Day 11: Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier is our Vanguard illustrator for this year’s 28 Days Later Campaign. He is a trailblazer among African American children’s book creators. His unique style of art combines watercolor and collage, and has earned him numerous Caldecott honor awards, as well as Coretta Scott King awards and honors.

Encouraged at home and at school, Collier began experimenting with watercolor and collage when he was 15-years-old. It was something that sort of clicked in him overnight, he has said, and he began painting the next day.

Collier says of his collage work: “Collage is more than just an art style. Collage is all about bringing different elements together. Once you form a sensibility about connection, how different elements relate to each other, you deepen your understanding of yourself and others.”

Today, Bryan Collier talks about his most recent book, Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave.

The Journey

In June 1990 I was in a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan in the picture book section. Being surrounded by all those books reminded me of my favorite books from my childhood: The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, and Harold and Purple Crayon. There was something about these three classic books that struck a deeper cord with me. The special element was that the main character in these books all looked like me, a person of color, even Harold.

As I looked around that day in 1990 at the shelves and shelves of books, I didn’t see anything that looked like me. So that was the moment when I said to myself that I was going to make picture books and tell new stories.

With portfolio in hand, I went door to door for 7 years to any and every publishing house in Manhattan I could find until someone said YES. And someone did.

The Inspiration

I love the work of Nikki Giovanni and Jacqueline Woodson because while both writers are very different, their writings embody that authentic voice that’s full of passion emotion and movement.

Recent recognition

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave is my most recent book and some of the acclaim/honors are as follows:

New York Times bestseller

Caldecott Honor

Coretta Scott King Medal for Illustration

Americas Award

Carter G. Woodson Honor

ALSC Notable Books for Children

The state of the industry

Here in 2012, again I went into a Barnes & Noble and looked around for some books by or about people of color…and I’m still looking.

A few other titles illustrated by Bryan Collier include the following:

Barack Obama: Son of a Promise, Child of Hope (written by Nikki Grimes), Simon & Schuster, 2008

Lift Every Voice and Sing (written by James Weldon Johnson), Amistad, 2007

12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali (written by Charles R. Jr Smith), Candlewick 2007

I’m Your Child, God: Prayers for Children and Teenagers (written by Marian Wright Edelman), Jump at the Sun / Hyperion Books for Children, 2002

A Freedom River (written by Doreen Rappaport), Jump at the Sun / Hyperion Books for Children, 2000

These Hands (written by Hope Lynn Price), Hyperion Books for Children, 1999

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