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.

Hi Choco,


I grew up in a house full of art books and paintings, and my parents let me paint on canvases at the easel in the basement whenever I felt like it, so being an artist always seemed very natural to me. Once I realized that a person could have an actual job being an artist, I never really wanted to be anything else. (Except for a couple of months in first grade, when I wanted to be a ballerina.)



submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 14, 2010 - 11:06 pm)

I love your drawings!!!! I am learning to draw too. So how often do you log on to this web site? Some of your stories are are so surprising.Surprised  How are you doing today?

submitted by Mary Beth, age 12, Spartanburg
(November 3, 2010 - 4:41 pm)

How do I draw a horse?  I want to learn how to do it myself.  I have my sister's watercolors.  I have a photo of a horse I like that I rode at adventure guides named Chocolate.  Is there a book or some place on line i can learn how to draw a horse step by step?  i really like yours.Tongue out

submitted by Nina P., age Almost 8, Wilmette, Illin
(July 14, 2010 - 6:55 am)

Hi Nina,


It took a LOT of looking at horses and drawing them before I could draw a good horse.  They're really challenging to draw, especially the legs!


Copying from the photo you have is a good start, and if you can find a real horse to draw, even better! Do you have the Dorling Kindersley horse book? It has a lot of great pictures you can look at and sketch from. After a while, you'll be able to draw a horse without even thinking about it.


Thanks for writing!



submitted by Kristina Swarner, Chicago, IL
(July 14, 2010 - 11:18 pm)

Hi!  I am a 13 year old very interested in art!  I draw all the time.  I'm wondering, do you always draw from observation, or from a combination of both imagination and observation?  What medium is your favorite to work in?  What kinds of things inspire your art?

I'm sorry, that's a lot of questions.  I am curious about your work because I'm interested in becoming a children's book illustrator and writer.   Thank you!

PS  Your Cricket cover is beautiful!!

submitted by Amy G., age 13, PA
(July 16, 2010 - 5:24 pm)

Hi Amy,


The more I observe and pay attention to things, the more convincing the drawings from my imagination become, so I'd say a combination of both!


The medium I usually work in is the printmaking with watercolor I talked about, but I also really like painting with oils and acrylics, and drawing with ink.


When I was a kid I liked to explore in my grandmother's big old house, and to walk around in the woods surrounding it. There was a lake nearby and I used to go out on it in the rowboat, with water lilies and dragonflies all around. The memories of the sights and sounds of these places still inspire me a lot. Also, when I'm going to sleep at night, sometimes a picture will randomly appear in my head, and I'll have to get out of bed again and draw it before I forget it.


Thanks for your wonderful questions! Smile




submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(July 19, 2010 - 4:13 pm)

Thank you for answering my questions!

submitted by Amy G.
(July 21, 2010 - 10:27 am)

Hi, Kristina! I really like your painting of the flying horse, and horses aren't even "my thing"! I have a friend who really likes horses, though.

From which story in Cricket did the flying horse and the girl come? Is it from a recent issue? If it is, and I've read it, then I feel really dumb.

When I read in the latest issue of Cricket that people could talk to you on the Cricket website, I didn't think that it would actually show the picture that you're doing for the cover! It's really pretty. Why can't I do pictures like that????!


submitted by Hannah ☺☻, age 14, Hogwarts and Ba
(July 17, 2010 - 3:26 pm)

Hi Hannah,


I'm happy that you like the horse painting! I had a lot of fun making it. 


The cover and the story will be featured in the September 2010 issue of Cricket. I hope you enjoy the story, too.Smile



submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(July 19, 2010 - 4:20 pm)

I can draw horses, but only above the ankles. I just can't get the ankles right! I mostly have them standing in water or grass so that I don't need to draw the ankles. Is there anything special about the feet that I'm doing wrong?

submitted by Ann
(July 27, 2010 - 7:59 pm)

Hi Ann,


Horses' legs and ankles are really tricky! Is there a place where you can go look at horses? Take a good look at them and keep drawing and drawing until you get it right. If you can't find a real horse, draw from photographs, or even horse models from the toy store. The book I suggested to Nina P. above is also a great resource.


Good luck!



submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(July 29, 2010 - 10:31 am)

Dear Kristina,

I like to write AND draw! Do you like to write, too?

And I just finished going to art camp! It was SO much fun!! We did a big paper mashie project. Do you like paper mashie, too?

We also made name paintings in a graffiti-type style. 

Hope to hear from you soon,


(p.s. I really like the cover for Cricket! Awesome job!) 

submitted by Faye, age 10, Olney, MD
(August 9, 2010 - 9:19 am)

Dear Faye,


Art camp sounds awesome--I wish I could go! Smile Do you ever write and illustrate your own stories? 


And yes, sometimes my kids and I glop around with paper mache. Mostly we make pinatas, but we don't fill them because then we feel sad smashing them. We just hang them up and eat the candy.


I'm glad you like the Cricket cover! I really loved making it.


Thanks for writing!



submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(August 9, 2010 - 3:12 pm)

I want to be an artist and a writer when I grow up. About the artist, did you go to an art college? If so, any suggestions?

submitted by Rachel M., age 10, Neenah, WI
(August 10, 2010 - 6:44 am)

Hi Rachel,


I was sure by the time I was in high school that I wanted to be an illustrator, so I went to art school instead of regular college. I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, which has a great illustration program, but there are a lot of other good art schools.


If you love making art, art school is a really rewarding experience. A lot of them offer classes for kids, too, so you can give it a try before you're ready for college. Smile


Good luck!






submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(August 10, 2010 - 5:37 pm)