Culver artist wins a contest to create a cartoon otter as new Youth Services mascot.

DESIREE BERGSTROM/MADRAS PIONEER - From left to right are Star Todd, Jesse Osterkamp, Laura Jones and Adriana Arizmendi. Osterkamp recently won an art contest held by the library Youth Services team, to create an otter to be used as the program's new mascot.
The new mascot for Jefferson County Library Youth Services is sure to make a splash as they incorporate the otter, created by a local resident who won a contest at the library, into the branding of the program.

The otter, created by Culver resident Jesse Osterkamp, will be incorporated in the decor of the children's section, which will soon be undergoing a renovation, as well as be featured on bookmarks and other printed items relating to children's programs.

The otter, currently nameless, was one of four submissions the library received after making an announcement that they were looking for someone to design the new mascot.

Star Todd, with the library's youth services said, "They were all great, and there was another good contender," but she said it wasn't quite as versatile.

"This is the one we thought, 'Wow, this will work great on anything we put it on,'" said Laura Jones, also with youth services.

"I am in love with this guy," Adriana Arizmendi, the Spanish services member of the youth services team said pointing to the otter.

When asked if there was any specific inspiration behind his cartoon otter, Osterkamp laughed and said, "A real otter."SUBMITTED PHOTO - Jesse Osterkamp created this otter to serve as the new mascot for the Jefferson County Library Youth Services mascot.

He said, "I knew kind of what an otter looks like, but I didn't know exactly what an otter looks like."

So what he did was look up the face of an otter, with an idea in mind of what he wanted the final product to look like and he traced the major features of the otter's face, noting that they are similar to that of a cat. From there he developed the rest of the character.

He had an idea of what he was going for, but needed to know the realistic features of an otter to really make it come to life.

The final product is a simplistic, friendly otter with a combination of realistic and cartoon features.

The thing is, Osterkamp created the character in just a few hours, on the same night the library was closing submissions for the contest.

"It's funny. I got a message from my wife. It was a screen shot of a message conversation she had with her grandma; it said, 'Does Jesse know that the library is doing an art contest for something,'" he said.

Osterkamp said he didn't know that the contest was even happening until that point. "She said, 'You're going to have to kind of hurry up because the deadline's tonight,'" he recalled adding that he was at work at the time and said, jokingly, "I don't know what you want from me."

Later that evening, he got home and his wife was working on school work for college. "I was like, 'Well, I guess I'll look up an otter,'" he said.

In about three or four hours, he said, "I threw something together and said "Well I mean, there you go.'"

As he told the story, Arizmendi chimed in saying, "Your 'why not' is here,"

to which he replied yes and said, "Which proves, why not take the why not chances?"

Osterkamp said, "My 'Hey whatever' went somewhere."

This isn't the only art he has out in the world either.

"Drawing is my life," he said. "Any time I am not at work, I am trying to draw, whether it is digitally or pencil paper."

"Art is in my blood," he said, noting that his mom likes to paint and adding that she had written a children's book, which he illustrated.

"We are working on a second one; it's a Christmas book about a candy cane who wants friends," Osterkamp said. All of the illustrations he does for the book are pencil and paper, but the otter for the library was drawn digitally.

The library is planning to have the kids vote on a name for the new mascot in the near future so the kids have some involvement in the process.

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