VSS Illustrator Interviews

In doing these interviews, we hope to give you a glimpse into our artist members' unique personalities, a new perspective on their wonderful work, and the opportunity to know what inspires them!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ginger Nielson

This week I'm excited to introduce illustrator Ginger Nielson. She has a new book out, Daniel and the Harmonica bRob Dubreuil along with many other great picture books that you can see on her website. Thanks for stopping by for a tour of Ginger's studio and artwork. You can leave her a comment at the bottom of the interview!
How did you get started in illustration?
Like so many illustrators, I have always drawn or painted.  I would spend hours creating my own stories with my wooden dolls and then paint them or draw them into stories similar to a comic strip.  I even taught myself how to make my own paper dolls and paper doll clothing. My mother thought piano lessons would be good for me but I ended up drawing on my music sheets. My music teacher finally allowed me to follow my true interests and we parted company.  She was just as relieved as I was.
What is your favorite medium? Can you describe your usual work process for us?
I love to draw with soft pencils, or black pens or use watercolor or acrylic paint. My preliminary sketches and paintings are transferred from my drawing board into the computer by camera or scanner.
Some are very finished, others are a mere quick sketch. In the computer I use Painter X to complete the illustrations.

When I receive a manuscript I spend a few days reading and re- reading it while I form pictures in my mind. I break the manuscript down into what I think will be appropriate pages and write a description of what I want to do with each.   Then I might make up a story board with thumbnails that show either written or sketched ideas.
When I am happy with that I start sketches. There is often a lot of research needed for the picture-books I illustrate.

Do you write as well as illustrate your own stories? Which comes first for you?
I enjoy illustrating my own stories and find the illustrations sometimes come first or in between the writing.  I have to admit, writing is “hard.”
In the summer of 2012 a picture-book I wrote and illustrated will be released. I have waited and long time for this and will be extremely happy to see it as a book.

Do you illustrate full time or do you also have a day job?  How do you balance the different aspects of your life?
I am a full time children’s book illustrator and live in the country and care for my mom who is elderly. My husband and Henry our loveable hound dog complete our immediate household.

Where in the country do you live? Could you describe your studio?
Our home is at the top of hill near the edge of a forest in rural New Hampshire. We live in a mountainous area so traveling too far in the wrong direction in winter can be a huge challenge.
Tell us about your education and training. Did you learn more through school or your own experiences?
I was fortunate to have excellent support all through the 3 high schools I attended and on into college. I completed a double major at Rutgers University which gave me a degree in art and education for grades  K-12.

Please list any of your publications and let us know your website. 
A full list of picture-books I have illustrated is on my website. The most recent are Flying Poodles, A Christmas Story  and Daniel and the Harmonica. My client list includes, Stemmer House Pubishers, 4RV Publishing LLC, Pearson/Scott Foresman, Macmillan/McGraw Hill, Sundance Pubishing,
Oxford University Press, among others.

My website:  www.gingernielson.com  lists the books I have illustrated and my  blog which is a journal of sorts at www.gingerpixels.blogspot.com.

Tell us about your current project.
I am currently working on a book by Beth Bence Reinke, Carla’s Cloud Catastrophe, and I am really enjoying the adventure.
In addition to that I am working on the Sketchbook Project.   You can read about that and join in by checking out: Sketchbook Project on my blog.
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators or authors?
I am a big fan of Graeme Base and have all his books that I can find.  I will buy anything of his used, new or whatever. I love his work and his vision. I also like Tomie de Paola’s  books.  Maurice Sendak , Robert McKloskey, and Mercer Mayer are on my list of favorites along with Jan Brett and Maurie Manning.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by stories, people, children everywhere, my family, nature, light and shadow, color and design.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?
I like to get outdoors to the garden or take Henry off on a walk, or read. Sometimes I will take a week off and just read, read, read. *J
What job would you like to have if you weren’t an artist?
I would want to own a bookstore and support my local artists and authors with the most fantastic book signings and opportunities for them to grow as creators for children and adults.
Any advice you’d pass along to illustrators just getting started?
My advice is pretty much the same as many others.  Get to know your craft and the mediums you plan to use.  Draw every day, if you write do that as well…EVERY day.  Join SCBWI and your regional chapter, spend time in your local library and bookstore to see what is going on in the world of children’s literature. Attend conferences, pay your dues, work hard, take criticism and use it to your advantage. Be flexible and never be too proud to apologize for a mistake.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I have a magic wand on my desk and a dragon in my basement. Everything else is perfectly normal.


  1. Thanks Jill, for all you do for the VSS group!

  2. This is a great interview. accompanied by wonderful pictures of Ginger and her work! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wonderful interview with the fabulous Ginger Nielson! I can tell you from first hand experience, she is a joy to work with! She brings enormous creative expertise with a sense of whimsy and fun to each of her books. I will be forever grateful to Ginger for creating the magical world of the Flying Poodles!

    Karen Morss

  4. Looks great Ginger,
    Wow, nice work
    Kit Grady

  5. I like the light watercolors most (the boys fishing): it is fresh.

  6. Great interview and great photos. I really like the one of you painting. :)