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Children's Book Reviews


Meet Jerry Pinkney

Meet Jerry Pinkney

by
Kate Marley


His work has been described as “stunning color and movement (of Pinkney’s illustrations) are in perfect harmony with the beauty of the book’s folk language.” Or Michael Cart wrote in Booklist “Pinkney brings the best kinds of talent to his colaborative work as an illustrator; he consistently demonstrates not only a sympathetic intellectual grasp of an author’s material, but also an empathetic understanding o its emotional content….Jerry Pinkney’s masterful use of color and light are as evocative and soft as remembered sunshine and as warm as family feelings.” Ask a regular kid about Pinkney’s drawings is more likely to say, “Cool. That’s really good.” His family and extended family were large, and his early memories center around all sorts of family oriented activities: get togethers that were as social as they were practical. Although his sister says his mother read to them a lot, that’s not what Jerry remembers; he has no favorite childhood book. he remembers the extended family getting together on weekends, either to help out with different tasks or just to be together. He remembers long summer evenings leaning out his bedroom window which overlooked the back porch, listening to all the family stories as the grownups stayed up late talking.

“When I was 11 or 12 years old I had a newspaper stand on the corner of a fairly large intersection in Philadelphia. I would take my drawing pad and sketch while I was there. An artist named John Liney, who was a cartoonist for the Henry comics, noticed me drawing. He took me to visit his studio, which was about a block away. From time to time I would go to see him and he would give me different materials to work with, different art supplies. So at that early age I had a sense that it was possible to make a living doing art. Knowing him and seeing how he worked helped me understand the possibilities of using one’s talents.” He was a good student, and his artistic abilities were recognized and encouraged early on. Although he was dyslexic, he worked hard in school, and graduated with honors. He met his future wife at a Valentine’s Day dance his senior year. He attended Philadelphia Museum College of Art, and worked for a greeting card company, but later felt confined by the lack of artistic opportunities to grow. With some friends, he founded Kaleidoscope Studio. Later, in 1976, he would go solo. At first, he was mainly doing advertising and textbook illustration, and also designed stamps for a series for the Post Office, and has done paintings for National Geographic. But another field beckoned. “The late sixties and early seventies brought an awareness of black writers.” Pinkney describes in SAAS. “Publishers sought out black artists to illustrate black subject matter and the work of black writers. And there I was – it was almost like a setup.” “When I illustrated my first book, an African folk tale,…my eyes were opened to the world of books. I can still remember, after months of work, waiting for the printed book to arrive; and when it did arrive, the touch, the scent, and the sound of opening a book for the first time. I knew at once that this was what I wanted to do.”

“I was trying to use these projects as vehicles to address the issues of being an African-American and the importance of African-American contributions to society….I wanted to show that an African_American artist could certainly make it in this country on a national level in the visual graphic arts. And I wanted to show my children the possibilites that lay ahead for them. That was very important.”

Two of his children have gone on into children’s book publishing also. His son M…. is a photographer , and his son J. Brian with his wife Andrea) also collabrate on children’s books (they visited Baltimore in 1996)

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