Illustration Inspiration: Jennifer Gray Olson, Ninja Bunny
The Children’s Book Review | June 16, 2015
JENNIFER GRAY OLSON is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in art education. She is a glassblower and sculptor. In addition to writing and illustrating, Jennifer is also the co-coordinator of the SCBWI Orange /Riverside/San Bernardino illustrators’ schmooze. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two boys, and baby girl.
Ninja Bunny (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, June 2015)
Inspired by . . .
In part, my middle child, Eli, who convinces himself daily that anything is possible regardless of limitations, like perhaps gravity or time and space. He’s currently working on a design for jet-propelled rocket boots. Ninja Bunny is also based on me and my aversion to asking for help, especially when I need it the most. I’m working on that. . . .
Art medium used . . .
I created the artwork for Ninja Bunny using graphite pencils, ink, watercolor, and a dash of Photoshop.
Artistic process . . .
I have three kids (one of whom is being potty-trained currently), so my process can be a bit erratic! Generally, though, I start by sketching out a piece, multiple times if need be. Once I’m satisfied with the composition, I’ll use a light box to transfer it over to 90-pound Stonehenge watercolor paper. I trace out my drawing with a light blue Col-erase pencil and then go back over it with an F graphite pencil and a Palomino Blackwing 602. I then ink the lines and add stippling with a 005 black Micron pen. Then I lay in the watercolors. I only use one brush for everything (silly, I know). It’s a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #4, which is pretty small, so depending on the size of the illustration, this step can take a very LOOONG time. It should also be noted that I’ve probably dipped that brush in my coffee more times than I have the water.
Favorite place to create and illustrate . . .
I do all of my creating and illustrating in my studio at home. I’m not sure about it being my “favorite” place to illustrate since most days it’s fairly messy and loud, unless my lovely mother-in-law or husband has taken the children elsewhere. My studio is pretty centrally located in the house and has no doors, so there’s a constant “Mom, mom, Maaahm, MOM” sound from my two sons and an ongoing battle to keep my three-year-old daughter from stealing art supplies out of my hands. Luckily we’ve given her her own workspace in the studio and it seems to help. Just don’t touch her stuff or she’ll scream, “No! I’m trying to work!” No idea where she gets that. . . .
Most used art supply or tool . . .
It’s a toss-up between my Col-erase pencil, Palomino pencil, and Series 7 brush. I swear those companies don’t sponsor me. I just love them! Although, if that’s an option, I’m interested. *Call me.
Illustrator idols . . .
Lisbeth Zwerger – She makes it look effortless. Shaun Tan – Too much awesomeness to list. Carson Ellis – Her line work is stunning. Jon Klassen – Probably my favorite illustrator, stylistically. He also looks identical to my husband, so I might be biased. Pat Cantor – My friend and critique member, who passed away three years ago. Her work was exceptional, and it breaks my heart every day that there isn’t more of it in the world.
All-time favorite children’s book you didn’t illustrate . . .
Too hard to name just one! So I’ll name three (sorry to be a rule breaker). The Day the Babies Crawled Away by Peggy Rathmann (always gets stuck in my head). The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (always makes me tear up). I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (always makes me laugh).
A literary character to create art with . . .
Albus Dumbledore. I think he’d give very thoughtful yet vague advice. I’m also a raging Harry Potter geek!
Currently working on . . .
I’m currently illustrating The Good Dog and the Bad Cat by Todd Kessler, as well as writing and illustrating two other picture books that I can’t name at this time. So mysterious. . . .
Connect with Jennifer Gray Olson . . .
Written and Illustrated by Jennifer Gray Olson
Publisher’s Synopsis: This little bunny is ready to embark on the path toward becoming a super awesome ninja. He does what any bunny would do: follows a step-by-step guide in order to become the BEST ninja bunny that ever lived. First, he must learn to work alone and to be super sneaky, strong, and speedy; and most importantly, he must be able to battle anyone, anywhere, anytime. Then the little ninja faces his biggest challenge yet: a big brown bear. What’s a bunny-in-training to do?
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0385754934
Discover more picture book illustration inspiration and books like “Ninja Bunny,” by Jennifer Gray Olson, on The Children’s Book Review by following along with our Illustration Inspiration series and articles tagged with Bunny Books, Illustrator Interviews, Animal Books, and Picture Books.