On the Cover: Valerie Nelson

“When I learned that this was going to be the summer cover, I immediately got excited thinking about bright summery colors, animal characters in sunglasses, and summertime treats like ice cream and lemonade,” explains Valerie Nelson, local graphic designer, illustrator, and visual artist who created this Summer Guide’s cover art.

Drawing under a rainbow sherbert sky, Nelson says, “I knew I wanted to draw a bunch of animal characters enjoying a hot summer’s day in Rhode Island, and I wanted to emphasize all of the fun outdoor activities that we can do here… it ended up kind of becoming a piece that depicts what all the creatures might do in our state when the humans aren’t around.”

Whether it be a sunglass-clad, purple bunny tossing a ball or a plump, friendly, lime green frog selling lemonade out of his truck, these creatures seem to be having a wonderful time while the humans are away. The whimsy and playfulness of the cover art sets the tone for getting outside and recreating this summer. Warm weather and sunny beach days remind us to enjoy the finer things in life, like eating a donut on a beach while wearing a hot pink hat (taking a page out of Madame Seagull’s book).

Nelson tells me that she does a lot of pencil drawings in her sketchbook. In terms of media, she says, “I used to often paint in acrylic and Flashe [vinyl] paint, but for the past few years I’ve been making the majority of my work digitally on the iPad. I’ve built up my own library of digital brushes that replicate the look of paint and pencil, and I’ve loved how forgiving the digital drawing process can be.”

Rabbit Car by Valerie Nelson.

Much of Nelson’s illustrative work features animals, which she says have been a big source of inspiration to her, pets and wild animals in nature alike. She mentions, “I’m also inspired by video games and the fantastical creatures and landscapes they often hold.” This reference to video games illuminates something I struggled to put words to when first looking at her work — each subject in Nelson’s cover art is a character, and I want to know each character’s story. How did that crab come to be bobbing in that floatie and what is his brother’s name?

I feel genuine glee looking at this issue’s cover, and it’s not just because it’s absurdly cute. Nelson sums it up best: “I’ve found that animals really bring about a sense of calmness and joy to me, and I love it if I can get others to react similarly when they see my work. While the world can have a lot of darkness, I want to counteract it with joyful imagery and bright funny creatures.”

Check out Nelson’s work on IG and online at — her website features a stationary shop with greeting cards and stickers.