Six Questions with Susanna Chapman
Susanna Chapman illustrates, designs books, and creates murals in Nashville. Picture books were her favorite places as a child and they’re still among her favorite places. The first book she illustrated was The Girl Who Ran (Compendium 2016), then she drew pictures for Elizabeth Warren’s Big, Bold Plan (Atheneum 2020) and Ada and the Galaxies (MIT Kids’ Press 2021). She spent time with Christo and Jeanne-Claude for Covered in Color (Abrams 2022) and lots of energetic toes for Busy Feet (Starry Forest Books 2023). Visit Susanna's website to learn more about her and her upcoming projects.
1. How did you begin your journey as an illustrator?
To be honest and earnest, I hope that I am still in the beginning stages! I studied illustration in school but worked as a book designer, tethered to full-time, more secure, jobs for one decade. I took any small illustration assignment that came my way in the evenings and weekends and those gradually grew into full-time illustration work.
2. Do you ever struggle to come up with your next project? Or do you have lots of ideas and find it a challenge to narrow down your ideas?
The blank page is one of the most vast places on earth. Where do you start? I think there must be as many options as there are stars in the sky, which is beautiful but also . . . so daunting! I look at other people’s work I admire to find my joy and I hold onto those while I make sketches.
3. What was your favorite book when you were a child? Why?
This feels like a trick question to name just one. The one that comes to mind at this instant is Miss Rumphius. It’s just exquisite from every word to every stroke of color. That book reminds me that there are as many ways to “make the world more beautiful” as there are options when looking at a blank page. It reminds me to see that challenge as a gentle and good and exciting invitation.
4. What was the most challenging thing you faced while working on Busy Feet?
I love to draw faces, but I thought this story would be funnest told through feet! I enjoyed the challenge of showing excitement, fear, hope, sleepiness, all through wiggly toes.
5. If you read this book to a room filled with kids, what message would you want them to leave with?
If you feel fearful about something today, ask your feet how they will move through the challenge. Give the rest of yourself a little rest and let your feet do some thinking for you.
6. Who should read this book?
Anybody at bedtime! Join the characters in this book, both the humans and the pups, ducks, and frogs, by remembering everything your feet did today. Did your feet go anyplace fun? Did your feet get wet, hot, cold, or comfy? Did your feet get tired? Sad? Excited? Your busy feet carried you through a lot.