Jerry Pinkney, born on December 22, 1939 in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, the middle child, with five brothers and sisters. At a very young age his talent for drawing was apparent. Throughout elementary school, he struggled with dyslexia. Both parents and some teachers were supportive of his artwork.
In his teen years, he began to work at a newsstand where he met John Liney, a cartoonist. Liney was successful for his work on cartoon strips such as "Henry." Liney not only accepted Pinkney as a friend but also tried to teach him ways to improve his art. Liney brought Pinkney into his studio and encouraged him to continue his artwork. As Pinkney expressed it in his online biography with Scholastic, the children's book and magazine publisher, Liney "showed him the possibilities of making a living as an artist."
Pinkney was accepted into the commercial art program at Dobbins Vocational School. While attending school there, he met his future wife, Gloria. He was then accepted by the Philadelphia University of the Arts and received a full scholarship.
Pinkney found work at a greeting card company and began to spend his nights working at Barker-Black Studios, where he developed a reputation for the rich details and shading in his artwork. He also spent two years working at Kaleidoscope Studios with some of his friends. After sharing a studio with his friends, he moved to New York and opened his own studio, Jerry Pinkney Studios.
Pinkney has been illustrating children's books since 1964. He most often works on children's books that celebrate multiculturalism and African-American heritage. Pinkney's success as an illustrator is due not only to his talent as an artist but also to the way he depicts the rich heritage of African-Americans. Pinkney's illustrations are bold and colorful.
With over 100 children's books illustrated, Pinkney's books, such as "John Henry", "Uncle Remus", "Sam and the Tigers", and "Noah's Ark" inspire children of all races everywhere. He has illustrated books by Julius Lester, Robert San Souci, Alan Schroeder, and his wife, Gloria Pinkney.
Pinkney's involvement with the theater is also notable. Though many of his plays are simply one-man acts, he has also worked with his wife on many stage productions. These plays mostly deal with Pinkney's own heritage and family life; they give the audience a background of Pinkney as a person and his approach to art.
Numerous awards mark Pinkney's artistic career as an illustrator. He has the exceptional distinction of winning the Coretta Scott King award four times. He has won multiple awards including four Caldecott Honor Books, four Coretta Scott King awards, two Coretta Scott King Honor Books and the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award.
He has also worked extensively with National Geographic Magazine, the National Parks Service, and the American Library Association. He has designed book covers for many of these publications.
He has also designed nine postage stamps for the Black Heritage series of stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.
Pinkney attributes much of his success not only to his passion, but also to his ability to research the issues that he is illustrating. During an interview published online by Harper Collins, Pinkney stated "From the very beginning of my career in illustrating books, research has been important. I do as much as possible on a given subject, so that I live the experience and have a vision of the people and places." Pinkney has always tried to understand the events, people, and places that his art is depicting. He studies the subject matter from inside out, and then presents it factually for the audience through his artwork. Pinkney also said that his paintings have helped him grow as well, for "They have given me the opportunity to use my imagination, to draw, to paint, to travel through the voices of the characters in the stories, and, above all else, to touch children."
Pinkney currently resides in New York with his wife and four children. He continues to illustrate books with multicultural themes and says he understands the need for these types of books. He is interested in allowing children to see how diverse the world is and how important that diversity is.
He has also worked as an art professor at the University of Delaware and the State University of New York at Buffalo. He continues to give lectures and workshops at art schools and universities throughout the country.
• Tayler, Mildred. The Song of the Trees. New York: Dial, 1975.
• Lester, Julius. The Tales of Uncle Remus. New York: Dial, 1987.
• San Souci, Robert D. The Talking Eggs. New York: Dial, 1989.
• Pinkney, Gloria. Back Home. New York: Dial, 1992.
• Lester, Julius. John Henry. New York: Dial, 1994.
• Lester, Julius. Sam and the Tigers. New York: Dial, 1996.
• Lester, Julius. Black Cowboy, Wild Horses. New York: Dial, 1998.
• Andersen, Hans Christian. The Little Match Girl. Adapted by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 1999.
• Andersen, Hans Christian. The Nightingale. Adapted by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Dial, 2002.
• "Building Bridges: The Life and Times of Jerry Pinkney." 2004.
Compiled from http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Pinkney__Jerry.html.