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                                                                                                                                     Kristina!                                                                                                                                     I like Morgans too!  But favorite  horse  is the  Arabians  I  like  the  way   they   they  carry  there  tails. I  wish  I  could  draw  good as  you. I also  like  Giespy horses. Make more  horse  art!                                                                                                                                  from Emma.

submitted by Emma S., age 9, Oak Habor WA,
(November 5, 2010 - 8:05 pm)

Hi. I love the drawing you made. I ordered that magazine a month before that.        

Love, Shelby

submitted by Shelby R., age 10, Tuson,AZ
(October 10, 2010 - 12:11 pm)

Hi Shelby,


Thanks for writing! I'm glad you like the art, and that you're getting the magazine now. I hope you enjoy it!



submitted by Kristina S., Chicago, IL
(October 11, 2010 - 10:50 am)

Hi, Kristina!

I paint and I was wondering how do you get ideas on what to paint? I can never make up my mind.... What exactly do you paint? Example: nature, animals, etc. 


submitted by Olivia, age 9, Pennsylvania
(December 10, 2010 - 9:18 pm)

Hi Olivia,


There are pretty much three ways I come up with ideas:


1. A picture pops into my head, usually just as I'm falling asleep. This is sometimes how I get my best ideas, but then I have to get out of bed and draw before I forget it.


2. Say I want to draw a pirate ship, for example, that I can't draw from my head and can't find to draw in real life either. Then I look at photographs to see how the thing looks, and draw from those. Then think about it and doodle some more until I come up with a way to make it an interesting illustration. Often I'll build a model to draw from so it looks more convincing--last summer I made a complete old-fashioned biplane out of cardboard. (My kids' Lego guys live in it now.)


3. Going out in nature is a great way to get inspired. I walk in the woods or a park every chance I get--there's usually at least one thing that makes me say "WOW!". The last time I walked in the woods it was getting dark out, and a huge tree had just fallen over. Its roots were all sticking up in the air in a black clump and they looked like some kind of forest monster. I couldn't wait to go home and draw it.


I hope this helps!



submitted by Kristina
(January 3, 2012 - 11:07 am)

I love horses! You are an amazing artist! I have always loved to draw. How did you become an artist like the awesome one you are?

submitted by Helen G., age 13, Alaska
(January 2, 2011 - 12:39 pm)

Hi Helen,


If you love to draw, and keep doing it, chances are you are already an awesome artist!


The best thing is when your drawing turns out even better than the way you imagined it. The more you keep drawing, the more often this happens.


Thanks for writing! Laughing



submitted by Kristina S.
(March 14, 2011 - 11:02 am)

Hi Kristina,


I loved your cover art above. My 7 year old niece loves horses and I would like to purchase a copy for her. It doesn't look available on the Cricket site. 

Do you have another venue? Thanks so much.

Best, Paula J. (aunt of Nina who loves horses and magic wands)



submitted by Paula J., Boston, MA
(March 12, 2011 - 9:15 am)

Paula, you (and everybuggy) can request a poster of Kristina's cover at:



submitted by Admin, Cricket Country
(March 14, 2011 - 10:36 am)

Hello, Kristina! Smile


I type books on my family computer. I want to be an author when I grow up!!


My teacher reads my books and says that I should publish them.


Do you have any ideas for how to help publish my books?


A Cricket Fan,

Faye Laughing 

submitted by Faye G., age 11, Olney, MD
(April 30, 2011 - 1:26 pm)

Hi Kristina! I have made tons of prints before, and have sold them to raise money for a local cat rescue orginazation. Mine weren't real linoleum, they were block printed, but I know how to silkscreen and do linoleum. How long does it take you to make one stamp, and once you make it, do you use it more than once?

submitted by Zoe B, Pennsylvania
(May 3, 2011 - 4:50 pm)

Hi Zoe,


That's so great that you made art to help the rescue organization--all my best cats were rescue cats, including the two I have now.


To answer your question, it usually takes about a day for me to carve a large plate like the one I did for the cover.


Thanks for writing!



submitted by Kristina
(January 3, 2012 - 10:19 am)

What is your favorite part about being an artist?

submitted by Emma K., age 11, Albuquerque, NM
(October 28, 2011 - 11:45 am)

Hi Emma,


I feel really lucky that I'm able to make a living as an artist, because art is something I've always needed to do. I love coming up with a good idea and seeing it appear on paper. I love the colors, and the feel of the paper, and even sharpening my pencils.


It's even better that I get to stay home and listen to my music and have my cats around while I'm working--even though they try to eat my paintbrushes.





submitted by Kristina
(January 3, 2012 - 10:27 am)


My name's Faye. I like drawing, but I'm not very good at drawing animals. Any tips?

And also, do you write at all? I absolutely LUV writing!! I type books on my family's computer!

Okay.... last question. Do you draw manga at all? I'm pretty good at drawing manga. My friend's teaching me.

-Faye ^_^

submitted by Faye G., age 11, Olney, MD
(November 17, 2011 - 5:50 pm)