A Sneak Peek Inside My Children’s Book, “A Birthday”

So I’ve been working on this children’s book say… oh… for over 20 years. It’s based on the student film I did that caught the attention of Disney Animation Studios back in 1987. Okay… YES, I’M OLD!!!! Now, to get on with it…

Over the years I’ve done an illustration here and there to work toward finishing the book. Looking back, I had no idea it was going to take me this long. I didn’t realize that my storyboarding career would keep me so busy and eventually lead me into a directing and writing career. I didn’t realize that a family would also take up so much time. I’ve always been naïve, yet after all these years, I’m hoping I’m growing out of that.

Now, I have five of 32 illustrations that I need to finish the book. And I want to rewrite it and possibly add to the ending—not change it, just add to it. Sure, there’s lots of work to be done, but if I haven’t given up after 20 years, why not finish it?

A Birthday is about a little old lady who is alone on her birthday.

Brenda Chapman A Birthday

This was the very first piece I created for the book (Emma putting cake in the oven). I have to say that trying to maintain a certain style over two decades is quite challenging!

Brenda Chapman A Birthday

This one is the second illustration I did (Emma sitting next to the phone). I have never been completely happy with it (well, to be honest, I’m never completely happy with anything I create!). I may go back into this one again and see if I can figure out what’s bothering me. Sometimes the challenge is fun and frustrating at the same time. Guess that’s what makes life interesting.

I have three additional illustrations that I’ll share on the blog in the coming weeks. And, who knows—maybe this will be the motivation I need to make further progress on the 27 pieces that remain!

Now that you’ve had a peek of what I’m working on… what projects are you tackling?

  • Oh, I love these. Hurry with the book! It sounds like a gem.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you! xo

  • Yoonhee Kang

    I love the drawings!!! I just graduated and refining my portfolio…should stay motivated!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Congratulations on your graduation! Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll stay motivated if you stay motivated, okay? 🙂

  • K Bilbao

    It is wonderful keep up the good work!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you, K!!

  • These drawings are so fantastic and may I say… GOOD LUCK! I really hope you’re able to finish it soon! Looks adorable. Also… I was born in 87 so… feels like a special present just for me. I know that sounds stupid and quite silly but that’s how I look at things sometimes!

    I’ve Illustrated 4 kids books for other people before and then for class in college I wrote and drew one of my own but I didn’t get to really finish it. It’s been a year and I dread the fact that I haven’t finished it yet. I will finish it! I know I will.

    But… right now another story caught my attention and I am working on a final draft of the written part. Can’t wait to start Illustrating it.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you! ’87! Old! Old, I tell you! I am OLD!! 🙂
      Thank you for you sweet encouragement. Good luck with you projects! You sound much more prolific than me!! 🙂

      • You’re not old, you’re wise. My grandmother lived to be 90 and she was the youngest person on my dad’s side of the family just by how alive and amazing she was. My 15 year old cousins couldn’t compete with her awesome attitude!

        You’re amazing and have a lot of creativity. And you’re no where near my grandmother’s age, so stop saying you’re old.

        • Brenda Chapman

          What a sweetheart you are! Okay… I’ll stop… if you insist. 🙂

  • Celine Lt

    An old lady alone for her birthday… you just broke my heart already! I hope it ends well 🙂

    • Brenda Chapman

      Well, if I ever finish it, hopefully you’ll find out! 🙂

  • Lisa Pereira

    The artwork is beautiful and soulful. I’ve collected children’s books most of my life and will certainly add this one to the wish list just for the illustrations posted here.
    I’m no artist by any means but have you tried adding a smidge of height to the telephone table and taking the telephone cord more into the the background by darkening it?

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you, Lisa. I will be honored if you add my book to your collection – just being on the wish list is gratifying! 🙂
      Hadn’t thought of those particular changes – now I have something to consider when I get back into it. 🙂

  • Oh Brenda you should so finish this story!!! I love these two pictures and I looked hard at the second one and still love it. I love the composition of light and shadow and oh she looks so sad!

    Actually my mum wants me to illustrate a story she wrote years ago. As you know I’m learning to draw so its seems like a great place to start. Even if it just helps me learn!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you! I need all the encouragement I can get to pull the paints and brushes back out. 🙂
      Go for it! What a great way to practice you skills as an artist! Doing something with love.

  • Dennis Van Staalduinen

    It looks lovely and bittersweet, and deserves, no, *needs* to be written. But no pressure. Can’t wait to see more.

    • Brenda Chapman

      I like your description – thank you. I’ll do my best to finish.

  • Anonymous

    With the second panel — perhaps the clustering on the wall in the upper right? I love the style and the look of these two, but I’m trying to think what could be throwing you off on that second one. I’m wondering how it would look if there were only three — or one — portrait on the wall. Five makes it a little busy, and also maybe subconciously raises the expectation that this isn’t an old lady with a lack of social/family connections around… Maybe?

    • Brenda Chapman

      Maybe. Part of the point I need to make is that she does have a family. They’ve forgotten her. But maybe I could do that in one big family portrait instead of so many little ones. Another thing to keep in mind when I put it back on the easel. Thank you for the fresh eye!

  • Truly wonderful illustrations. Wondering if you ever use any digital technology in your illustration process – or all “traditional.”

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you! So far it’s all traditional. I’m still in the stone age – although I will eventually give digital a try. But I’d like to finish this book the old fashioned way.

  • Aliki Grafft

    Brenda, you are amazing. I have known OF you for many years, but through your posts are getting to know a little more ABOUT you. You are such an inspiration to me, I can’t even begin to explain…to see someone like you, doing so many amazing things, continuing to create through the ups and down, to give of what you know, to just say “hey, it’s okay to go back to an old project..I’ve been busy”..all while being a mother….It gets me choked up just typing this. Sometimes I feel like it’s all impossible: full time job story boarding and writing…and at the same time developing a pilot..then watching it get dumped only to one week later find myself in development on another..coming home to a 4 year old and a 2 year old who need me and I miss during the day…it is all amazing and inspiring, but sometimes feels impossible. You have done it. You are doing it. I thank you for putting yourself and your work out there. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. xo

    • Brenda Chapman

      Sounds like you are in the thick of it!
      It does feel impossible, sometimes. I have been through times when I thought I should just give it all up and stay home to be Mom. But then I’d pull up my bootstraps, thinking that I wanted to give my daughter an example of a strong woman – even when I’m not feeling so strong. But also, a part of me would have died if I’d given it up, and that wouldn’t be good to show my daughter, either.
      So many reasons to keep going when we know it would be easier not to. Hang in there. There are a lot of us out there. You are not alone.

      • Aliki Grafft

        Thank you so much for sharing that..I have had all the exact same thoughts…asking if I should just be a SAHM, but then thinking how I like being an example to my daughter as someone who worked hard and pursued her dreams…and that giving up my craft would be like giving up a limb…I know I have a deep love for my family, and my craft..sometimes it feels impossible, but it is always worth it. It really is nice to know that not only are there other people doing it, but there are other people, like you, who are doing it so well.

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  • Aleix Ciudad

    Wow, I love your illustrations. I am looking forward to see the whole book. You have such amazing talent! :)Thank you for sharing it.

    • brendachapman

      Thank you so much!

  • Jeremy Fuscaldo

    Hey there Mrs. Chapman. 🙂

    I’ve just caught up with your blog not too long ago and have been hearing about new project.

    I think it’s great you’re trying to write and illustrate your own childrens book series. I’m trying to break into comics and get my own series on the ground for a publishing company. Any advice for an aspiring artist like me? 🙂

    • Brenda Chapman

      Well, since mine isn’t done – and I don’t have a publisher at the moment… the only advice I can give you is “keep going!” I wish you the absolute best of luck and success with it!

  • Landon Kemp

    I actually got to watch that student film on the “Giants’ First Steps” DVD. While it could have maybe used a little more development, it was still a good short film.

    It’s interesting to know that you’re planning to revisit that by making it into a children’s book. Hope that all goes well for you.

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