Author & Artist Corner: Artist

Kristina Swarner

StudioWelcome to my studio! It's a little gloomy out today; usually it's filled with sunlight.

Here I am, working in my studio. Kristina Swarner








Here are some of my art supplies. The green, pickle-shaped thing is a Chinese brush rest in the shape of a cucumber. My floor slopes downhill, and the pickle keeps my brushes from rolling off my desk.
Pencils & Brushes

This is the top of my bookshelf. Like many illustrators, I keep a lot of objects around that inspire me or that I just like the look of.

Then Cricket gave me the assignment for the enchanted horse on the cover. The idea was inspired by one of the stories in the magazine. I was really excited, because I love horses and magical things.

I needed a very special horse, not one that was just, "Oh. A horse." So first I started drawing all kinds of horses. I even made a little rubber stamp of one.

The first sketch I did wasn't quite right. I decided that the horse needed to be flying more, and that the girl from the story needed to be in the picture.
1st Sketch

The horse in the second sketch still looked too much like it was lying down. Plus it was supposed to be a strong horse, and the flowers around its neck looked too wispy.

I gave the horse a flower to eat instead, and turned its head to face the girl. Perfect!
Final Sketch

You've probably made a linoleum print yourself, or even a potato print. The way I work is just like that. I use a rubber block that's much easier to carve than linoleum, and is also soft enough to let me stamp it with textures before I roll the ink onto it.  Here's the printing plate I made for the cover.
Printing Plate

When the print is dry, I paint on top of it with watercolors and draw on it with colored pencils. (The company discontinued my favorite pale green colored pencil, and the one I have left is only 3/4" long, so I save it for emergencies.) Here is the finished painting!
Final Cover


Click "Add new comment" below to ask Kristina a question.

Have you ever done a Cricket Mag cover before?

submitted by Aisling H., age 11, Boston, MA
(July 11, 2010 - 10:07 am)

Hi Aisling,


This is my first cover for Cricket; I hope there will be more to follow!  Smile



submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 12, 2010 - 12:02 pm)

no, i have not. but i want toSmile

submitted by olivia, age 9, iowa
(August 2, 2011 - 1:18 pm)

About how long does it take you to finish a piece of art like that?

Also, have you liked to draw all your life? If so then about what age did you get started?


submitted by Elizabeth H
(July 11, 2010 - 4:25 pm)

Hi Elizabeth,


A painting usually takes me two or three days to complete, but this one took longer because it was pretty large. I think it took me about five days from start to finish.


I've liked drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. When I was three I told my parents that I was going to be an artist when I grew up, and I was five when I wrote and illustrated my first story:


"Once there was a little girl named Alice. She saw a path in the woods so she started down the path. She was never seen again. The next day she came back. The End."


Thanks for writing!



submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 12, 2010 - 12:12 pm)

Hi Kristina!  I absolutely love art.  It is something that I do all of the time, because I love it so much.  I do all sorts of things, but I have never heard of linoleum or potato prints.  Can you please explain this?  Also, how do you make your own rubber stamp?  Thanks so much!

submitted by Cammie J., age 12, California
(July 11, 2010 - 11:01 pm)

Hi Cammie,


Those are great questions!


A potato print is easy to make: You cut a potato in half and carve the flat part with a sharp knife. A simple shape, like a star, works best for this. Then you put some paint or ink on the cut part, and stamp it on paper like a rubber stamp.


A linoleum print is similar, but allows for much greater detail. You can buy linoleum, printing ink, and linoleum cutters at art supply stores. After you've carved your design into the linoleum, you roll ink onto it with an ink roller, put paper carefully over the top, and rub the back of the paper ( I use a tool called a baren to do this, but the back of a spoon or a smooth stone works, too) until the ink transfers onto the paper.


A rubber stamp is made exactly the same way, except that you carve your design onto white erasers (I use ones made by Staedtler) and press them onto a regular rubber stamp ink pad. I make them all the time; they're really fun.


Let me know if you try any of these; I'd love to see what you come up with!



submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 12, 2010 - 12:28 pm)

Oooo that sounds relly coolSmile. When I was little my mum made a potato print for a craft project, but I've never heard of a linoleum or rubber print before.... but then again I am not the most artistic person in the world.........

Thank you so much, Kristina, for answering our questions. I've never gotten to ask questions like this on Cricket before. By the time I actually come up with an intelligent question it is too late to ask Wink, so I really appreciate your time and effort that you made to answer our questions!

~Elizabeth Laughing

P.S. I'm obseesed with smilees, can you tell?Sealed(sarcasticly)

submitted by Elizabeth H
(July 12, 2010 - 11:50 pm)

Thanks so much Kristina!  I'm now dying to get materials for linoleum prints like that.  I never stop making things--I'm addicted to creativity! 

P.S.  Your horse illustration is so adorable!  I can't wait until the next issue comes out!

P.P.S.  Thanks for writing back!  It's so inspiring to talk to an artist like you.Smile

submitted by Cammie J., age 12, California
(July 17, 2010 - 2:56 pm)


do you like making art?

submitted by Vida, age 10
(July 13, 2010 - 3:41 pm)

Hi Vida,

I love drawing and making things. I keep sketchbooks in all my bags, all around my house, and in my car, and when I can't find one I draw on the backs of envelopes and shopping receipts. My teachers used to yell at me for doodling. So I guess you could say that I can't help making art! :)


submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 14, 2010 - 10:54 pm)

Cool!!! I love drawing too!! I don't have the time but when I do I love doing it!! I sometimes get in trouble with my teacher for doodling too!! Sometimes I draw on my hand if I can't find anything else!! Do you like to color (like in a coloring book)? I hate that!! I like freestyle color and drawing!! In school they always make us color and I really DISLIKE doing it!! But I do it anyway!!

Kristina, you sound a lot like me!!

P.S. Just so you know my name (Vida) is Spanish for Life!!

submitted by Vida, age 10.5, Lockhart, TX (n
(July 15, 2010 - 5:41 pm)

The best teachers were the ones who let me draw and do the lesson at the same time, like the teacher who asked me to make a comic book out of the story we were supposed to be writing.


I never liked coloring books, either; I used to get in trouble for coloring outside the lines.


Keep drawing!




P.S. I like your name! Smile

submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(July 26, 2010 - 4:36 pm)


submitted by Vida, age 10
(August 10, 2010 - 9:59 pm)

Wow- you are really an amazing artist! My question is: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?

submitted by Choco, age 12, here
(July 13, 2010 - 4:47 pm)