This Art Major Just Illustrated Her First Book — And You Can Buy It on Amazon
Breanna Chambers flipped through her illustrations, stopping at a drawing of a plate of spaghetti.
“This was one of the hardest ones to draw,” she said. “I just remember drawing these noodles over and over again.”
But the third-year Art and Design major wasn’t looking at just any illustration. She was pointing at a page of “Take in the Good: Skills for Staying Positive and Living Your Best Life,” a mental-health book targeted at teenagers that became available for sale on Amazon last month.
Chambers, whose goal is to be a published illustrator working on both other people’s books and her own, is making her dream a reality.
A Balancing Act
Chambers met Gina Biegel, who wrote the book, through a friend’s mother the summer before she started college.
“We hit it off and I did a bunch of artwork for her that summer,” Chambers said. “We built our relationship over the next two years and then she approached me about doing the book.”
That was in the fall of 2018, as Chambers was starting her sophomore year of college.
“I really want to get into the comics and graphic novel scene, so I saw it as a first step in that direction,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn’t know how much until I got into it.”
Chambers balanced her work on the book with 18 units of classes, playing trumpet in the Mustang Band and Wind Ensemble, working part-time at Pipsticks in downtown SLO and playing with Brass Mash, another local band.
“Even trying to have a social life was hard, but luckily my friends were also super excited and supportive of what I was doing,” Chambers said.
In order to spend time together, her friends would come over and watch TV shows with her, such as “Seinfeld” or “Fresh Off The Boat” while she worked on her illustrations.
A Long Process
Author and illustrator worked together to realize the vision for the book, with Biegel making stick-figure drawings to show Chambers how she wanted something to look on a certain page.
“I’d send pictures back and forth and she’d say, ‘Can you change this?’ or, ‘I’m thinking about how the reader’s going to interact with the book’ “ Chambers said. “But she was also open to design decisions that I would make — sometimes I would make a suggestion and she’d say, ‘Whoa, that’s awesome, let’s do that!’ ”
There were also some battles that Chambers had to fight for her artwork — including for the color palette that she and Biegel felt was best for the book. Once the publishers agreed to the palette, Chambers went through each page of the book and made sure that the colors showed up in the right places.
“I wanted the overall sense of the book to be approachable,” Chambers said. “Mental health is a tough subject to tackle, and I didn’t want it to feel intimidating.”
To that end, she chose a “warm” palette, with lots of oranges and yellows to go with her stylized, cartoon-like drawings – similar to what you’d see in a comic book or graphic novel. In all, Chambers said she made about 150 drawings for the book.
“I want other people to feel like this book is a resource they can use,” Chambers said. “I hope it helps at least one person to feel a little more control.”
‘A Learn by Doing Experience’
Chambers said she chose Cal Poly for its art department. She knew she didn’t want to be a fine-arts painter and show in a gallery, and felt that the program at Cal Poly would help her reach her career goals.
“It’s a smaller department, so I could get one-on-one instruction with professors really easily,” Chambers said. “I was really attracted to the idea that as I went through the degree, I could mold my way through and decide what I wanted to do.”
She let some of her professors know about the book during a recent review where they talked about where she was going with her career, and their response was positive. And the book gave her a head start on her dream of being a published illustrator.
“It was a long process, but I’m really glad we got a product we could all be proud of,” she said.
“It’s been a great Learn by Doing experience.”