Children’s book illustrator and author Brian Pinkney spoke to adjunct professor Patricia Slager’s Multicultural Children’s Literature classes on Thursday, April 1. A highly creative and charasmatic speaker, Pinkney takes great pride in his heritage: African-American children are the main characters in most of his books, and he often uses his own experiences to write.
Describing his method of working (20 minutes at a time and then a drum break), Pinkney had the students in attendance participating in “feeling” art. He explained that he uses an unusual method of illustration, called scratchboard, where he literally scratches through layers and then paints on top.
Pinkney’s books often deal with themes that promote African-American pride, such as his works Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa and Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation. He told Slager’s students that his personal favorite among his works is Max Found Two Sticks, which is the first book he both illustrated and wrote. “The snappy text reverberates with the rhythmic song of the city, and Pinkney’s swirling, scratchboard–oil paintings have a music of their own,” wrote one reviewer of the book.
The son of another famous illustrator, Jerry Pinkney, the younger Pinkney said he has been drawing and illustrating since an early age. He told the classes that his first art studio was his closet, and also spoke about his earliest experiences in school and at home.