy thought for the day..

I have really been hoping to see this one day. It is filed in the "never give up" department.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Creating a Digital File Cabinet

I had a good friend ask me today about the previous post and how I filed my photos and other references. I keep a file cabinet full of graphics, stories, ideas, clippings of my own and other related material. It is all very neatly organized into categories and I can usually find just what I am looking for. But it isn't in a file cabinet or in a bookshelf. It is in the computer on an external hard drive. Since the question was asked I decided to reprint an article I wrote for the New England SCBWI newsletter.

Maybe your system is similar or maybe this will help someone today or tomorrow.

Let’s face it. As an illustrator you create a lot of sketches. And if you don’t have an orderly system for filing and finding the perfect sketch for that current project you just might go on a never-ending search looking for that image you created ten days or two weeks ago. Gosh where did I put it? Which book is it in? Words to the wise: What’s in the sketchbook stays in the sketchbook. But are we worried?

Not at all…. Here’s the great news!

Creating a Digital Sketchbook/ FILE Cabinet

Most illustrators today have a computer. If they blog, send files to publishers, have an email account, or just want to check the internet news there is often a computer at their disposal. Great news!

Your friendly computer can become an illustration file cabinet. Before we had this tool many of us kept pages and pages of magazine clippings as references. Neatly filed of course. Yet our sketchbooks numbered in the dozens. Finding any particular sketch was a challenge unless they had been filed in the same way as the magazine clippings. More often they would have been stacked or stored in some other way.

Here is a simple solution. If you have a computer and a scanner you can create a marvelous digital file cabinet that is easily at your fingertips when you need that elusive sketch of the boy on a bike with a dog in the basket and a bird on the wing.

You need some basic tools. Your computer, a scanner (or a digital camera) and, if you are able, an external hard drive.

Easy, easy, easy. Scan the image. Or photograph it and transfer it to the computer. Now that it is safely in the computer you can move on.

Create a Folder labeled SKETCHBOOK. Within that folder you can create as many sub folders, as you need. For Animals, African animals, Domestic Animals, Dogs, Cats, Mice and Moles. Create folders for people, ethnic, large, small, children, adults, and costumed. Make yourself as many categories as you need and file them alphabetically or numerically and keep them in your computer.

Sounds simple, but what if your sketches are so many that your computer threatens to cough them up, spit them out, crash and sit on your desktop mocking your intelligence.

If you are able, the next step in this process is to obtain an external hard drive. (There are many good models on the market and many are under one hundred dollars.) By storing the entire folder of sketches on an external device you have the ability to save thousands of files …all in your newly designed file cabinet… without slowing down your computer or filling up that needed graphic space on the main drive.

The ultimate benefit is being able to find that sketch of the boy on the bike, in the rain with a dog in the basket and the bird flying high above, with one or two clicks.

Whether you are a digital artist or traditional media artist this type of file can save you hours in the hunt for that perfect sketch.

A little research

I needed do to some active research this morning for my current dummy. Because I want to represent leaves, ferns, berries and pond water I took a long walk with my camera and gathered a lot of good info. We have SUN today, so the time was just right in the early morning. Dew is still on the leaves, the grass is wet and the forest is fairly still.

To make the photos work for me I put them all into a separate folder within the current project file and make a little thumbnail photo like this one, so I can easily find what I am looking for.
My work is semi realistic in a painterly style, so these just serve as a reference. My paintings will be accurate, but not photo realistic. I am not sure how a PC handles this kind of file, but I like having the Mac that can show me at a glance where things are and which file I need for a reference as I draw or paint.

Morning Visitors

Every morning we walk Henry and take care of the pool chores right before breakfast. Most mornings these little guys are having an island adventure. They are really cute little guys and will swim away quickly if they see us coming too close. Eventually they are fished out and sent back into the forest.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Moving right along

Ongoing work is taking place during our significant rainy season. It is not supposed to be a rainy season. It is supposed to be a sunny, warm, let's go swimming season. Huh!

However, since it seems to have become the R A I N Y season, I am busy at work on two new ms/illo projects. When I tire of elephants and African plains, I can take a break and switch to families with interesting secrets.

Here on my worktable are some print outs. I often use these to help pace the story as I create sketches and a few finishes for the dummy. Finally happy with the manuscript I can concentrate on the best placement for the characters. Right now they are printed three pages to a sheet, but I will cut them apart for a thumbnail book and keep adding new sketches until I am ready to submit the work.

As many artists will tell you, we get very involved with and attached to our characters.

Sometimes they even shout back at us and say things like:
"Move me over there... I don't like it under this tree."
"I don't like fruit, paint in some cupcakes!"
"Where do you think you're going, you haven't drawn in my feet yet!"

And so it goes....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

IF-SHAKY ~ Happy Fourth of July !!

(note: I did a bit of research on the gait of an elephant as it walks. From what I have been able to observe, the legs on one side extend in either direction while the legs on the other side meet in the center. Although the gait varies a little, this is as close as I could come to an accurate representation of the "walk.")

We rode along with the festive parade
and carried our huge flag proudly.

Our ride was admittedly shaky but
our friends in the crowd cheered loudly.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Study and research

When I can't go to the zoo or to Africa to sketch I will watch endless videos and read books about the subject. One of the ways that I found works nicely for me is to position my drawing table where I can also view my computer. If I have photos saved there or a video running I can sketch as I use those things for reference.

I keep the manuscript handy as well and might make changes in my overall idea for either the illustrations or the story I am writing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Not much has changed

Here we are in JULY already! But just as in most every day in JUNE... it is darn right cool and still raining...buckets and more!

Sometimes it stops for a few minutes and we run out and pull weeds.... they are everywhere. Plus, the whole world outside is green! Even the steps and sidewalks are turning green from the rain and dampness. My garden shoes, which were left outdoors by mistake have grown moss on the edges. At least I hope it is moss. The slugs are multiplying, the pool is filling to overflowing, the puddles are enormous and the birds are hiding. I think sometimes I hear them singing, but I expect they are only crying.

And then, last night, when it was still pouring, I dreamt about ducks! Honestly!