When Art Meets Chickens

Celina Marie Chase: Bawk Bawk In The Backyard

This is the 16th installment in the series of When Art Meets Chickens, profiles of writers, artists and crafters who celebrate chickens in their work. Celina and I live in different countries (I’m on the west coast of Canada and she’s in the American Midwest) so I sent her a list of questions for her to use as a framework for her story. I don’t have kids, but it’s a lovely book for all ages and anything that promotes the awareness of keeping and caring for backyard chickens is a good thing.

I’m an artist and author living out my homesteading dreams on an acre of land in Chelsea, Michigan. As a stay-at-home mother to three children, I spent thirteen years with a child by my side. While they grew, I grew, learning to garden, raise chickens and quails, draw, paint, write, and parent. My children are in elementary and middle school now, and I spend their school days working towards publishing my first children’s picture book, titled Bawk Bawk in the Backyard: A True Backyard Chicken Story.

When we lived in the city of Ann Arbor, I found out residents could keep up to six hens in their backyard. I was determined to do it! Having grown up in the city and suburbs of Chicago, I had no experience with chickens, but a friend helped me get started. At the time, my children were ages 3, 6, and 8, and I searched for a children’s book about raising chickens, without success. I wanted to show them, in a kid-friendly way, what the chicken-rearing process is like, but I couldn’t find an age-appropriate book on the topic.

That is when I decided to write my own children’s book based on our personal experience raising chickens in the city. I spent the next six years working on the project.

My Artistic Process

I took photos and wrote down my observations from the moment we brought home our baby chicks. I spent countless hours learning how to draw people and paint detailed watercolor scenes. I tested different art styles and mediums, trying out graphite, watercolor, colored pencils, tracing paper, drawing paper, hot press watercolor paper, cold press watercolor paper, and so on. Finally, after years of experimenting, I settled on a style for the book and completed the illustrations over the following two years.

For each illustration, my process involved perfecting the characters (people, animals) and background elements (trees, flowers, furniture, etc.) on tracing paper and then piecing them together to create a full scene on drawing paper. I traced the scene onto watercolor paper and then soaked, stretched, and stapled the page to gator board. I painted the scene, let it dry, removed it from the gator board, and then outlined each part of the painting using a fine-tip mechanical pencil. Last, I sprayed the page with a fixative to prevent the graphite from smudging and placed it into a portfolio for safekeeping.

Once the illustrations were complete and my manuscript was written, I worked with a special program through my local library to digitize my watercolor paintings. They helped me “scan and stitch” the oversized art into digital TIFF files using their archival-quality scanner. I am now making my way through the final publishing steps via Amazon.com and IngramSpark. I worked in print advertising before I had children, and I’m finding this knowledge very useful as I finish the publishing process.

We moved to Chelsea two years ago, and our new township does not allow residents to keep chickens. “No exceptions!” they told my husband when he called to plead our case. I plan to petition the township and advocate for a new backyard chicken ordinance, using my children’s book to further my cause. In the meantime, a local lavender farm lovingly offered to take in our hens. They seem to be enjoying their new adventure.

I am thankful to my six lovely hens for inspiring me to create this book, and for the support of my friends and family along the way. I’m delighted with how it turned out, and I’m hopeful it will help other young families get started with their own backyard flock!

Those who are interested can visit my author website to learn more about the book.

Many thanks to Celina Marie Chase for sharing her story and photos, used with permission.

4 comments on “Celina Marie Chase: Bawk Bawk In The Backyard

  1. debbielvt

    I don’t have children, but I want to read your book. Congratulations Celina. So much seems to have gone into it. I’m sure it will be a success.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good read, I love your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the book.

    Liked by 1 person

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