Nina Khalova

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Meet NINA & Genn! And Sweet Little Lidia…

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Oh. Oh, I SEE! It’s not enough to be an extremely talented artist, you have to be GORGEOUS too! Well, I guess that’s fine – if you like that sort of thing (which I do).

As you may recall, we have never actually met Nina or her husband Genn who makes all things possible (he speaks English). They live in the Ukraine. I wrote a little about how we found them in my rather ungracefully named post, “You Can’t Pick Your Artist’s Nose.”

Imagine my absolute pleasure when Genn sent us photos of his beautiful family along with the latest batch of sketches! FINALLY, faces to the names we’ve been working with for over two years!

This is Nina, Genn and their darling daughter Lidia from their recent Christmas ski vacation (Genn tells me Nina even did some sketches while she was there, the hard-working girl!)



The wonderful and talented NINA!


Genn is also a very talented artist, and so kind.

Here they each are with their pretty daughter Lidia:


Nina & Lidia


Genn & Lidia


Relaxing after a fun day skiing.

Someday we hope to meet them in person. For now, photos will have to do. We are so grateful to have found them and very much appreciate their hard work and patience. Viva la Nina, Genn & Lidia!

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I Don’t Know How She Does It…

Ah, the art of Chapter 15 The Meeting at the Mirror! It bridges the gap between my last sketch that was drawn possibly a year or so ago, and current sketches drawn a week or two ago. This time I would do better! After all, now I knew there would be this blog, and now I knew that my little sketches would be seen by more than my inner circle. Surely I could to better knowing all of that!

The last sketch of the old. I called this drawing “First Quartet.” What a lovely name! So graceful! So elevated!:

HT-034I wouldn’t need to elevate my next drawings with fancy names, no! Because this time I was going to draw good! And now, pencils sharpened, erasers found, I now present to you…THE NEW!HT-035Hmm….They look the same in quality as the first batch! Maybe a little less wrinkly paper-wise. Ah, well!

Nina’s first sketch of the first:Sk_HT_34-1Much better than mine, of course. We had a few notes for this one. Namely, 1.) Dot and Betty should look more friendly rather than scared, 2.) Hazel needs to be half a head or so smaller, and 3.) Hazel needs to wear her necklace.

Here are the real Dot and Betty:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADot (in the red)  has the special feature of “flirty eyes,” which means they not only sleep, they have special weights in them to move side to side. I therefore have requested that in all her images, she should be looking to the side in some degree.

Nina’s fix:


I don’t know how she does it:


And the second sketch, “My Little Human”:

Sk_HT_35BExcellent, once again!

Mom&Dad4wkspriorMy sister January took this photo of my parents about four weeks before my Father’s passing. I love it, even as it makes me cry. Best Parents Ever.

My thoughts are with my mother at this time as my father’s service will be held tomorrow. I’m having a hard time with this, and I was already living long distance! My mother was Right There, side by side for sixty years!

Mom, I love you, Dad I miss you, it’s not forever…because it IS for forever. We shall meet again.


I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thank you.

From Kansas To OZ

Hot via the magic of email! Here they are!

First off, the sketch:


And now, in drenched, Oz-like color:


drevilcBut, wait! Now that I saw it in color, I noticed something missing. And, NO, it wasn’t to delay-Nina-for-the-next-chapter-set-of-illustrations-so-that-there-was-finally-a-chance-that-my-charmingly-child-like-sketches-could-be-used-instead!

I can’t believe you’d think that.

See if you can guess what was added in this final, final version. Answer at the bottom of the post:

HT_30-1Lastly, “The Milky Brown Eye.” Here’s the sketch:


And in color!

HT_31As always, Nina’s done a perfectly lovely, if un-childlike job. Which is fine, if you like that sort of thing (which I confessedly do)…This is one of my favorites so far.

So, did you notice what was missing from the first illustration? It was hard to tell from the sketch alone:

RNsLook closely:


drevilsoonIf you noticed Ruth’s necklace appear in the second version, you were right! Ruth had to have her necklace, she put it on just before the opening of Elizabeth’s box. It wasn’t until I saw it in color that I noticed it was missing.

We just got Nina’s sketches for Tuesday night’s chapter!

There are a few changes to be made.

I’m sure she’ll work with her usual skill and speed.


Until tomorrow!

The Art of 13: The Eyes Have It

Chapter 13 The Question & The Quest. Nope, still no color! Which is just fine. We shall go with what we have for today’s post, including corrected sketches from Nina that are currently not in the book. They may never see the light of day because we’ll probably go straight to color! But they’ll see the light of day here! YES, I’m as excited as you are…

First off, my sketch. It’s entitled, “Tell Ruth”:

HT-030 Tell RuthaNina’s initial sketch (and the one currently in use):


Our notes: “Elizabeth needs to be more animated. She’s talking quickly and so excited to be alive again. Hazel should still be surprised. It’s only moments since the first time she’s seen a doll come to life. Ruth’s head should be turned more towards Elizabeth, rather than away.”

The corrected sketch, For Your Eyes Only:


The changes are subtle, until you look closely. If you flash back and forth between the two, it’s almost like a moving cartoon!


Honorable mention, the sketch road not taken (I’d given Nina two choices for the second illustration of this chapter). I called it “The Torch is Passed,” because Hazel is now Elizabeth’s human. That’s the way it should be…:


To that end, I’d climbed onto a step ladder to get a shot of my living room to show what I meant. Note the entryway hall tree in the forefront of both my sketch and the photo I took for Nina:


Why, yes I like color. How did you guess…? (But please note, these color’s aren’t quite accurate. Still, my house is VERY colorful.)

She went for the second choice instead, entitled, “A Milky Brown Eye”:

HT-031BHere are a pair of eyes that SHOULD be a nice, warm brown, but the early plastic has dried out and “crazed”:

13milkyexampleSome doll restorers will replace the eyes. Not me! They never, ever look the same and I can instantly tell they’ve been replaced by their sparkly perfection – which simply doesn’t fit in with an old doll’s face. Besides, the “eyes are the windows to the soul”! They’re the things that have seen so many things over the 70 – 80 years that they’ve been in existence.

I would much prefer to take a little bit of sewing machine oil and drip a drop in, careful to avoid her skin. I’m sure I’ll have an example of before and after at some time. There’s no avoiding the occasional crazed eye. In fact, I see a pair every time I look in a mirror…

Nina’s first sketch:


I decided I really wanted accuracy for my Sears Home, which as you know is Hollyhock Hideaway itself!

I am so very lucky that the book “Homes in a Box” Modern Homes From Sears Roebuck decided to feature my particular, which is No. 146, because they show the extras! Like this page:


Detail of the door knob:

13SearsdetailI sent Nina this photo of the knob for the door to my attic (after removing the bat-proofing pencil that is usually stuck in the keyhole. Don’t sneer! It seems to have worked! I haven’t had any bats this year – knock on wood (oh please oh please oh please, let bat season be over)):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPatient Nina obliged. Her revised sketch:

Sk_HT_31B-1Both have since been approved to go to color, so we’ll get them soon!

In the meantime, I’ve been sketching away at the next batch. You’ll be as shocked as I am to know: I haven’t gotten any better. But that’s okay! The idea’s the thing.

Until next time! Hope everyone had an EXCELLENT Halloween! Happy November! Have a great weekend!

Chapter 12: Nina Thinks Outside the Box


Well…THIS isn’t very interesting.

Don’t be shocked, but as usual the contest – and really, it isn’t a contest, I’m just here to sketch – between Nina and I isn’t even close.

Chapter 12, The Wakening, was a tricky one to illustrate. The entire thing takes place inside of a box! What to do? Darkness, with slivers of light? Hmm…Better make it about Elizabeth’s thoughts, then:

HT-028 Factory Cafeteriab blog

While “thought bubbles” might be okay for MY chicken scratches, how the heck would you do them in a real drawing without looking silly? “La-la-la!” I thought to myself as I shut my eyes and forwarded my sketch to Nina. I knew she would come up with a way!

She did! Here’s Nina’s thoughtful take:



Also, besides Elizabeth, Nina took the extra step – on her own, I didn’t even know that she’d seen these dolls – of adding previous friends that I’d done to the party at the cafeteria table. Recognize them?


It’s the little things like that. This is why WE LOVE NINA.

Then there was the next illustration. Sometimes an illustration can help move the story along, and this one especially fits that category. “The Rules of Magic,” as I call them: Once you outgrow your childhood, there is no regaining it, the magic is gone. Dolls will no longer come alive for you. So while Mrs. Hopkins, who was Elizabeth’s first little human so many years ago, still dearly loved Elizabeth, she could no longer see Elizabeth alive. She could only see the physical doll herself. How to get that idea across?

My attempt:

HT-029 Elizabeth's Abby blog

And Nina’s, now in color:



From the first book, and now from Chapter 10, Present Past. That’s old Abby in the chair.

1AbbeybdSince the styles between the first book and the second are quite different, and we’d used an illustration from the first book, “Ruth’s birthday party” where she first received Elizabeth from the now grown Abby, bridging the two styles took a little maneuvering.

Nina did a bang up job, but for the final book in print we might redo the birthday party illustration, since the tone of that particular “scene” as I tend to call chapters, has changed a little. Heaven knows, Nina’s up to the task.

That’s it! That’s all for Chapter 12. And now! Back to the sewing room for me!

I hope you have an excellent weekend beyond your wildest dreams!

Chapter. 10. Nina! AGAIN!

Hmm….it occurs to me that I lied! Yes, I lied when I said that the drawing with the dead bat under the real estate flyer was the only drawing from the previous book that we would still be able to use.

There was also the following drawing:


You may notice that the style is a little bit different from the drawings now. This tale of Ruth’s 5th birthday was in the first book, as I mentioned yesterday, and that version of the book was a lot “fluffier” shall we say. So yes, there’s a difference in styles. I can’t seem to find my sketch of this illustration. Probably an art thief stole it.

For the next drawing, I’d given to options. The road not taken:

HT-024 Fairy Escortbl

Instead, we went with:

HT-024 Fairies At Lastb

Note the dancing potatoes! Luckily, Nina was able to reach into my brain and see what I meant:


Then, the last! I, um, must have been in some kind of hurry – but the idea was a simple one anyway:

HT-025 Farewell to Elizabethbl


HT_25-1Look at all the nuances in Ruth’s arm alone! Nina puts so much detail into everything.

This next photo will probably give most of you nightmares, but I have to show you Elizabeth, the doll this drawing is based upon, because Nina really nailed it:


As you can see, Elizabeth needs a lot of work. She has all of her eyelashes and her tin eyes aren’t rusted, which is good. However, her arms and legs are peeling, her human hair wig has grown a little thin over the years, and how she scraped the side of her nose, I’ll never know. But she’s a fairly rare doll, I find her beautiful, and I love her.

And we love Nina! That is all.

Have a great weekend!

Chapter 6: Nina Tramples AGAIN

You might wonder when you see the following why I continue to post my sketches. Well, they’re to show what the concept for the illustration was before Nina swoops in and gets all artsy about it.

Drawing is hard. The angles, perspective, shadows…for ME, that is:


Can you spot Marlene peeking out the trailer window?

Apparently, NOT for Nina (but we knew that already, didn’t we?):


Nina has Marlene in the window too. It’s like she’s copying me! Only better.

I’ve been waiting for this chapter to come for awhile. ENTER MARLENE!


Marlene is  a character that has been with me for a long time. For this final version, she was fleshed out a lot more. In more ways then one. Witness a now defunct illustration from the first full book version:


Now that we were fleshing out Marlene, I wanted her even MORE “Marleeney” in the illustrations as well. For inspiration, I sent this:


I seem to have a fixation with Phyllis Diller. This is the second time I’ve used her in my blog! Who, you ask? HMPF, I say!


Carol Burnett as Nora Desmond, a spoof of the character from Sunset Boulevard. SO FUNNY.

I could also have sent this:









Either way, Nina COMPLETELY nailed it. Here’s her take on my “Marlene and Hazel meet sketch:

HT_16Just look at Marlene’s face! Doesn’t she look like someone you might know? My brother’s comment when he saw Nina’s take on this one? “SCARY.” You GO, Nina!

And my house! As I wrote yesterday, my heart skittered a little when first I saw it. There was something about it. Good or bad, I wasn’t quite sure to begin with.


In an early attempt at what eventually became Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway there’s a whole history of this house, and about all the people that had come with a real estate agent to see it only to walk away without entering or barely setting a foot inside.

I myself have had a lot of people come up to me since moving here telling me they looked at this house, “But it was too much.”

“Aw,” I would reply modestly. “It’s not really that big…”

Only to be met with an incredulous gaze, “No! Too much WORK!”

Oh. I see. Ahem.

Later when my brothers wanted me to write a nemesis into the story, I decided to use that hapless and formerly nameless and faceless real estate agent that had fruitlessly tried to make a sale.

I guess this house was waiting for the right person! I guess this house was waiting for me. Yay! (But it DOES need a lot of work…). Nina’s final take:

HT_17A MUCH better angle. But I’m a better Agle! Har.



Oh, That NINA!!

She is AMAZING. Of course, she had good inspiration. Heh. As we wait for Chapter 3, I thought you might like to see part of the process.

Nina Khalova is the very talented illustrator hired for Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway – once it was discovered that I actually couldn’t draw very well. My siblings at least let me do the initial design! And then Nina takes over from there. For example Chapter 1, Hazel in the backseat (see if you can guess whose is whose):


Or at the ticket counter. Mine (in case you couldn’t guess):

Hazel Tickets



She adds so many wonderful details.

For some reason I didn’t save Nina’s final illustration of Chapter 2’s Smith and Jones on my computer, but glass half full! Now you can see another part of the process. Here’s my sketch:

S and J 22

Smith and Jones’ “hats” are made from umbrellas that have been stripped and taken apart.

It was a tricky angle to capture. Smith and Jones’ corners are far apart, but we wanted BOTH of them to show up close. Here’s Nina’s initial sketch. It’s a VAST improvement (of course). Just a few changes needed to be made before it went to color. Can you guess? Answers below:


1. Smith is playing a metal garbage can, not two pipes.

2. Taller chain link fences surround, with stacks of boxes behind (okay, that one’s not too obvious, it’s just how I pictured it in my mind. Nina is very obliging. And PATIENT).

In the end, NOT TOO SHABBY. We’ve loved Nina from the start. She can take a simple scribble and embellish it and add life and things we never would have thought of. Viva la Nina!

Chapter 3, Freedom, Fear & Fireworks – Coming Soon!

And GOOD NEWS: The main techno Wizard has made it so the illustrations will load much faster – without compromising the quality! About a third of our respondents had slow load problems (including myself), so, yay!