Hello!

I am an illustrator and writer of children’s books, always in search of stories that are both emotionally resonant and whimsical. I bring distinctive characters to life through my unique sensibilities in color, shape and composition. I have illustrated over 30 books for children, including many picture books and chapter books. I earned a degree in Character Animation from the California Institute of the Arts, where I now also teach. I sometimes still moonlight in animation as a character designer and art director. I am best known for the New York Times best selling Uni the Unicorn, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I live and work in Los Angeles with my handsome husband and magical twin daughters.

 

I’m having fun!

1984-1990’s​

I grew up in the tiny beach town of Carpinteria, California, where there was nothing much to do but enjoy nature and cultivate an imagination. My mom was a hairdresser. My dad worked on an offshore oil rig. I spent summers at the beach and afternoons watching cartoons with dad. I hated school but loved reading.

I loved to draw, which all children do, but I continued to love drawing long after it was considered cute OR socially acceptable.

1993: In third grade I won first place in the Carpinteria Women’s Club Art Contest with my painting of a bush baby. This could be considered the beginning of my artistic career, as I won $10, and used it to buy a Barbie at K-Mart.

1994-2000

I attended public schools where we made art projects and I took some art classes, but mostly I draw on my own (and often in the margins of my homework papers). I keep hearing this idea repeated to me over and over: You can’t make a living as an artist. You have to choose something else. I am very certain that this is a lie, because my paternal grandfather, Phillip Barrager, was a fine artist and designer for a living. We have screen prints of his work hanging in our house. 

In high school our teachers keep talking about applying to college. Any college! Just get into college! Just get an undergraduate degree, THEN you can do what you REALLY want after that. I think this sounds like some kind of scam. Nobody talks about art school. 

All I know is I gotta keep drawing.

2001 - 2002

I attended the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA) for creative writing. It is hosted on the campus of the California Institute of the Arts. 

While there I made the very important discovery that it is possible to have more than one creative pursuit. Maybe words and pictures could work together somehow? (This is foreshadowing.) 

CSSSA is the antithesis of my regular high school experience. The creative force of all the teenage artists focusing for one month straight on the thing that they truly love is palpable. The energy on campus is electric. The teachers there tell me definitively that you CAN make a living as an artist (I knew it!).

2002 - 2003

I received an arts scholarship from the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation during my senior year of high school. I used that scholarship to pay for one school year at Santa Barbara City College, where to the horror of every advisor and adult I knew, I took only studio arts classes. 

All I know is I gotta keep drawing.

2003

I was accepted to the California Institute of the Arts program in Character Animation. While there I created an animated film every year, made lifelong friends, and got into massive student loan debt. I also met my future life partner and had a lot of fun driving all over Los Angeles and talking about art. 

All I know is I gotta keep drawing, and this is really the place to do it. I draw nonstop for four years straight. 

2006

I returned to CSSSA as a teaching assistant in the Animation program, and discovered that teaching is very fun. (This is also foreshadowing.)

Around this time, I also started a fun little blogspot, which is still alive and well! I haven’t updated it in awhile, but if you want a front row seat to the ramblings of young Brigette, you can find her right here 🙂 

2007

After graduating from CalArts I spent one summer in Emeryville as an art intern at Pixar. We were given assignments and mentored by visual development artists.  An interesting experience, but I didn’t feel I fit in there. I also missed Southern California. 

2008

I spent most of the following year at Walt Disney Animation Studios as a visual development trainee, but that really wasn’t for me either. As they say: it was not the vibe. 

After nearly a year, I left the studio to pursue…something. I wasn’t really sure what it was. I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to be the author of the work that I created.  So I bought a printer, opened an Etsy store, and started selling prints of my original illustrations online and at craft fairs. I also knew that this move appeared pointless, even reckless, from a practical point of view. I was leaving a paid position to do…what exactly? Draw in my dining room, in the apartment I shared with two roommates? 

All I know is I gotta keep drawing…what I want to draw. 

That same year I was approached to illustrate a book for the upcoming Cloud with a Chance of Meatballs movie – that was my first book. An art director at the publisher saw the work on my blog and thought I could probably emulate the style they needed. I did!

2008

I traveled to Austria to work on a series of short animated films for Swarovski, called House of Cats. I did character designs and painted backgrounds.

While in Salzburg, as I ate a bag of cherries from the farmer’s market, I proposed to Sean (in a very casual and passive aggressive manner), interrupting his reading of Neitzche. We returned from Austria engaged!

2009

Sean and I were married in a Dia de los Muertos themed ceremony, with sugar skulls and mariachis. We also got a dog: Lila!

2010

After hauling my prints to craft fairs (often returning with no profit), updating my blog constantly, and scrapping together money by working freelance in animation, my work caught the eye of a designer at Chronicle books. I was offered the opportunity to write and illustrate my own book!

2011

Twelve Dancing Princesses, my author/illustrator debut, and its accompanying memory game were published.

I began teaching at CalArts, in the same program that I had graduated from. I would eventually teach many different classes, including Professional Preparation, Film Workshop, Advanced Character Design, and my favorite: Illustration for Animators.

2012-2013

 These years were spent building up a body of illustration work: I made a lot of paintings for gallery group shows, illustrated a series of books for American Girl, a fairytale retelling, and a little book about a unicorn…

I met my agent, Kirsten Hall, during this time. I had a few books under my belt, but I just didn’t understand how publishing worked at all. My background was in animation, remember?  Having an ally to help navigate through that time and into the present has proved invaluable. So many important things that follow would never have happened without her.

2014

Uni the Unicorn written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, is released.  To the surprise and delight of myself and everyone involved, it is a New York Times Bestseller. 

2015

My dad died suddenly while on a backpacking trip in Northern California. Nothing that happens after that is left untouched by this event. It colors everything. It also caused a domino effect of making every one of my book projects very late. Grief is time consuming.

2016

This year is vague in my memory because I was so, so sad. 

Among the books I worked on during this blur were two of my favorites: The Secret Garden Little Golden Book and Pocket Full of Colors, which is dedicated to him. It was both comforting and incredibly difficult to keep working. 

2003

The sequel to Uni the Unicorn, Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True, debuts as a New York Times Bestseller. 

Pocket Full of Colors is published.

I was wonderfully invited to do a live painting for the New York Times! They live streamed me doing a painting. It felt like I was painting for 5 minutes, but it was actually more like 30. It was fun! 

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2018

Pocket Full of Colors receives a Christopher Award. Ken Burns gave a speech at the award ceremony, which was pretty surreal! 

I was honored to have illustrations from two books included in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show: One from Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True, and one from Pocket Full of Colors. 

Artwork from Pocket Full was featured on the cover of Booklist!

I had a solo exhibition at Gallery Nucleus featuring artwork from Pocket Full. I gave a demonstration on my painting technique. 

I was delighted to give a lecture on Mary Blair and her work at the Walt Disney Family Museum. I dug deep into Mary’s artistic influences and impact. The staff at WDFM are delightful. 

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2019

Vlad the Rad, which I wrote and illustrated, is released. The character is based on my husband, a skateboarder. This book was such a joy to work on.

2020

How to be a Pirate is released in early March. I traveled to New York for a launch event during the same week that the first Covid cases were reported there.

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2021

Welcome Flower Child, written and illustrated by me, is released in January. 

I spent most of this year being hugely pregnant and extremely tired. I had to stop working. I physically could not sit at my desk, and my hands were too swollen and tingly to hold a pencil. That October, we welcomed twin girls, Hazel and Rose!  

I was honored to have work from Welcome Flower Child included in the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show this year as well. An appropriate welcome for my very own flower babies.

2022

Just glad I survived that first year of twins to be honest.

Somehow, somehow, I still managed to finish a book!

2023

Harmony and Echo, written and illustrated by me, is released.

2024

Lucy!: How Lucille Ball Did it All, written by the same authors as Pocket Full of Colors, is published.

2025

Cyndi Lauper: Like a Rainbow, written by the same authors as Pocket Full and Lucy, will be published. 

An unannounced book written and illustrated by me will be published. It MAY be inspired by two little babies that I happen to know. Maybe. You’ll see.