John Pinkney

John Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is an American artist whose artwork often draws inspiration from African-American history and classic literature. He has illustrated numerous picture books.

Pinkney was born and raised in Philadelphia’s working-class neighborhood, receiving his education at Dobbins Vocational School before attending the Philadelphia Museum College of Art.

Early Life and Education

John Pinkney was born in Philadelphia on December 22nd 1939 as the middle child in a family of five siblings. Although he struggled academically due to dyslexia, his talent for drawing was undiminished at an early age.

Pinkney began his career as an illustrator at Rust Craft Greeting Card Company in Boston, Massachusetts before joining Barker-Black Studio in 1962.

He illustrated numerous children’s books that retold legends, folktales and myths. These included Valerie Flournoy’s The Patchwork Quilt and Crescent Dragonwagon’s Half a Moon and One Whole Star. His illustrations won consecutive Coretta Scott King awards as well as the Caldecott Honor Book award for Mirandy and Brother Wind. Using watercolors, Pinkney also illustrated many books on African-American history and culture.

Professional Career

Pinkney’s interest in art began early, inspired by drawing shop window displays and studying people passing by at his job at a newspaper stand. Over time, he learned the value of an expertly crafted image, leading him to pursue design and illustration as a freelance artist.

In 1960, Pinkney found a home in Boston’s publishing industry and an enthusiastic following for his artistic vision. As designer at Barker-Black Studio, he produced The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst–the first of more than one hundred picture books that would follow.

He reimagined African American life through works such as Valerie Flournoy’s The Patchwork Quilt and Cresent Dragonwood’s Home Place. These paintings, featuring warm depictions of family life and nature alongside interiors adorned with floral wallpapers, present an uplifted outlook on life.

Achievements and Honors

John Pinkney, an award-winning illustrator who was raised in Philadelphia, has illustrated more than 100 books. His accomplishments have earned him numerous honors such as the Caldecott Medal and five Caldecott Honors as well as four Coretta Scott King Book Awards.

His artwork often reimagines folk tales and moments in history, while also directly depicting important scenes from African American culture and everyday life. It has been showcased at museums nationwide and featured in countless publications.

He is the recipient of both the 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, honoring works that explore cultural experiences and ethnic identity with insight, skill, and unique style. His captivating illustrations have expanded picture book possibilities to reach multiple levels of learners.

Personal Life

Pinkney is an American illustrator specializing in culturally-themed stories. His art stands out for its vibrant color and intricate detail, as well as realistic depictions of characters.

He is an accomplished painter and printmaker, working in pencil, colored pencil, pen & ink, as well as watercolor. Additionally, he has illustrated books for children.

The artist was raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended Dobbins Vocational High School where he took commercial art courses such as calligraphy, perspective drawing and product rendering in various media.

After graduating from high school, he worked at Rustcraft Greeting Card Company in Boston and Barker-Black Studio before opening his own studio. Since then he has participated in countless group and one-man shows around the world.

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