Pamplin Media Group – The Story Behind the Library Mascot Ollie the Otter
The library has a Q&A with local artist Jesse Osterkamp, ââcreator of the library mascot
The Jefferson County Library’s summer reading program is in full swing, and one of the central creatures of the entire program is our mascot, Ollie the otter.
The artist behind Ollie is Jesse Osterkamp, ââand Gretchen Schlie, our community service specialist, sat down with him to learn more about Ollie and what it took to create 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 happened 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-finished pieces that I just dragged or sat down in files. If there is one thing I have learned from doing commission work, it is to set aside time to make art for myself.
GS: Where did you find your inspiration for Ollie?
JO: My inspiration for Ollie was pretty unimaginative, to be honest. I thought to myself, “What would an otter be like floating on its back holding a book.” Turns out it looks pretty cute.
GS: Where does your inspiration for drawing come from?
JO: I get a huge amount of inspiration for my work from looking at the work of other artists. I’m going to see something that 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 spring to mind.
GS: I know the team asked you to create or draw several of Ollie’s friends. I think it was a long list. How long does it take you to complete a single drawing, and how did each of them come about?
JO: The drawings for Ollie’s friends pretty much came up with what the real animal was and tried to make them look cartoonish and fun.
GS: Of all the characters in Ollie and Friends, which one did you enjoy creating the most?
JO: I have to say the bobcat was the most fun to create and my favorite. I think he’s got a lot of character and looks like a standing guy. MDR.
GS: I understood that there had been quite a debate when the staff were deciding on the local animals; they wanted new creatures on the possibility of a crawdad? What was the discussion about, and is there a father among Ollie’s friends?
JO: Oh yes, the crawdad. Some members wanted a crawdad, and others were fiercely against the crawdad. It was fun for me to watch the “debate” unfold. I didn’t really have a say or an opinion anyway. I just drew what they wanted me to draw. I haven’t really had any experience with crawdads, to be honest. I know people say they are good to eat.
GS: What’s the next step for you? Are there any Ollie books, toys, a movie?
JO: You know, I don’t know what’s next for Mr. Ollie. I can say with certainty though, that I had absolutely no idea that Ollie would have become as popular as him. When I submitted my design to Ollie almost two years ago, I thought I was just going to submit my design, and that would be it. It’s great to see what happened to the project. I don’t know if there will be any Ollie books or toys in the future. I think it would be great to see, however. As for an Ollie movie – if there was one, I would leave that to the animators. I might be pretty good at drawing, but I absolutely don’t know how to animate! I would be doing Ollie a disservice if I tried.
GS: Now that you have become âfamousâ locally, what advice would you give to aspiring artists?
JO: To any young artist or to anyone who wishes to improve their skills, my advice is to continue to draw. Draw every day. Whether for a few minutes here and there or for a few hours. Just take a sketchbook and fill it out. When it’s full, start over!
The creation of Ollie by Jesse 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 a series of Ollie books this fall, and Jesse will illustrate it. Ollie the otter rose to fame; you will find it in all the documents of our summer reading program. Look for that cute otter face and sign up for JCLD’s summer reading program.
Interested in volunteering?
Need to get out of the summer heat (or plan ahead – the winter cold)? Why not volunteer at the library? We are looking for volunteers to help tidy up and retrieve books to meet customer requests. Bonus – we are a fun bunch. If you are interested, call us at 541-475-3351 or register on our website, www.jcld.org.
As a reminder, the library (air-conditioned) is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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