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Illustrator Report: E. B. Lewis

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Illustrator Report: E. B. Lewis

Earl Bradley Lewis (EB Lewis) was born December 16, 1956, in Philadelphia, PA, to Charles

and Earline Lewis. Lewis grew up in a family of art enthusiast; his uncle Lyles Smith taught at the

Philadelphia College of Art, his uncle Bradley Lewis was a sculptor and taught classes at the Temple

University, and his father was a art handler at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a result of this

rich artistic heritage, Lewis' interest for art occurred as early as the third grade. By the time he was in

the sixth grade he was enrolled in the Saturday morning Temple University School of Art League,

which was taught by his uncle Bradley. In Temple's Tyler School of art, Lewis' college major was in

Graphic Design, Illustration, and Art Education. This vein of education catapulted him into the

teaching profession for the next twelve years.

After examining several art mediums, Lewis discovered his niche in the light, expressive

techniques of watercolor. Upon his graduation in 1979, Lewis engulfed on a teaching career and

began freelancing in Painting and Graphic Design. After placing a number of his pieces in the Artist

Magazine, Lewis' art was seen by Elizabeth O'Grady, of Simon and Schuster. Once O'Grady

extolled his talents to her partner Jeff Dwyer, Lewis received his first offer to illustrate children's

books. In 1993 Lewis first book illustrations were used in Jane Kurtz's, "Fire on the Mountain", and

the rest, as they say, is history. Lewis exquisite artistic style has garnered him several awards, among

them, the prestigious Coretta Scott King Award, which is given to African American Authors and

Illustrators for their exemplary artistic expression in books for youth. Since winning the Coretta Scott

King Award , in 2003 for "Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman", written by

Nikki Grimes, Lewis has won three other Coretta Scott King Awards, for "The Bat Boy and His

Violin", by Gavin Curtis, "My Rows and Piles of Corn", by Tololwa Mollel, "Virgie Goes to School

With Us Boys", and several other awards for his work. Lewis' decision to concentrate on hard to deal

with subjects has lent a voice to those who before, found no answers to difficult life situations.

As Laren Manelius states in the biography she wrote on Lewis, "Since 1993 Lewis' illustrations have

especially focused on books dealing with issues tough to relate to children, such as death, loss, and

love". In his realistic, slice of life depiction, Lewis eloquently tells a visual story with each stroke of

his brush, as seen in his interpretation of, "The Jazz of Our Street", by Fatima Shaik, a story about a

neighborhood in New Orleans and the Jazz band that inhabits the streets, invoking the traditional

incorporation of the music of the region.

Lewis' choice of blue hues evoke feelings of "coolness and tranquility" (Norton 117); his deliberate use

of line suggest fluid motion, dynamic energy and an exuberant tone to the story. The expressions on

the faces of the children is a hint to the stories, joyous emotional content His use of angle and

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