Artist of the moment………Ezra Jack Keats

 

 

 

Ezra Jack Keats was a fantastic children’s book writer and illustrator. I remember reading what is probably his most famous book, The Snowy Day. This book won him the prestigious Caldecott award given for the best children’s book.

Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, New York in the year 1916. His family was poor and his father often discouraged his son from wanting to be an artist. Just a few days  before winning an award for the best artist at his high school, his father died.

His dad kept the local newspaper clippings of Ezra in his pocket, but never showed him any outward praise for his artistic talents. Keats developed his skills by many trips to the library and taking art classes in his public education.

After his dad died the artist took a job in the comic book industry rather than go to  college. He painted background in comic scenes and also designed camouflage the U.S. Armed Forces.

After his service in the war the artist moved to Paris where he fine tuned his art skills. After returning to the States the artist began illustrating children’s books. Over his career Keats wrote and illustrated 22 books.

The book snowy day featured Peter, a young African- American boy and his adventures on a snowy day. In this clip below we hear from a member of the Ezra James Keats foundation and her thoughts on Mr. Keats. It was the first time a children’s book had a person of color act as the hero or main character:

Ezra Jack Keats passed away in 1983 at the age of 67.

Keats experimented in his children’s illustration art using many different and fun ways that a child might use to apply paint such as spattering paint with a toothbrush. The artist was also among the first to use collage in the genre.

The art of Ezra Jack Keats brings me back to the wonderful time when I myself was a kid. His clever design and multi media works are full of fun shapes and patterns that helped to make his stories so much fun to read. His work also reminds me of Disney artist Mary Blair. Both of these remarkable artists were among the first to feature children of color in their art and as a main character of their stories.

Price range information: Sorry none available.

We close with some examples of Keats’ work and the thoughts of a curator:

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