Sunday, November 4, 2012

Studio mascots

I have no new illustrations to post this week as I have been working on pictures to accompany my middle grade novel submission.  I'm reluctant to post them because I feel good about them and think that they, or some variation of them, might actually one day be published in a book.  Anyway, best not to share with the whole wide world just in case.  Still, I feel a need to keep the blog alive with a fresh content now and then.  To that end I've decided to take a break from my usual type of blog post and introduce you to my studio mascots.

As many of you are aware, writing and illustrating can be an isolating business.  Many illustrators and writers keep a pet or two at hand while they work, to take the edge off the loneliness.  I keep four.

It's okay; they're small.

No, I am not some crazy cat lady.  (Although if I were not allergic . . .)

They're gerbils!

That's Remus staring up at the camera.  The black one behind him is Snape, and the white one standing down in the aspen shavings is Albus.

This shot shows Harry with his head popping up out of the wooden box.  Remus has moved down by Albus.  It's not obvious with the speckled lighting, but Harry has a white mark in the middle of his forehead.  I'm sure all you Harry Potter fans know who these gerbils are named for.

It's a comfort to glance up from my work, turn to my head to the right, and see a furry critter gazing back at me.

You may be wondering, but Jeanie, why so many?

Well, I'll tell you.  For a couple of years, I had two gerbils, Ramona and Beezus.  They were delightful!  Ramona was as spunky a girl as her Beverly Cleary character namesake.

Here are Ramona and Beezus eating peas and carrots:

Last Thanksgiving, not long after this photo was taken, Beezus died.  She was two and a half years old.  These guys don't last long, but I'd hoped for at least three years.  They can live anywhere from two to five as well-cared-for pets.

Gerbils don't do well without a cage mate.  But gerbils, especially the females, also get crusty in their old age.  Introducing a new cage mate for Ramona was not in the cards.  *Cue the violins.*  Ramona only lasted  a couple of months without Beezus.

I decided to boost the mascot number and got four gerbils, males this time because I'd heard they're better at group living.  I ended up having to split them into two pairs once they were fully grown anyway, but at least the four will always be familiar to each other.  They now live in side by side cages where they can see and squeak hostile gerbil language at each other.  So in another year or two, when the grim gerbil reaper starts making calls to my studio again, the remaining gerbils will have a better chance of hanging onto companionship (and health) for longer.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I need to go break up a gerbil fight.

How about you?  Do you work with animals in your midst?


  1. I'm waiting for your gerbil book. Let's have some Jeanie gerbil drawings! :)

  2. There are some rough pencil sketches on this blog somewhere, I think. They're of Beezus and Ramona a couple of years ago. Very gestural as gerbils are speedy little guys.

    As to a gerbil book, I've heard that the California agricultural authority prefers not to have gerbils promoted in children't literature. Gerbils are banned in both CA and HI because if they got loose and bred in the wild the agricultural damage would be catastrophic. A fellow author was encouraged to change her main character to a hamster for that reason.

    Hamsters are equally cute creatures, but nocturnal and less spunky. I'd rather write about rats anyway, better story material.


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