lee chapman
Best Storyteller: Lee “Lencho” Chapmpman-Main

Best Storyteller

Oral and written storytelling traditions are well and good, but painting blueprints for the imagination in his folkloric “Lencho” style is the one that comes most naturally to this teller of tales.

The illustrator of seven delightful children’s books, storytelling runs in the family. His wife, Nancy, authored two of them, “Doggie Dreams” and “Tripper’s Travels.” And since a children’s show is being developed based on the latter, we can look for the couple’s gadabout pooch to have yet more adventures down the road!

Animals, especially dogs, are central to Lee’s work. “They’re the most wonderful creatures on the face of the earth, so I love painting them, and they’re a natural for children’s books. And although we’ve never had a pig, we think they’re pretty cute, too, so a blue one is the logo for our store, Puerco Azul.”

His whimsical painting, “Galeria,” was chosen as the cover for this magazine’s 2007 Art Issue. Take a second look at it and you’ll notice a trademark dog – in this case his beloved Pinta – woven into the yarn it spins.

Livin' La Vida Loca with a little help from my friends

Not every dog - or every person, for that matter - learns to respect different cultures and make interesting friends by gypsying around the world. But thanks to Nancy and Lee "Lencho" Chapman, that’s exactly what I’m doing and you can, too, via the pages of the wonderful travel scrapbooks they´re putting together about my adventures.

And street dogs everywhere take heart, because I, too, was born a stray; yet today I’m an American tourist dining in the world’s best restaurants. Everything changed for me one cold rainy night, when I hopped into the back of a truck for shelter and woke up in Hollywood - what an eye-opener! And while it was a bit too glam for this country pup, I had been introduced to a new way of life traveling the highways and byways and meeting great folks along the way.

So no more scraps for me! In Philadelphia I enjoyed a Philly cheese steak with Phyllis the Pomeranian. And at Wrigley Field, Sam the Spaniel and I chowed down on hot dogs - once he’d finally convinced me they weren’t what they sounded like. Eventually winding up in The Big Apple, I was amazed by how many different kinds of people and pooches there are in this world to meet, from places I had never even dreamed existed. All were really nice and wanted to get to know me, so they asked my name - but I didn’t have one. When asked where I was from, however, I regaled them with stories about my journeys.

“Woof!” they barked. “You really are some tripper!”

And so I am. I’ve since had the pleasure of visiting 10 of the world’s most exciting capital cities, publisher Marshall Cavendish recognizing the importance of understanding the world and all who live in it by signing the Chapmans to produce “Tripper’s Travels: An International Scrapbook.” And no sooner was it released than it won “Learning” magazine’s 2005 Teacher’s Choice Award, educators responding to its informational value and fun format.

Not satisfied to merely see the sights and go out to dinner, I explore local customs, celebrations, languages, music, dog-appropriate fashions and, of course, every exotic scent, almost always in the company of a helpful new friend.

I toured Rome for the price of a bone with Guido the Italian Greyhound and discovered that “Down Under” is truly a wonder, the Canberra area home to characters like Ringo the Dingo and Wally the Wallaby. And three of the capitals I visited, Paris, New Delhi and Mexico City, proved so fabulous I’m now planning extensive travel throughout France, India and Mexico, which will make “Tripper’s Travels” an ongoing series.

So, as I indulge my wanderlust Nancy and Lee record my experiences, she writing and he illustrating, both pausing now and then to give Frida, their dog, belly rubs in their hilltop Vallarta home. Not long ago, Frida´s sibling, Albert, made the big trip to The Great Beyond and is missed. But as I reminded Lee, when along the way we’ve made good friends, the journey never ends.

There will be a cocktail book signing February 10 at the Chapmans´ Puerco Azul Gallery 6 - 10 pm, Tripper’s book available there as well as at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Artist's website