Award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier began creating art at the age of 15. Using his signature style, a vibrant mix of watercolor and collage, he brings stories to life. He's already lent his talents to such books as Visiting Langston, Rosa, and his own book, Uptown. Collier is the winner of numerous Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards: Trombone Shorty (2016), Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me (2014), I, Too, Am America (2013), Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave (2011), Rosa (2006) and Uptown (2001). Reading Rockets sat down with the artist for an exclusive interview.
Bryan Collier has always been a visual person. As a young boy in school he remembers how, when his teacher would talk, he "would see words float out of her mouth." Since then, Collier has put his amazing visual talent to good use. He has illustrated numerous children's books, including Rosa and Uptown, both of which netted him a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Rosa, which was written by Nikki Giovanni, also earned him his second Caldecott Honor.
Life as a Collage
Bryan Collier grew up in Pocomoke, Maryland, the youngest of six children. From an early age he was encouraged to read, but it was the illustrations in the books that drew him in the most. It was those pictures that inspired him to become an artist. By age 15, he was creating work in his unique mixed-media style — collage and watercolor. His style, he says, was inspired by the quilts he watched his grandmother make.
An honors graduate of Pratt Institute, Collier still had difficulty breaking in to the world of children's book illustration. It was seven years before his big break — the publication of Uptown. Both written and illustrated by Collier, the book paid homage to his beloved hometown — Harlem.
Collier has always recognized the importance of community and connection. For twelve years he was Director of a program in New York that provides working space and materials for self-taught artists in the community. Today, he still volunteers with them. Even beyond the desire to create positive unity among his neighbors, Collier recognizes the importance of instilling a love of art in future generations.