The Art of NUDI GILL ~ A Short Q&A with Bonnie Kelso

We are excited to have you back on the GRP news blog, Bonnie! This time we want to hear more about your journey as the illustrator of NUDI GILL (releasing in the fall of 2022). Let’s start by talking about the star of this book, a smart, sassy nudibranch named Gill. Can you tell us a bit about your process for creating him and some of his defining characteristics?


I tried to make Gill as anatomically correct as possible, but sometimes it’s hard for young readers to relate to creatures that don’t have a well-defined face. The dorid nudibranch doesn’t have eyes like we do, but rather eyespots, which are tiny and located on the back of their heads. Can you imagine what that would be like? This position helps them sense shifting light like the shadow of a predator swimming overhead. I took some liberties and moved Gill’s eyespots to the front of his face. It was worth it, because that face is pretty expressive!


We couldn’t agree more. Gill has a lot of personality! You have also worked hard to show readers what Gill’s home environment looks like. Most of the scenes take place under water, which sounds like a challenge. What tips do you have for illustrators creating these types of scenes and environments?


Yes, it was a challenge for sure! I’ve really worked hard on the color script to bring diversity and color emotion to the scenes. I studied a lot of photo references of fish and marine invertebrates like corals and sea sponges, because I wanted to show the many unique colors and forms of Gill’s beautiful home environment. Water is fascinating to draw, because of the way light passes through it. There are bubbles, too, which can really help illustrate the action in a story.


And who doesn’t love bubbles? We appreciate all those details you have added to the story. As the illustrator, do you have any favorite spreads or images ~ something you particularly enjoyed working on? If so, we would love a sneak peek!


Every time I work on these drawings I can’t help but smile. I really have had the best time creating all of them. One of my favorites is of this underwater archway. There’s something magical about swimming through a tunnel reef formation underwater. This image brings back great memories of diving off the Cayman Islands which is loaded with these underwater formations. There’s one snorkeling site called Cheeseburger Reef. It’s called that because of a nearby Burger King, but I remember the name because it’s like swimming through a Swiss cheese maze. Super fun!



Wow, Bonnie ~ this really says it all. Thanks for sharing this close-up of Gill and his new snorkeler friend. We can't wait for everyone to see all your incredible artwork in this book!


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