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 Faye,


Animals are really fun to draw, but the tricky part is that they move a lot! If you have any pets, drawing them as often as you can is a good way to start.


I wrote stories all the time when I was a kid, and have just recently started writing some again--I feel a little out of practice and haven't shown them to anyone yet, though! What kind of things do you like to write?


My kids love manga and are pretty good at drawing them. Sometimes I copy a character just for fun. It's harder than it looks.


Thanks for writing!



submitted by Kristina
(January 3, 2012 - 10:38 am)

What other kinds of artwork have you done? Have you ever had your illustrations appear in another children's magazine?

submitted by Maggie S., age 10, Nashville, TN
(December 31, 2011 - 12:56 pm)

Hi Maggie,


I've done illustrations for books, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, cards, calendars, theatre posters, advertisements, food packaging....all kinds of things.  When I have time, I also make paintings and books just for myself.


My illustrations have been in other children's magazines, but this cover is my favorite so far!


Kristina :)

submitted by Kristina
(January 3, 2012 - 10:47 am)

Amazing! I want to be an artist when I grow up. Maybe I could work with you, and we could take turns doing magazine cover art...? My family says I am amazing at art... I am just not sure. I am not too big on pastels. I am writing a book of Cricket Contry comics, but I don't know the names of them all and Pussywillow looks like a round, fat baboon if I draw her... Any advice on drawing bug-sized critters?


submitted by Laura F., age 9, Ohio
(March 2, 2012 - 6:58 pm)

Hi Laura,

Your book sounds amazing! I wish I could see it.

As for advice: Go out and really look at some bugs. I used to put honey out for ants so I could watch them--it made my mom mad, though. Once you get the feeling of the way bugs look and move, you'll learn to draw them.

Keep drawing! Smile

Thanks for your great letter,


submitted by Kristina
(March 8, 2012 - 1:49 pm)

Wink Hi Kristina. How do you draw horses?

submitted by Liza, age 7, California
(March 9, 2012 - 12:20 pm)

Hi Liza,


When I was trying to draw horses (which was pretty much all the time when I was a kid), if I couldn't find real ones, I would draw these little horse statues that I had, or just draw them from memory. After a while, I started to get the feeling for the way horses looked and acted.


Don't worry about the details (like how many spots the horse has) too much at first--just start simply, and then you can add spots and harnesses and things once you like the sketch.


If you like horses, your drawings will probably express what you like about them, and that makes them good. They don't have to be perfect! Smile


Thanks for writing,


submitted by Kristina
(March 12, 2012 - 9:55 am)


submitted by Liza, age 7, California
(March 18, 2012 - 1:06 pm)

Thia is my favoritest cover in all the Crickets I have ever gotten!  I totally love your style!Laughing

submitted by Amelia C., age 12, La Plata, MD, ;)
(April 13, 2012 - 4:33 pm)

Wow, that really makes me feel great! 

Thanks so much, Amelia! Laughing

submitted by Kristina
(April 20, 2012 - 10:35 am)

That truly is a beautiful picture! I love it! What made you want to draw this picture?

submitted by Claire H.
(May 23, 2012 - 4:18 pm)

Hi Claire,

Cricket sent me the story, which was about a girl with a magical horse, and I love drawing horses and imaginary things and stars, so the cover happened after I put them all together--and threw away a lot of sketches until I was happy with it.

I'm glad you like the way it came out! Smile

submitted by Kristina
(May 31, 2012 - 5:22 pm)

I really like the cover of that magazine.I also love to draw.Do you have a family?

submitted by Butterfly, age 8, Denison TX
(October 15, 2012 - 3:28 pm)

Hi Butterfly,

I'm glad you like the cover, and that you're an artist too!

I do have a family: My husband, and my son and daughter, who are both in grade school, and two cats, and a lizard. My kids like to draw, too.

Thanks for writing! Smile


submitted by Kristina
(October 29, 2012 - 5:53 pm)

This was the first Cricket I got! I love the cover! When I'm older (maybe even now) I'm going to be a writer and artist. I draw cats very detailed. I would love to show you :) You. Are. Awesome!!

submitted by Kyra G., age 12, Nanuet NY
(September 4, 2013 - 9:29 pm)