Illustration

I work in several different illustration styles. Please use the link below to find your favorite.

Illustration Portfolio

Cartoon Logos & Mascots

Carton logos and mascots are a great way to promote your business or event. Use the link below to learn more.

Cartoon Logo Portfolio

Licensed Art

I've done licensed art for Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Scholastic, Hasbro you name it I've done it. To see more use the link below.

Licensed Art Portfolio

Bob Ostrom Studio

magic school bus illustration by bob ostrom

The Magic School Bus

Early in my career I got a call from my rep (at that time) asking me if I had ever heard of the Magic School Bus and if I wanted to illustrate a Magic School Bus book. Having no idea what I was agreeing to of course I said yes. As it turned out the animation series was just about to be released on PBS and things were really heating up for the publisher. They were looking for several artists to help illustrate books that would hit the market to coincide with the release of the PBS television show. It was about to go from a very popular book series to a very popular TV show to an even more popular book series based on the very popular TV show. How do you say no to that?

When artists sign up to work on licenses, art directors will often ask for a sample to see if the artist can handle that particular license. The artists job is to emulate the original creators work, in this case Bruce Degen, as closely as possible so that’s exactly what I did.

I studied Bruce’s work and practiced working with his style until I had it down cold, then I created a sample and sent it off to my rep. It was well received and I was in. I received a contract to work on my first Magic School Bus book. It was about Miss Fizzle’s class traveling to outer space. I was pretty unfamiliar with the series at that time but that was all about to change.

The manuscript showed up and I got to work. The process generally goes something like this. A publisher puts out the word they are looking for artists, usually by contacting a rep or artists they have worked with before and trust. Artists respond by submitting sample art. The artists who submit the samples they like best are offered a title or whatever the publisher needs them to do. With animated properties like the Magic School Bus the titles are often based on an actual episode. The publisher will send the artist all the material they need to do the best job possible. That usually includes some kind of spec manual with model sheets and a video of the episode. In the case of the Magic School bus it was such a new property some of the videos weren’t always totally finished when they showed up and once or twice the voices of characters like Phoebe or Dorothy Ann were done by the animation sound engineers. It was a little strange seeing this little girl characters with adult male voices.
The book was fun to work on and I was really thankful to put away my airbrush and work with watercolor again. It took me a while to adapt to Bruce Degen’s drawing style but he was pretty cool with letting the artist show their hand a bit in the illustrations. For those of you who have worked in licensing you’ll know this is exceedingly rare and so it threw me at first. The idea that the style was not completely set was new to me so I wasn’t sure which direction to go in. Should I follow the original books or go with the animated look? They were both very different and I ended up settling somewhere in between. After I finished my art I sent it off to my rep for review before it went to the publisher.  I got a call from my rep first thing the next morning. I figured he was calling to congratulate me on a job well done. What else could it have been? Boy, was I ever wrong. What I received from him was some of the most severe criticism I had ever received in my entire career then and now. Mind you, this was not coming from the publisher  this was coming just from my rep at that time, the publisher hadn’t even seen the art yet.
One of the pages I had painted showed a couple of the characters sliding down an ice hill on Mars. Admittedly I knew this art wasn’t going to win me any awards but my rep really tore into that piece when he saw it. We went back and forth, me telling him it wasn’t so bad and him telling me it looked like a spit sink after a root canal and it needed to be fixed before he could send it. Hilarious now, devastating at the time. Anyhow he sent it back to me along with a couple of other pieces art and I worked herder on fixing them then I did on the entire book. I resubmitted in the nick of time and off it went to the publisher.
The following week I got a nice note from Scholastic thanking me for a job well done. I worked on quite a few more books in that series and they all paid ridiculously well compared to any other publisher I was working with at the time. Although sometimes I question a few of the tactics my old rep used I did learn a lot from him. He later apologized for the remark and we laughed about it but aside from all that working on those Magic School Bus books was a very special thing for me and I have a soft spot when I look through all that old art. My son was such a huge fan of the Magic School Bus at the time and he was just the right age for it. We were able to spend a lot of time together watching the videos and reading the books. For him it was like Magic. I was invited to his classroom to draw with his class and even though I wasn’t Bruce Degen famous I got to be a rock star for my son and his friends and that was magic enough for me.

Adobe InDesign Class – Raleigh NC Area

image of bob ostrom teaching indesign class at wake tech

Wake Tech Adobe InDesign Class Starring with Bob Ostrom

I will be teaching an Adobe InDesign Class at Wake Tech in Cary on the Western campus starting Wednesday 1/28/2015. This class is a beginner level course. It runs Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:30 until 9:30 PM. Class sign ups have been extended until the day the class begins 1/28/15. I have been teaching this program for a little over 5 years now and it’s definitely one of my favorites. Learning InDesign has been a total game changer for me. I highly recommend this class for anyone who is considering a career in design, layout or publishing. Many of the student I have taught have gone on to very promising careers as a result of having completed this course. A hand full have actually picked up jobs before the course was even finished. The general consensus among the students I stay in touch with is most wish they hadn’t waited so long to take the class.

 

Wondering if InDesign is right for you?

InDesign – For Layout and design, InDesign is king. This program is sometimes overlooked by artists who use Photoshop or Illustrator because those programs get them by. If you’re tired of just getting by InDesign is a must. This program is hands down the best layout program in the Adobe creative suite and it is the industry standard for layout and design. I highly recommend all artists learn this program so they can have a complete understanding of the design process. InDesign is used by most printers with very few exceptions.  If you are thinking about a career in design, layout, print or publishing this program is a must.

Here is a little snippet from the Wake Tech site describing the course:

Adobe InDesign CC is a versatile publishing application that gives you pixel-perfect control over design, layout, and typography. Learn how to create elegant and engaging pages for brochures, posters, magazines, newspapers, and eBooks. Use responsive design tools to easily develop layouts that look great on a variety of page sizes, medium orientations, and digital devices.

For questions please contact Dustin Gurley at dcgurley@waketech.edu or by phone at 919-866-5822. Check out our blog at http://ncce.waketech.edu

So there you have it. If you are interested in signing up you have until Wednesday January 28th.

Wild Thornberrys – An Inside look at Illustrating Licensed Art for Picture Books.

A Wild Thornberrys Book Illustrated by Bob Ostrom

When I first started doing children’s books I focused mainly on licensed properties. I did work for all the big guys… Disney, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon and lots of others. It was a pretty sweet gig with the exception of one thing. Illustrators who work in the world of licensed art can tell you that it’s kind of a lonely business. Your work is everywhere but you are rarely recognized for it unless of course you are the creator. Unfortunately even creators are sometimes not given the credit they deserve depending on how the art was developed.

This art was from a Wild Thornberry’s book I did. Most of the books I did for licensed properties were a little stingy with the credits but not Scholastic and the Wild Thornberry’s. The first time I saw the actual printed book was in at Barnes and Noble on display and my name was right on the front cover in big 20 pt type. I wanted to run around the store flinging copies into the air and dancing like a fool but I figured that would just be bad form. So instead I high-fived my son who was about 4 or 5 at the time and did the dad-dance. He thought it was pretty cool too. He used to love it when I got books from properties he knew from TV because they always came with a video that we would watch over and over as I tried to get the poses just right. He would often run around the house quoting lines from whatever series we had just watched. As he got older the fun kind of wore off and the cool factor faded a bit but every now and then we’ll spot one of my books in the book store or at the library and it’s cool all over again.

 

 

 

 

Q: Hey Bob? Can we still pick up a copy of these books?

A: You better believe it buster buddy. Amazon still has them on their site and lucky for you I just happen to have a couple of affiliate links you can use. If you ever wondered what an affiliate link is here’s how it works. You click on the link and it takes you to Amazon’s site. If you purchase the book Amazon looks at the site you just came from and see’s it’s from me. then Amazon says,”Hey, Bob something really cool just happened. Someone came and bought a book using a link from your website. We think that’s so cool we want to send you a tiny bit of money…. here you go!”

So if you like this book, you like Amazon and you like me (and I know you do) feel free to use these handy links down below.

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Tracey Smith
Author

I could not have had a better, more gratifying experience collaborating with Bob on my first children's book! Working only over the phone, Bob expertly synthesized and translated my vision for the story. We bounced ideas off of each other extremely well. With all of his vast illustrating experience and extraordinary talent, he was still always open to my input and feedback.

The resulting illustrations are beyond well-executed and completely adorable. His images truly make the book. "These pictures are so cute!" is the first thing people say to me when they see it. Also consistently responsive, organized and timely, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND working with Bob to any children's book author or publisher.

November 2011

Tracey Jane Smith