Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year Giveaway!

Hello, Hello! 
To celebrate 2013, 
I have a little something up my sleeve.... 
a Mystery Item Giveaway!!

All you need to do to get a chance to win a mystery prize
 is to leave a comment below answering the following question:

What are you hoping for in the New Year?

(Insert cute pug photo here)

Sending You All My Very Best for a Groovy 2013!
xoxo, Nina

(the winner will be announced right here on New Year's Day,
so leave your comment by Midnight on December 31st, 2012)

Friday, December 14, 2012


Little Women has always been one of my favorite books, so I was pretty happy to hear it was one of the books you could draw from (pun intended) for the SCBWI Tomie dePaola Award this year. With the holiday season nearly upon us, I had kind of decided that I was going to pass on the Tomie contest due to lack of time. We flew out to PA for Thanksgiving and I did a little sketching because I had a little idea (to make a diorama of the little ladies decorating their home for Christmas). I brought the book with me and my book amnesia was quite evident: they weren't decking the halls happily at Christmas, they had been doing without... Ah, geez. So much for that!
Then my youngest daughter did something cute, as eight-year-olds tend to do:
She made this all by herself (so proud of my little artist!) and I thought to myself that it was more than just a coincidence because I hadn't even told her that I was thinking about making a diorama... and then I had an idea that made me feel so happy that I just had to do it. It took me a little while to figure out how I was going to actually build my diorama (and doesn't the word DIORAMA just sound terrible? DIE-o-rama. So morbid. I prefer LIVE-o-rama, it feels more hopeful). It was really, really fun to sketch and measure and think it all out, it was like making my own little paper dolls. I ended up choosing an open ended box (the kind they deliver a vase of flowers in) as the stage. Here are some in-progress photos leading up to the finished piece (click on any to enlarge):

Be sure to check out the Unofficial Gallery of the Tomie dePaola Award to see all the amazing entries!  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bird Bath

Here we find ourselves on the brink of December. We will all soon be hustling and bustling through the Hols and straight into 2013. Don't forget to take a little time to recharge your batteries. I had a little nap on the couch yesterday and it was really nice, I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Courtney & Leeza

If you are in sunny Florida, be sure to go check out my friend Courtney Pippin-Mathur's artwork from her upcoming book, Maya Was Grumpy, alongside the works of other amazing children's book illustrators in the Sendak & Co exhibit. I just can't wait to get my hands on this book, and I am so thrilled for Courtney's work to be out there for all the world to see.

My friend, Leeza Hernandez, just made an adorable trailer for her new book and she has been featured over at Mr. Schu's blog. Dog Gone! is completely adorable (just like Leeza), I highly recommend that you run out and fetch a copy, this book truly captured my heart.
DogGoneTrailer from LeezaWorks on Vimeo.
I am feeling very honored and extremely grateful to have such an amazing family and brilliant friends. Sending you all my best for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Lemurs + Cichlid + Crocodile = Blog Post

Found this in my little travel sketchbook and thought it might be fun to share it. I am especially fond of how the lemurs turned out! Hope all is well with you, I am having a pretty good day. Finished reading The Night Circus (it was enchanting), having my second cup of tea, and working on my book dummy. I guess today is a good idea day because I have been having all sorts of things come to mind. Love days like this. Think I might have come up with a good idea for Tomie's contest, so we'll see if I can get it to come together... Best wishes to you for a terrific weekend!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tiny Art Gallery

For a fun little surprise, I printed up some of my paintings super tiny for my friend's daughter's dollhouse. It was fun to use some kooky scissors to make some of the frames a little more decorative. Don't tell Emmalou, I haven't mailed them to her yet! Oh, and I have recently discovered Instagram, it's awfully fun! Let me know your username if you are there so I can find you. Mine is NVCrittenden.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Make The World A Better Place

This is a page from The Gardener (one of my very favorite picture books). Sarah Stewart and David Small were in town last weekend as keynote speakers for the Minnesota SCBWI Fall Conference. I feel so lucky that I got a chance to hear them speak about how they work, both together and separately. David and Sarah are both exceedingly humble and kind, the world is a better place for having them in it.

Everything Octopus was kind enough to feature Daniel Day Octopus over at their fab blog. Be sure to visit, they post the coolest articles and videos and find the most amazing octo gear! Cephalophiles rule!

Lastly but not leastly, the first in the series of piano music books that I have been illustrating was recently published! I'll have a giveaway when I get my copies, until then, here is the link to the book on the FJH Music Company's website!

Cooking up all sorts of fun stuff over here, hope this finds you well! xoxo

Monday, October 1, 2012

IF: Book

What are you reading right now? Daniel Day Octopus (Octopus cyanea) is reading an old nautical classic, The Humpback of Notre Dame.  I have almost finished reading The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi. Next up: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Thursday, September 27, 2012

And the Winners Are...

Have fun, you crazy card sharks!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Go Fish!

This is for fans of mollusks, echinoderms, cephalopods, vertebrates, chordates, and silly humor! I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid and I used to read this book ALL THE TIME:
I had a kooky idea a while back, wrote it down, and put it into the idea drawer of my desk (I have a whole drawer now). It resurfaced this summer in a little sketch...
I dove into the library and checked out tons of books on coral reefs, shells, and ocean life. I am now a huge fan of cephalopods and nautical maps! And I had a little bit of fun with my sea creatures...
You can sea the whole illustration at my website (which now has a brand-new coloring page section for kids!) and hear the music that kept me company while I worked on it (which was way easier than holding a conch shell to my ear while painting!). 

Would you like to win your very own deck of silly Go Fish! cards? 
Leave a comment here and let me know which one of the creatures is your favorite (please include your email address). Winners will be announced on September 27th. (end with new nina joke)

What do you need when diving for shellfish?

Big Mussels!!! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sweet Squares

Have you seen what Diandra Mae is up to?
What kind of art will ewe make?

Saturday, September 1, 2012


My friends have a very steep stairway and requested a duck to help people remember to duck! Here's hoping this will help! Great big thanks to Tric and Jeff for being such amazing friends!

Friday, August 24, 2012


Feeding the giraffes was a pretty tall order, but Sue was totally up for it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Vintage Nina Art! I have no idea how old I was when I drew this (it recently turned up in some of my Grandma's things, so sweet that she kept it!), my best guess is elementary school because I remember going through a big phase where all I drew pigs all the time... This seems to be taking place at Perkins and clearly features my love for pancakes (and all things breakfast). The only thing that makes me feel sad when I see this is that the pig seems to have bacon and/or sausage on it's plate... Bon Appetit!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Zoo Haiku

Hello! I went out to the Como Zoo with a fine bunch of illustrators and writers last weekend to do a little sketching. This one was my favorite, and I wrote a tiny haiku to go with it (pardon my messy handwriting). Many thanks to the slow-moving tortoises who made this sketch possible (and to Alicia Schwab who organized the outing and inspired me to draw swirls on my tortoise shells).

Monday, July 16, 2012


Friday, June 29, 2012

IF: Refresh

Nothing quite as refreshing as a dip in cool blue water. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Here are a few of the treasures I brought home from the library the other day. Lots of books on the ocean, you say? Oh, yes, well I have had another one of my ideas. We'll just have to wait and sea....

Bunny Days by Tao Nyeu captured my eye right away. I am such a fan of her artwork: it is lively and fresh and oh so sweet, and it proved a perfect balance to her stories which are actually a bit tangy, if that's the word I'm searching for.... (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2010).

Orange Pear Apple Bear by Emily Gravett is an absolute delight. I have no words (and this book has only 5). Her illustrations are gorgeous! I wish I had found it when my kids were tiny! (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005).

Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Grey is terribly fun! I can freely admit that Mini Grey's artwork absolutely kills me, it is SO good and her attention to detail is second to none. I completely enjoyed Traction Man's adventure with Scrubbing Brush (with a cameo appearance by Beach-Time Brenda). This is a great summertime read! (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Hope your summer is just ducky so far!

Thursday, May 31, 2012


5 days left of school, summer vacation is nearly here! Well, I mailed off all the final art for my music book  and would like to apologize for lying to you in my previous post, there were 81 illustrations, not 82. 
So, now I have to figure out what to work on next....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ink a Bink a Bottle of Ink

Here is a work-in-progress pic of what's on the drawing board these days. Transferring and inking 82 spot illustrations for a piano music book. This one is called "Leaping in Ballet Class." This project has been the most fun! Great mental exercise for the ol' bean trying to come up with little pictures to go with the cute titles I've been given, and the people I'm working with couldn't be more amazing if they tried. It makes me feel so good to hear how happy they've been with my little drawings and they have been so patient with me (a non-piano player) when I get some (er, most) of the technique-based illustrations wrong (yay for revisions!). Just feeling extremely fortunate to work with such kindhearted people, I feel like that little leaping frog! Looking forward to working on the next four books in the series after I finish this one (and I'll for sure let you know when they come out). Thanks for stopping by, I hope this finds you well!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco de Mayo

oh Me oh My oh, it's Cinco de Mayo!
Here is a new coloring page for  
musical crocodilians everywhere! 
(click, print, share, enjoy)

This is my very first sketch for this idea
(my desk is littered with little scraps of paper like this with 
new jokes and tiny bits of ideas scribbled on them). 
Thought about adding in some Egyptian plovers and then 
decided against it as wikipedia debunked the happy idea 
that they might actually live in harmony together 
(although the whole mariachi band theme I went with is a bit 
on the unrealistic side if I am being completely honest here).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pigeons and Horses and Loons, Oh My!

These three pieces of mine will be hanging in a skyway in Minneapolis along with artwork by my friends Anne Adix Fabie, Barbara Björnson, Sara Weingartner, and Sharon Wagner. I must now include the song Skyway from Jeremy Messersmith's album The Silver City as a treat for your ears. So lovely.

Here is where our art will be during the month of May:

UCare Skyway Senior Center
950 Nicollet Mall, Suite 290
Minneapolis, MN  55403

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Deer Me

Busy sketching away for my current project. Making little spot illustrations like this just fills me with happiness. Fawns are often born as twins, I gave one fewer spots that the other to make sure they didn't look identical. In about a year, this sketch will be worth 2 Bucks!!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Goose, Goose, Duck

The sobbing fellow in this illustration does not reflect my experience at the NESCBWI conference. I had a really nice time! This painting was part of my homework assignment for an illustration academy I signed up for. Walking away from the conference with new ideas, great feedback, and a great big high from meeting so many talented people in person. It will be a great experience for me to draw on in the future! ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Gnu England

Hopping on an airplane tomorrow morning to the NESCBWI conference.
This is the poster I made for their poster contest: the theme is A Whole New World. Wouldn't it be fun to see GNU Zealand play the GNUnited States at the World Cup? I had a really fun time searching through old soccer posters and learning all about uniforms (the New Zealand All Whites are nicknamed "Ferns" and their away uniforms are all black; not to be confused with the All Blacks, New Zealand's rugby team). So while these fellas are gnu to football, their uniforms are pretty authentic, minus corporate sponsorship. ;)
I'll be sure to post about the conference when I get back home again.
Wish me luck! Hope you are all well! xoxo

Monday, April 2, 2012

Upsy Daisy

These are some daisies I drew for a gal I used to
live on the same street with when we were kids.
She is marrying her sweetheart in June and
needed some flowers for her wedding invites.
Please join me in wishing Sarah and Joseph
a lifetime of love, health, and happiness!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hey, Baby!

Something new for my cousin's brand-new baby! He is such a cute little guy, I got to snuggle him a couple weeks ago. Everything is turning a bright emerald green here in Minnesota, we have been surprised with an early spring! We just got a new birdhouse to replace the one that was vandalized/demolished by industrious woodpeckers, so we're looking forward to seeing who our new little bird neighbors will be... Hope all is well with you! Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Jon We Trust

Jon Sciesczka is having a fun little contest on facebook, so I decided to ante up (my contribution is worth $5.25). You can go here to see all the fun entries. The winner will get a bunch of books signed by Jon himself! Very cool!
In other news: I have been busy, busy, busy... The art project I was working on with my daughter's 3rd grade class turned out super cute (I will post some pics another time). I owrked up the nerve and registered for the NESCBWI conference in April, so I made a new illustration to enter in the poster contest they will be having and have been working on character sketches for a book dummy assignment that I'll need to complete before I go. It has been great and I am learning a lot already, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I finished up some flowers for a friend's wedding invitations (will post later, too), and am happily sketching away another batch of spot illustrations for the 3rd book in the piano music series that I have been working on. I am very excited that the first book will be coming out this month, so stay tuned (haha, accidental music pun)! That seems like a lot, I am sure I am missing something. Thanks for stopping by! *hands you a cookie*


This is a portrait of a friend's sweet little dog. Rest in peace, Princess.

Friday, February 24, 2012

P's and Q's

Here's a little peek at what I am working on right now. I am actually watching my P's and Q's! haha It has been fun lately experimenting with more hand lettering. While I'll freely admit that I am not a lettering genius, I do enjoy it. So, I was drawing the other day and started thinking about it... isn't it amazing to think that you can take an idea that it is in your head and make it a real thing? You can write it down, type it, sketch it, sculpt it, build it, mold it, paint it, carve it, sing it, film it, play it, and/or tell it in endless combinations... We are all creating things every day and most of us don't even realize it, isn't that exciting?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Don't you just love peonies? These cuties bloom every year in our front yard. I have been thinking a lot about springtime as of late... April, specifically, when I'll hop on a jetplane and attend the SCBWI conference in New England (as opposed to Old England, the birthplace of my Mother). Really looking forward to attending a big conference, learning a bunch, and finally meeting some cool kid-booky friends in person. So, I am making up a schedule for myself so I can stay on top of all the things I need to do before the conference (getting a book dummy ready, spiffing up my portfolio, and making a poster to name a few). My new music book assignment just came in, too, so that is great! Juggling some additional kid/family-related things as well, so I thought I'd offer up a pretty photo until I get a chance to post some new art. Hope all is well with you, thank you so much for visiting! xoxo

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If Wishes Were Horses

A very, very, very long time ago I drew this horse for my friend Kelly's parents. I was recently given a chance to revisit it and spiff it up a little. Trot on over to the Brown's Folly website to look at all their beautiful horses. Great big thanks to Greg & Mary Brown for asking me to draw for them again. A horse is really a perfect gift, so pick one up today!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Norma Rae Moment

The good and kind Laura Purdie Salas just tagged me with this shiny Versatile Blogger Award. Not so sure how versatile I actually am, but I'll just go with it... There are some rules that I need to follow now, so bear with me as I am traditionally pretty awful at reading directions. I need to:

  1. Thank the person who bestowed the award on you
  2. List seven random facts about yourself
  3. Spread the love by passing along the award to five other bloggers – and let them know
Thank you so much, Laura! I hope that 2012 brings you all you would wish yourself! *hugs* Laura is a very talented poet and an equally wonderful lady, I love that she is local and that I get to bump into her at kid book events.

Ok, Seven Random Facts about me...

1. My favorite pop is Dr. Pepper.
2. I have lived in Minnesota my whole life but have never been to Canada.
3. My Pink Pearl eraser has gone missing... *sob*
4. Riding horses is my all-time favorite sport, but I haven't been on horseback since I was 7 months pregnant with my eldest (and that was over 9 years ago). Gah!
5. Currently addicted to Downton Abbey.
6. I once accidentally stabbed through my sneaker with a pitchfork and did NOT injure my foot. I know, right!?!
7. My favorite song right now is The Roller by Beady Eye.

I'd like to pass this award on to some local groovy art chicks that I adore:

Also, many thanks to everyone who has stopped by because of the 2012 Comment Challenge. I have enjoyed your kind comments very much and it has been especially nice to find all sorts of fab new blogs to visit! Cheers!

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Tree In Winter

This is a little poem I wrote, inspired by the blog of the lovely and talented poet, Laura Purdie Salas. Thank you for helping me find my tiny inner poet, Laura! It was fun to illustrate this wee poem, and I am very pleased with how it turned out. We sent this postcard out to fam & friends as our holiday card (with love from the Crittendens), and today I'm sending out another version (with my contact info on it) to all the fab art directors and publishers that I would love to get a chance to work with someday. Plus, there is a new b&w page on my website now. Fun!
Happy 2012! Wishing you and yours every happiness! May all your trees be full of happy birdies and cheeky squirrels!