Illustrator crème de la crème: Bryan Collier

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Biography, Illustrator crème de la crème, Illustrators, Picture storybooks

I had the pleasure this past weekend to attend the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC, a division of the American Library Association) 2012 Institute in Indianapolis. One of the closing session speakers was illustrator Bryan Collier. This was the second time I have had the pleasure to listen to Collier, and each time I was riveted by his talk.

Collier shared that the inspiration for his watercolor and collage illustrations is his grandmother, who was a quiltmaker. This immediately becomes apparent when viewing the illustrations closely. Overall, the illustrations can appear blocky (yes, like a quilt!), but close viewing reveals intricate aspects.

Dave the Potter, by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Brenda Dales and Bryan Collier at the 2012 ALSC Institute

Collier focused his talk on Dave the Potter (2010, by Laban Carrick Hill), a book about the man enslaved in South Carolina who crafted thousands of pots. Many of these pots were replete with brief poems which revealed that Dave had learned to read and write. Collier explained some of his decisions in creating the art for this book, such as including shackles in the illustrations to remind that Dave was a slave. He also explained some of the back story, stating it is reported that Dave lost a leg in a railroad accident, which prevented him from kicking the treadle wheel, so an armless slave was brought forth to do that part of the work. Collier shared he chose not to include the armless slave in his illustrations, as that would be difficult to see and would present a distraction. Listening to Collier express how he struggled with ways to visually present this powerful story of a man who was enslaved but was devoted to art was a gripping experience.

Bryan Collier’s work pulls one in. His art is the type you can’t stop examining. He has illustrated over twenty books for young people, and hopefully there will be at least that many more

More of Bryan Collier’s art can be seen at his website, and a list of his books is available at his entry on Wikipedia.


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