Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kadir Nelson at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture

Kadir Nelson details his work on We Are the Ship,
a book he both wrote and illustrated.
Illustrator Kadir Nelson spoke at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture last Sunday afternoon as part of the Black, White and Read All Over series from Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. His illustration work for children has earned him several awards including Caldecott Honors for both Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom and Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad. Moses also garnered him an NAACP Image Award and both Moses and Ellington Was Not a Street have received Coretta Scott King Awards.

Prior to Nelson's talk, a handful of illustrators from SCBWI met for lunch and to review and discuss his many books for children. We noticed his varied styles from book to book, which he actually addressed during his presentation, saying he wanted to try something new with each book. His styles have ranged from watercolor and gouache to oil painting to fabric collage.

The afternoon included a slide presentation of not only his completed illustrations but also sketches, reference photos (he uses himself as a model), artwork he created as a child and concept art for the Steven Spielberg movie Amistad. He spoke about how his book We Are the Ship grew from single paintings submitted to Sports Illustrated to a 96-page, fully illustrated book.

While showing his childhood paintings and drawings, he shared a story about how his mother taught him to take hold of his dreams. "He gives his mother credit for teaching him to dream (in very specific terms)," Rose Gauss noted, "and then to work hard and practice long to make them come true."

"Dream big but work for it," Leda Miller agreed.

Kadir Nelson was soft-spoken, humble and inspirational, and I personally felt very privileged having been at the Center to hear him speak. But I doubt I was the only one. "Listening to him speak renewed my own confidence," Leda remarked. "There are no free rides and no magic pill."

Anne Trimble discusses
the various styles
in Kadir Nelson's
picture books.
After speaking, Mr. Nelson answered questions from the audience and then signed books and programs in the lobby of this beautiful downtown building.

Also in attendance:

Anne Trimble
Judith Lauso
Nora Thompson

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comment will be monitored prior to posting.