Illustrator and author Ruth Ohi visits Adelaide Hoodless

Students at Adelaide Hoodless Elementary School in Hamilton picked up some neat illustration tips from author and illustrator Ruth Ohi on March 24, 2017. The creative students won an author visit as the top prize in the 2016 Telling Tales Explore Your World School Contest.

The winning class was inspired by Ruth Ohi’s popular book Fox and Squirrel. In their winning entry they explored their own world to discover individual similarities and differences. They had class discussions about how having different interests, lifestyles, cultures and traditions can be a great thing between friends, just like the characters Fox and Squirrel.

The school received an exclusive author experience as their top contest prize. Find out more about the school’s winning entry.

Author and illustrator Ruth Ohi demonstrates how to easily change features on a character with an extra sheet of paper.

Author and illustrator Ruth Ohi demonstrates how to easily change features on a character with an extra sheet of paper.

Creating characters

Students had a fun time watching Ruth Ohi create her many characters. She showed the students how she comes up with story ideas, created some fun characters, and encouraged kids to come up with their own characters.

She showed students sketches that appear in her books and explained how her stories turn into published books. When Ruth gives her story to a publisher, it has to be all typed up neatly into a manuscript. She explained that an editor is like a teacher, they help to make the story better by offering suggestions and advice, and fixing spelling mistakes. Sometimes a story can be re-written 10-20 times!

Then she storyboards the book. She explained this is like seeing a movie, where you see the different scenes in a row. If the publisher likes it, then she paints it.

She showed the students some of the actual paintings from her book Chicken, Pig, Cow and she showed the large print ready sheet that gets turned into an actual book. It is a large sheet that has the book pages on it, some are even upside down. Each colour is printed separately, then they cut the pages, and add a cover. Then voila, it becomes a book.

Illustration activities

Kids were asked to accept a scribbling mission. Ruth drew a quick scribble on a sheet of paper and asked the students to tell her what they saw in the scribble. There were some wonderful views – music note, hula hooping, octopus and the letter ‘E’. Then Ruth turned the scribble into a giraffe-elephant-unicorn! She encouraged the students to help create the setting for these characters, because as she explained, the background helps to tell the story.

Ruth drew one of the students with a fox head!

Ruth drew one of the students with a fox head!

Character details

You only need pen, paper, and your imagination. Create a character by using any shape, then put a clean sheet of paper on the top part of your character to easily change the look of your character. Kids can add different expressions, even movement. She calls it a flip-o-rama. Flip the sheet over to make different features – happy eyes, sad mouth, crazy hair, a fun hat, flippers instead of feet. Then add little details – like rocket boots, a beard or an eye patch. But remember, there are no mistakes. You can make anything happen – you get to decide.

Ruth Ohi also shared some words of advice with the students:

  • You don’t have to travel far and wide for a story idea – just look around your home
  • You only need pen, paper, and your imagination
  • Do imagination warm-ups by scribbling!
  • There are no mistakes in drawing
  • The character you created didn’t exist before

Adelaide students asked Ruth some great questions:

What do you need to create your illustrations?

Ruth uses special painting paper, ink from a pen, a pencil (but no eraser), and sometimes a computer (where she uses Photoshop to finish up an illustration).

Do you have any pets?

Ruth doesn’t have any pets right now. She did have hermit crabs, zebra finches (which had six babies), an Australian terrier dog, and a fish that kept jumping out of its tank! She would love a cat, but unfortunately, she is allergic to them.

Why do you like being an illustrator?

“I love to draw and make up stories.” She is so happy she is able to do this as a job.

Why do you like making picture books?

She loves to draw and really enjoys picture books because the illustration tells the story.

Fun facts about Ruth Ohi

  • Her office is in her house
  • She loves squirrels
  • She likes to write and draw in her diary
  • She admits she is very messy
  • Ruth loves to draw
  • She made her first book before kindergarten
  • Ruth does imagination warm ups by scribbling
Ruth signed a copy of "Shh! My Brother's Napping" for the school library.

Ruth signed a copy of “Shh! My Brother’s Napping” for the school library.

Inside the signed book Ruth wrote: "Congrats Adelaide Hoodless for Telling Tales Awesomeness!"

Inside the book Ruth wrote: “Congrats Adelaide Hoodless for Telling Tales Awesomeness!”