Lori Nichols is the author and illustrator of the award-winning picture book Maple and the Maple series. Her illustrated work can also be seen in the This Orq books by David Elliott, No, No, Kitten! by Shelley Moore Thomas, and Go Sleep In Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming (2017). In this “Illustrator’s Perspective,” Lori shares where she gets her ideas, how her process works, and ideas to keep your own ideas flowing.
I find my creative juices flow better when I have a fair amount of playtime. Right now, we are doing a kitchen renovation. Walls are being demolished and floors ripped up. My world has been turned upside down, so creative juices are not flowing– at least not until yesterday when I took a sharpie and started drawing on the exposed ceiling rafters and unfinished walls. That helped some.
So, when I’m not living in a construction site, where do my ideas come from? Outdoors. I find nature is my best inspiration.
My husband and I bought an old Airstream trailer when our children were just starting grade school. My husband called it, “a hard, shiny tent with a toilet.” He told me that was all we would want to be in the woods. We hooked it up and headed into the mountains and now we go every year. It’s a quiet place to look, listen, and let ideas grow.
As a child, the outdoors and all its dirt, rock, and trees were very important to me. It’s not hard to connect to nature when you’re so close to the ground. As a mother, I now watch my children make their own connections to that low-level world.
I always carry a sketchbook with me. Ideas begin as seeds that need watering and sunlight.
I also find it important to just show up. Everyday. I make time to sit at my drawing table for at least 30 minutes every day and create something. Some days I play with ink. Other days I open my paints. Sometimes I play with cut paper. Being present with different materials – and allowing for mistakes – is the spark I need to ignite an idea.
Here is a list of things I do to help get ideas flowing:
- Write on the walls.
- Go to the farmer’s market.
- Show up at the art table every day and draw.
- Watch my children play.
- Play with my dog.
- Go outside.
- Draw with found objects.
- Play with my food.
- Play with my food some more.
- Eat aforementioned food.
Lori Nichols grew up in Western Pennsylvania, marveling at everything from acorns to frogs to big sisters, and now makes books about them all. She is the author and illustrator of the award-winning picture book, Maple. Her other works include: Maple & Willow Together, Maple & Willow Apart, and Maple and Willow Christmas Tree (Fall 2016).
Photos & Illustrations provided by Lori Nichols.