The Jefferson County Library Summer Reading Program is in full swing, and one of the center creatures of the whole program is our mascot, Ollie the Otter.
The artist behind Ollie is Jesse Osterkamp, and Gretchen Schlie, our community services specialist, sat down with him to learn more about Ollie and what it took to create him and bring him to life.
Gretchen Schlie: Jesse, it's been a little over a year and a half since the library introduced Ollie to our community. What has been happening with you since then?
Jesse Osterkamp: Oh, I've been busy drawing more and picking up other projects. I try to draw for myself as much as possible, whether it's fantasy art or character design or just practicing how light falls on different objects. I couldn't count the number of started or half-completed pieces I have just laying around or sitting in folders. If there is one thing I have learned from doing commission-based work is, cut out time to do art for myself.
GS: Where did you get your inspiration for Ollie?
JO: My inspiration for Ollie was pretty unimaginative, to be honest. I thought to myself, "What would an otter look like floating on its back while holding a book." Turns out it looks pretty cute.
GS: Where does your inspiration come from when drawing?
JO: I get a huge amount of inspiration for my artwork by looking at other artists' works. I will see something I think is cool and try to replicate it just to see if I can do it. From there, it's not uncommon for a bunch of new and sometimes random ideas to just pop into my head.
GS: I know the staff has asked you to create or draw several of Ollie's friends. I think it was a long list. How long does it take for you to finish just one drawing, and how did each of them come about?
JO: The designs for Ollie's friends came pretty much looking up what the real animal was and trying to make them look cartoonish and fun.
GS: Out of all the Ollie and Friends characters, which one did you most enjoy creating?
JO: I would have to say that the bobcat was the most fun to create and my favorite. I think he has a lot of character and looks like a stand-up kind of guy. Lol.
GS: I understand there was quite a debate when the staff was deciding on the local animals; they wanted some new critters over the possibility of a crawdad? What was the discussion about, and is there a crawdad among Ollie's friends?
JO: Ah yes, the crawdad. Some members wanted a crawdad, and others were fiercely against the crawdad. It was fun for me to watch the "debate" going down. I didn't really have a say or an opinion either way. I just drew what they wanted me to draw. I've not really had any experience with crawdads, to be honest. I know people say that they are good to eat.
GS: What is next for you? Are there Ollie books, toys, a movie?
JO: You know, I am not sure what is next for Mr. Ollie. I can say for sure though, that I had absolutely no idea that Ollie would have become as popular as he is. When I submitted my design for Ollie almost two years ago, I thought I was just going to send my design, and that would be it. It is awesome to see what the project has grown into. I am not sure if there are any Ollie books or toys in the future. I think it would be awesome to see, though. As for an Ollie movie – if there were one, I would leave that to animators. I may be pretty decent at drawing, but I can absolutely not animate! I would be doing Ollie a disservice if I tried.
GS: Now that you have become "famous" locally, what advice do you have for aspiring artists?
JO: To any young artist or anyone who wants to improve their skills, my advice is to keep drawing. Draw every single day. Whether it's only for a few minutes here and there or if it's for a few hours. Just get a sketchbook and fill it up. When it's full, do it again!
Jesse's creating of Ollie was a welcome addition to the children's section of the library. He continues to develop additional unique pieces for us. The library is writing an Ollie book series this fall, and Jesse will be illustrating it. Ollie the Otter has grown in fame; you'll find him in all of our summer reading program materials. Look for that cute otter face and sign up for the JCLD Summer Reading Program.
Interested in volunteering?
Need to get out of the summer heat (or planning ahead – the winter chill)? Why not volunteer at the library? We are looking for volunteers to help with shelving and also retrieving books to fill patron requests. Bonus – we're a fun bunch. If you are interested, give us a call at 541-475-3351 or sign up on our website, www.jcld.org.
Just a reminder that the (air-conditioned) library is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beat the heat by stopping in to say hello.
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