- Virginia Johnson
"Artists need to fill themselves to overflowing and give it all back." -- E.B. Lewis
E.B. Lewis almost didn’t become an illustrator. Which means he almost did not open a visual pathway to African American culture and history that can be enjoyed by children in libraries and schools all around the country. He thought of himself as an artist, not an illustrator. When he thought of children’s book illustrations, he imagined pictures that were engaging, funny, sometimes almost cartoon-like. That wasn’t for him.
But an agent saw his work and insisted E.B. look at what was going on in children’s books now. As he sat in a bookshop, poring over the many wonderful books available for young audiences, he realized he wanted to be a part of this. He had been teaching art to special needs kids, a job he would have to set aside because publishers were hungry for his art to accompany the great stories they had already bought from the writers. He plunged into illustrating full time, sometimes working 15-to 18-hour days. He’s illustrated dozens of stories, including a Caldecott Honor book, and several projects have won the Coretta Scott King Award.
The artist who became an illustrator, or artistrator as he calls himself, did not have an easy time of it as a child. He was very good at being a class clown, but beneath the clowning, he wanted to be a serious student. With encouragement from his two uncles, who were artists, E.B. buckled down and got to work, going on to study art in college and eventually becoming a beloved and respected illustrator who now inspires other young artists. His books are amazing. Check one or a handful out from the library!
Full Name: Earl Bradley Lewis
Born: December 16, 1956, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Education: Temple University’s Tyler School of Art
Family: Two children
First Illustrated Book: Fire on the Mountain, by Jane Kurtz, a story from Ethiopia
Selected Awards: Caldecott Honor for Coming on Home Soon; Orbis Pictus Award for The Secret World of Walter Anderson; New York Times 2016 Best Illustrated Book Award, Kirkus 2016 Best Illustrated Book Award, and the 2016 Golden Kite Honor Award, Jabari Asim’s Preaching to the Chickens; Five-time Coretta Scott King Award winner, including Nikki Grimes’ Talkin’ About Bessie
On the Web:
E.B. Lewis: Artistrator
The artist's own site has information about his life, his books, and his art, as well as a list of his events, videos, and a contact page.
Follow Your Passions: Advice from Illustrator E.B. Lewis
These are notes from a speech he gave in 2010. He touches on the role of the artist/illustrator/writer, the sacrifices we must make for our craft, the elusive goal of perfection, the difference between a fine artist and an illustrator, his gift of support as a child, technique & process, and more.
Scholastic Books: E.B. Lewis
A short biography from his publisher.
"SJ illustrator E.B. Lewis brings the world to children"
This article from the Courier Post celebrates the South Jersey resident and his exhibit with a local African American women's group. There are a number of good quotes from him and a look at how he works.
"'Speak the Language.' Children's Book Illustrator E.B. Lewis Shares His Emotional Work and Words"
E.B. Lewis talks about how art is a language and his own road to being an artist.
"Tiptoeing Along a Balance Beam: Writing and Illustrating a Children's Book"
The author of The Everlasting Embrace, a story set in Mali, discusses how she worked with illustrator E.B. Lewis to complete the picture book.
In the video below, E.B. Lewis talks about how he went from working in special education to becoming a book illustrator: