Illustration Process – The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp

This book is one that is very dear to my heart. Paul Russell (who happens to be the author of Grandma Forgets) met my son Bowen in Melbourne at the book launch of Grandma Forgets. Instantly he resonated with Bowen, seeing his creativity first hand, when Bowen built a spinning face using the paper coffee/tea cups we had for afternoon tea. Paul spent time with Bowen chatting and could see so much of himself in Bowen. (They are both Dyslexic and think differently to most people!)

Not too long after this book launch, Paul sent me an email with a story he had written for Bowen titled The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp. I immediately sketched some rough drawings and voila, we had the beginning of this book. 


The very first sketch I drew while reading the first draft Paul sent me.

Anouska Jones from EK Books was so impressed with what we had submitted, we basically signed a contract with them straight away.

Bowen fell in love and has now experienced the length of time it takes to produce a book (and he’s not a patient person!) because this project has been two to three years in the making!

The Characters

Obviously the main character is based on my son Bowen so I had a lot of inspiration right on hand, but other characters in my book also are inspired by my family!

Mum – is me!!

This bedroom spread is my favourite. It is literally exactly how Bowen’s room usually is, right down to the solar system bedding!


Grandma – is my mum, Bowen’s grandma!

Teacher – a tip of the hat to Paul (author – who is a teacher himself)

Art Teacher – my other son Bayley who is training to be a teacher.


First Roughs


Final Artwork


The Cover

A special shout out to Mark Thacker (book graphic designer) for his job in placing the text (there’s a lot more than normal in this book!!) around my illustrations and for the wonderful front cover!

Written by Paul Russell illustrated by Nicky Johnston, published by EK Books.

The Incredibly Busy Mind of Bowen Bartholomew Crisp is available July 2021


Staying creative,
Nicky x

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