Mr. Collier received Caldecott Honors for the books Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, which was also a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book; and Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, which received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Watercolors and collage illustrations from these and other books will be on display. The exhibit is on loan from the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature.
Bryan Collier grew up in Pocomoke, Maryland, on the lower Eastern Shore of the state, the youngest of six children. His interest in art started early. "At home and at school, I was encouraged to read. I remember the first books with pictures that I read by myself were The Snow Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. I liked the stories, but I really liked the pictures." As a teenager he began to paint the world around him — the bay, ducks, water, and marshland.
His interest in art was always encouraged both at home and at school. He began to develop a unique style of painting that incorporated both watercolors and collage.
"Collage is more than just an art style. Collage is all about bringing different elements together. Once you form a sensibility about connection, how different elements relate to each other, you deepen your understanding of yourself and others."
In 1985 Bryan won first place in a Congressional Competition, and his art was displayed in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Later that year he was awarded a scholarship to Pratt Institute in New York City through their national talent competition. IN 1989 Bryan graduated with honors from Pratt Institute with a bachelor of fine arts degree.
While attending school in New York, Bryan began to volunteer at the Harlem Horizon Studio and Harlem Hospital Center with a program that provides working space and materials for self–taught artists in the community. He went on to become the Program Director, a position he held for 12 years. Bryan still works with the program in Harlem as a volunteer, feeling a deep sense of responsibility to be a positive role model for kids.
"It gives the community, the schools, the kids, and the parents the opportunity to come together for a very positive uplifting cause — the building and re–building of self–esteem, teaching the appreciation of art, and keeping the kids connected and involved and away from negative influences."
Meanwhile, he made the decision to focus his time and attention on illustrating children's books full time. Today Bryan spends his time working on his book illustrations, creating his own studio pieces, and going into classrooms to talk with teachers, librarians, and students about books and art.
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