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Brian Pinkney:  My Favorite Illustrator

August 28, 1961-Present


"I'm an artist who likes telling stories through pictures. Picture books allow me to do this. I have a strong connection to experiences I had as a child. Children's books allow me to recreate these experiences for other children."  Brian Pinkney

Education & Awards
Brian Pinkney in His Words
Books Illustrated by Brian Pinkney on This Site
Other Books Illustrated by Brian Pinkney


Education & Awards *


Brian Pinkney holds both a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Philadelphia College of Art and a master of arts degree in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.  His work has been exhibited at the School of Visual Arts Student Galleries, the Society of Publication Designers Spot Show, and the School of Visual Arts MFA in Illustration as Visual Journalism exhibition.  There have also been showings of his work at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in Art Show, and Philadelphia’s Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum.


His illustrations have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Op-Ed Page of the New York Times, Woman’s Day, Business Tokyo, Ebony Man, and the Amtrak Express magazines.


He retains a membership in the Children’s Art Carnival and the Graphic Arts Guild.


In February 1990, he was awarded the National Arts Club Award of Distinction for his inclusion in the National Arts Club Exhibition.


The Faithful Friend, written by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Brian Pinkney, was named both a Caldecott Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book for Illustration. A starred Publishers Weekly review said, "Pinkney's distinctive scratchboard artwork gets better and better; here, he captures both the sunny, carefree island setting as well as the dark undertones of voodoo magic."


* Information in this section obtained from in March 1998.

Brian Pinkney in His Words


I grew up in an artistic family.  My father was an artist, and my mother was always doing something creative.  My two brothers, sister, and I played musical instruments, and we were always drawing, painting, or building things.  When I was a kid, one of my favorite hobbies was making little men out of pipe cleaners and colored wire.   I built airplanes, spaceships, and cities out of cardboard, wood, and anything else I could find.  Then I made up action and adventure stories that lasted for weeks.  After a while, I'd take everything apart and build something new.


I always knew I wanted to be an illustrator because my father [Jerry Pinkney] is an illustrator, and I wanted to be just like him.  I did everything he did. My desk was a miniature version of his desk. The paintbrushes and pencils I used were often the ones from his studio that were too old or too small for him to use.  I had a paint set like his and a studio like his.  Except my studio was a walk-in closet, which made it the perfect size for me.


I didn't have formal art lessons from my father.  When I came home from school, I stopped by his studio to tell him about my day.  He kept on working as we talked.  One day he was painting a picture of a night sky with a large brush and watercolors.  He began by laying down a light brown wash across the whole picture.  When this area was just about dry, he painted another wash over it with a bright blue watercolor.  By repeating this process a couple of times, he had created the richest deep blue sky I had ever seen. After a visit like this, I would go to my little studio to try out the techniques I had learned.


My schoolteachers were very supportive of my interest in art.  Even though they didn't like me drawing little robots and tiny men running up and down my notebook pages, they did encourage me to draw and paint for extra-credit projects.  I made posters for the science room that showed how a tadpole becomes a frog.  I also drew a poster showing all the bones of the human body.  For social studies, I wrote a report on Leonardo da Vinci.  He became an idol of mine because he was an artist, musician, and inventor, and he was left-handed, like me.  For extra credit, I made illustrations of da Vinci's inventions and drew a portrait of him.  Because he was left-handed, he wrote all of his notes backward. I started writing all of my notes backward. But when it was time to study for a test, I couldn't read my backward notes, so I held my notebook up to a mirror.


I went to college at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where I had the opportunity to experiment with different mediums and techniques.  I worked in pen and ink, watercolors, oil paint, and acrylics.  Printmaking was one of my favorite classes because I was able to work on etchings and lithographs.  Years later, while I was working toward my master's degree at the School of Visual Arts in New York, I grew restless making my artwork in watercolors.  An instructor suggested I try working in scratchboard.  I used scratchboard to make a portrait of myself riding a bike . . . Wow! This was like drawing, etching, and sculpting all at the same time.  From that moment on, I started using scratchboard for all my illustrations.



Other Books Illustrated by Brian Pinkney


The Boy and the Ghost by Robert D. San Souci.  Simon & Schuster, 1989.


Harriet Tubman and Black History Month by Polly Carter.  Silver, 1990.


A Wave in Her Pocket:  Stories From Trinidad by Lynn Joseph.  Clarion, 1991.


The Adventures of Sparrowboy by Brian Pinkney.   Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 1997.


Jojo's Flying Side Kick by Brian Pinkney.  Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 1995.


The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Pat McKissack.  Knopf, 1992.


The Faithful Friend by Robert D. San Souci.  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1995.


When I Left my Village by Maxine Schur.  Dial Books for Young Readers, 1996.


© 1999-2005 Doug's Reading Corner, All Rights Reserved

© 1999-2005 Doug's Reading Corner, All Rights Reserved