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Jerry Pinkney

Illustrator Jerry Pinkney was born on December 22, 1939 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Willie Mae and James H. Pinkney. Pinkney began drawing when he was four years old and, though he was gifted with creating art, he struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia throughout his childhood, high school, and college years. In 1957, he graduated from Murrell Dobbins Vocational School in Philadelphia and received a full scholarship to attend Philadelphia College of Art. After two and a half years, Pinkney left college to marry and start a family with his wife, Gloria Jean.

Pinkney worked briefly as a flower delivery truck driver in Philadelphia before relocating to Boston, Massachusetts, where he joined the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company. In Boston, Pinkney also joined the Boston Action Group, and developed friendships with artists of color. In 1962, he began working for Barker-Black, a design and illustration studio. Pinkney illustrated his first children’s book, The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales, by Joyce Cooper Arkhurst in 1964. In 1971, he opened Jerry Pinkney Studio in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Pinkney illustrated over 100 books, including: Song of the Trees (1975) by Mildred D. Taylor, Mary McLeod Bethune (1977) by Eloise Greenfield, The Covenant (1980) by James A. Michener, The Talking Eggs (1989) by Robert D. San Souci, Back Home (1992) by Gloria Jean Pinkney, The Jungle Book (1995) by Rudyard Kipling, and Tales of Uncle Remus (1987), Sam and the Tigers (1996), Black Cowboy, Wild Horses (1998) and The Old African (2005) by Julius Lester.

Pinkney served in a number of educational capacities, including as associate professor of illustration at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York from 1986 to 1988, as associate professor of art at University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware from 1988 to 1992 and as visiting professor at State University of New York-Buffalo in 1991. Between 2003 and 2009, Pinkney served on the National Council of the Arts. His work was featured in multiple group and solo exhibitions throughout the United States as well as in Japan, Italy, Russia, Taiwan and Jamaica. Pinkney also contributed to numerous Caldecott Honor books, and was the first African American recipient of the Caldecott Medal for his illustrative retelling of the Aesop’s fable The Lion & the Mouse in 2009.

Pinkney and his wife, Gloria Jean, have four children.

Jerry Pinkney was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 26, 2016 and January 30, 2017.

Accession Number

A2016.106

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/26/2016 |and| 1/30/2017

Last Name

Pinkney

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

L.P. Hill Elementary School

Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School

University of the Arts

First Name

Jerry

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

PIN08

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica and Cape Cod, North Truro

Favorite Quote

Treat triumph and tragedy the same.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/22/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fruit, apples and pears.

Short Description

Illustrator Jerry Pinkney (1939 - ) illustrated over 100 books since the mid-1960s, and was the first African American recipient of the Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of the Aesop’s fable The Lion & the Mouse in 2009.

Employment

Rust Craft Greeting Card Company

Barker Black Studios

Various

Jerry Pinkney Studios

Pratt Institute

University of Delaware

Favorite Color

Red

R. Gregory Christie

Illustrator and freelance artist Richard Gregory Christie was born on July 26, 1971 in Plainfield, New Jersey to Ludra V. St. Amant Christie and Gerard Adoltus Christie. Raised by his mother, a Louisiana Creole, and his father, a Jamaican pharmacist, Christie was raised in the Scotch Plains community of Plainfield near the Jerseyland Resort. He attended St. Bartholomew the Apostle Elementary School where he demonstrated a talent for art early on. In 1985, Christie worked for Commercial Art and Supply while he attended Fanwood High School. Graduating in 1989, he enrolled in New York City’s School for Visual Arts (SVA). His first illustration was published by the Star Ledger in the summer of 1990. In 1993, Christie graduated from SVA with his B.F.A. degree.

In 1994, Christie illustrated the album cover of Justice System’s Summer in the City. Soon, his work graced the covers of jazz labels from all over the world, including Joe Sample’s Old Places Old Faces Warner Brothers, 1996; George Benson’s A Song for my Brother Giant Step Records, 1997; and Coltrane The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings GRP Impulse, 1997. Christie’s’ illustrations also appeared in numerous publications in Europe, Asia and America. In 1996, he illustrated Lucille Clifton’s The Palm of My Heart; Poetry by African American Children. The book won a Coretta Scott King Award honor from the American Library Association and a Reading Magic Award from Parenting magazine.

Christie has illustrated the biographies of many other significant historical and cultural figures, including Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Sojourner Truth. In 2006, he won a Coretta Scott King Award honor for Brothers in Hope ; The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, and for illustrating Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth.
Currently, Christie is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine.

Accession Number

A2007.140

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/16/2007

Last Name

Christie

Maker Category
Middle Name

Gregory

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Fanwood High School

St. Bartholomew the Apostle Elementary School

School of Visual Arts

Search Occupation Category
First Name

R.

Birth City, State, Country

Plainfield

HM ID

CHR03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sweden

Favorite Quote

Walk Lightly With A Big Stick.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

7/26/1971

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lentil Soup

Short Description

Illustrator R. Gregory Christie (1971 - ) has created illustrations and graphic artwork for record labels, books, and magazines. He received the Coretta Scott King Award honor for his work for 'Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan' and for illustrating 'Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth.'

Employment

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Favorite Color

Black

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of R. Gregory Christie's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - R. Gregory Christie lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - R. Gregory Christie describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - R. Gregory Christie describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - R. Gregory Christie talks about the religious composition of Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his father's decision to pursue a career in pharmacy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his family's interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - R. Gregory Christie describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - R. Gregory Christie talks about growing up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie talks about confronting racism while growing up in Scotch Plains New Jersey, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie talks about confronting racism while growing up in Scotch Plains New Jersey, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his educational experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his and his father's musical interests

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - R. Gregory Christie recalls being raised Catholic and interactions with extended family

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - R. Gregory Christie describes his childhood interests

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his early interest in art

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his elementary education at St. Bartholomew Academy in Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - R. Gregory Christie describes the area in which he grew up in New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - R. Gregory Christie describes his interests and activities while growing up in Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - R. Gregory Christie recalls his experiences at Scotch Plains Fanwood High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - R. Gregory Christie considers the impact of his high school friendships on his outlook

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his membership in the Scotch Plains Fanwood Arts Association

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie talks about being a finalist for the Governor's Award in Arts Education in New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie explains his decision to attend School of Visual Arts in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his friendships forged during his early years in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his work with the Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - R. Gregory Christie describes his employment trajectory at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - R. Gregory Christie describes his experiences at the School of Visual Arts in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his decision to enter the commercial art world after graduating from School of Visual Arts in New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - R. Gregory Christie expounds on the entertainment value of art and assessing artistic merit

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - R. Gregory Christie recalls his art shows at Nell's nightclub in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - 04:07:05:20R. Gregory Christie describes the recent homogenization of the art world in New York, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon developing ethics and values as a young adult

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon forming friendships with people from a variety of different backgrounds

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie describes creating an album cover for Zapp

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - R. Gregory Christie recalls developing his own style and learning how to illustrate children's books

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - R. Gregory Christie shares his perspective on celebrity artists

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - R. Gregory Christie talks about the impetus for his work as a freelance artist

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - R. Gregory Christie talks about the impact of his mother's death

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - R. Gregory Christie describes his artistic process and learning certain techniques

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - R. Gregory Christie talks about the transition from commercial to fine art

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - R. Gregory Christie talks about what he's gained from illustrating children's books

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - R. Gregory Christie describes the process of creating the children's book 'The Palm of my Heart: Poetry by African American Children'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie talks about collaborations between authors and illustrators

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie talks about being represented by an agent

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie explains how he came to represent himself as an artist

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon the importance of learning about history while also focusing on living in the present

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - R. Gregory Christie describes live painting

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon the value of art, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon the value of art, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - R. Gregory Christie talks about working with acrylic and gouache in his artwork

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - R. Gregory Christie talks about his mural for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum, Idaho

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - R. Gregory Christie describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - R. Gregory Christie reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - R. Gregory Christie talks about the effects of being removed from his family

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - R. Gregory Christie narrates his paintings, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - R. Gregory Christie narrates his paintings, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - R. Gregory Christie narrates his paintings, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

9$1

DATitle
R. Gregory Christie talks about his early interest in art
R. Gregory Christie recalls his art shows at Nell's nightclub in New York, New York
Transcript
What was your subject matter when you drew, you know? Were you inspired by stuff you saw on TV, or--$$No, I was mainly inspired, I'd say in the beginning by comic books: 'Conan the Barbarian,' 'Heavy Metal,' these kind of things. So, I used to draw people with swords, make flipbooks where you actually would draw on the edge of a book and just kind of flip it on each page so that it starts to move. You start from the end of the story, and then you build up to the beginning. And then at the end, you can flip it, like how they used to do all the cartoons. So, I mean I used to work that way, mainly working with gory stuff, things you would expect a boy to draw, like sharks eating people, and war zones and guns and shooting and--$$I don't know, I'm not surprised that stuff was popular amongst--the youth today are doing the same thing.$$(Laughter) So, I mean that's where it started. And then after a while, like, getting into eighth grade [at St. Bartholomew Academy, Scotch Plains, New Jersey] I had--teachers really start to single me out and, wow, you know, you're really good. You've got to keep--you know, become an artist, and this and that. And I remember one guy that was, his name was--I just remember his name because of the--his name was Ponce de Leon [ph.]. He was from Spain, and this guy was apparently like a college level teacher, but he was doing something that his daughter--her name was Jamina [ph.]--she went to school with me. She came a bit later. She was pretty cool, I mean like really nice and everything. And her family came from Spain and all that, I think. But he was like really exuberant, and he was really like going on about a painting I was doing because he had, he started like an afterschool type program. Like, he actually wanted the kids to come in, you know, a little bit after, and do some painting courses. And we did a still life, and I still have the still life. But he really was saying how I really have a command of the materials, you know, and he really encouraged me. Like, almost every art teacher really told me to pursue art. So, I mean, that's where I spent a lot of my time. A lot of my time I spent painting.$$So, so did you--when did you actually start painting? What age were you when you actually started using paint?$$Twelve.$$Okay.$$Using professional stuff.$$Okay.$$But when I was a kid, I always worked with color and markers, colored pencil. See, I used to--I don't--people a lot of times tell me I'm lucky, you know. And I tell them always the same thing that I'm lucky in the sense of knowing exactly what I want to do on this planet. From being--from birth, I knew what I wanted to do, like, at an early age. And the point is, when I went to the art store, I went there so much that they gave me a job eventually. They just--I mean when I came of age, "When do you want to start?" So I started--you know, they saw my face so much getting different supplies. And I tell every artist this: that no school teaches you to paint, you teach yourself to paint. You have to sit at a table or sit in a room and just work with the materials and find out how it's going to react. And if you can do that, then you can start to learn about theories and other people's solutions. But find your own voice first.$I think we're at the point where we can talk about your first children's book ['The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children'].$$Um-hm.$$Yeah. So, tell us about that. How did that come about? Now, you were working as a commercial artist--$$You could--no.$$--doing freelancing--$$This is a really, really, important aspect of what I've done career-wise.$$Okay.$$When I came to New York [New York], I saw the system set up. I saw the way things are, and I realized that I have to go with my own approach. Because the way--this, the way I'm saying, it's like, it's kind of like, what happened when I first got to New York, I didn't know anybody. I got here from New Jersey, a small town called Scotch Plains, New Jersey. I got to New York and, you know, it was like a culture shock in a way, because as a kid I didn't really, like, go out that much; I drew a lot. The weekends were spent at home, I was with my mom [Ludria St. Amant Christie]. My brothers [Gerard Thaddeus Christie and Corneilus Marshall Christie] used to go out a lot, and I'd be home drawing and watching TV. So, being social is something I had to learn; I had to learn, you know. I would say fifteen years ago, I wouldn't even be able to talk to you and really get everything out the way I'm trying. And I'm doing the best I can now, but I'm just saying, it's something I had to learn. The same way that people have to learn to draw if they want to pursue it, I have to learn to communicate with words. So, you know, it would be like we were doing this interview with just sketch pads, and you draw something and I answer it back from the sketch. You can do that, then you understand how it is for me, you know. So, the first thing that happened when I got to New York was I took the slides that I used to get into art school [School of Visual Arts, New York, New York], and I went to a nightclub called Nell's [New York, New York]. And I showed the manager, and he said, "Oh man, we could do slideshows, you know." And I asked him about it, so I started showing my art each week while people were there, like Thursday nights when the place was packed. I would show my work, and it became a hit. People were so shocked to see art, in a nightclub, you know, but it was an upscale place with like Louis XVI furniture. You'd have stockbrokers, and you'd have kids from the Bronx [New York, New York], you know, and it was really good. It was two levels, one with live music and one down at the bottom. And eventually, like, other people started to, you know, like it, and then they made me in charge of curating slideshows, you know. And then I got be a part of a party called Funky Buddha, you know. And you know, I actually had a guest list, you know, and I started to like incorporate the world I'm in with this nightlife world, that I'm, you know, learning about. And I'd invite people like Thomas Krens, like, the director of the [Solomon R. Guggenheim] Museum [New York, New York]. I invited him to the parties, and I invited people I knew. Like, you know, working in a museum, I'd got in contact with a lot of European people. I worked in the checkrooms, so I met people, and I'd invite them. If you don't have anywhere to go tonight, I'll put you on the guest list. So, what happened is when people would come to the party, they'd be getting out of limousines, and you know. And Thomas Krens would call. One time he called and said, "Oh," you know, "what time is the party tonight?" And "I'm the director of, you know, the Guggenheim." So the people, you know, these are kids throwing a party, and they're impressed. They're like "How do you know Thomas Krens?"$$Now the Funky Buddha is a club?$$Funky Buddha was a party at Nell's.$$Okay.$$And it went on for several years. And everyone that was throwing the party--$$So, a certain night or something they would have Funky Buddha?$$Wednesday nights. I think it was Tuesday, and it was probably Wednesday, if I remember. I've got all the flyers and all that stuff; I've kept like a record of it. But it's an important part of like how I do things.