Earl Bradley Lewis was born on December 16, 1956, in Philadelphia, PA.
E.B. Lewis has illustrated over seventy books for children, including Nikki Grimes’ Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner; Alice Schertle’s Down the Road, an ALA Notable Book; Tolowa M. Mollel’s My Rows and Piles of Coins, an ALA Notable Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Bat Boy and His Violin by Garvin Curtis a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side, a 2002 Notable Book for the Language Arts.
Inspired by two artist uncles, as early as the third grade, Lewis displayed artistic promise. Beginning in the sixth grade, he attended the Saturday morning Temple University School of Art League and studied with Clarence Wood. Lewis attended the Temple University Tyler School of Art. There, he discovered his medium of preference was watercolor.
During his four years at Temple, Lewis majored in Graphic Design and Illustration and art education. After graduating, he taught art in public schools for twelve years. Presently, Lewis teaches at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, continues to paint and illustrate and is a member of The Society of Illustrators in New York City.
In 1992, Elizabeth O’Grady read a story about Lewis and saw examples of his wonderful watercolors in Artist Magazine. Previously, at a Society of Illustrators Annual Children’s Art Show, an art director from Simon & Schuster had asked Elizabeth to contact her if Elizabeth found any talented Afro-American artists who might want to illustrate children’s books. Elizabeth handed the magazine article about Lewis to her partner, Jeff Dwyer. He telephoned and explained the business of children’s book illustration to a quiet Earl B. Lewis. Lewis asked Jeff the names of other African-American children’s book illustrators, and after Jeff gave him the names of the “usual suspects,” Lewis told Jeff that he’d get back in touch with him if he was interested in pursuing children’s book illustration. About a week later, Lewis called and said, “Hey, I can paint better than those guys!” Within a year, Lewis had delivered his illustrations for Fire On The Mountain (S&S), quit his teaching job and began a career as a full-time children’s book illustrator.
In 2003, the Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota purchased a collection of original watercolors from Lewis’ first twenty-five children’s books. His work is owned by numerous private collectors and sold by art galleries throughout the United States.
“So many scholars noted you as one of their very top high points of the whole Academy…not surprisingly so!
It is so necessary, I think, to give our gifted students opportunities to learn from the best, and with the best…and with your contributions, we were able to do just that.
So, on behalf of the administration, faculty and scholars of the 2016 Missouri Scholars Academy, I want to send a sincere THANK YOU for your contributions to our community. YOU made a difference to us, and we are grateful!”
-Brian Stuhlman, Missouri Scholars Academy
“I had the opportunity to hear E.B. speak at the Missouri Scholars Academy yesterday. As I sat listening to him, I could only think that he needs to come deliver his message to our students at Crossroads College Preparatory School in St. Louis. We are a very diverse school in the city which is attempting to teach acceptance, community, and mutuality. We are college prep but also focused on the arts.
As a teacher, I thank E.B. for his message and hope that he will share it with our students and faculty.”
Hello Mr. Lewis
Today you visited Silverlake Elementary School in Middletown Delaware and I was touched by your message. I was one of the two African Americans teachers in the gym and the only African American male if that helps to make a connection. I am currently a student teacher completing my studies and I was amazed at the fact that your paintings are of hired kids. I instantly thought of a student who like you once was is an African American 3rd grader that is on the retention list for this year. Without a doubt being held back will crush him socially but that decision is out of my hands as we fight for special education assistance to help him. If you are still around the area and would like to meet this student I know it would do wonders for him, or even if you need a student for an upcoming illustration. He’s a little tall for his age and has dreadlocks. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this. Great message that I as an adult was able to draw from. As a school we appreciated your presence this morning.” – Sidney Smith
Just wanted to thank you for the great book signing…my two granddaughters couldn’t stop talking about you…they said they never met an artist of a book before. Both were talking about taking it to school and letting the teacher read there book to the class. Both are avid readers but talked all about their time at the book signing all the way back to Atco. I have a degree in art therapy and have been oil painting for 30 years. I have tried to do watercolors but, I have not been successful…I can look at your illustration’s and admire there beauty…just wanted to say thanks soooo much…all those children had a wonderful day…and ME too!
– Dorene Szeker
It is a great privilege to introduce to you this evening, artist, educator, and children’s book illustrator, E.B. Lewis. A graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, E.B. Lewis is a fine artist, whose considerable talents are a gift to the world of children’s books. Among his many recognitions, Lewis has been honored with the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, the Caldecott Honor Medal, and the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children. His work has been described by reviewers as: extraordinarily accomplished, authentic, luminous, unforgettable, eye-catching, evocative, and exquisite.
Bringing his experiences as an educator to his work in illustration, Mr. Lewis respects and understands his child audience. Well known for illustrating books that explore the complexity of our social histories, E.B. Lewis is thorough with his research and meticulous with his process. His ability to interpret the human experience allows his illustrations to work fluidly across different periods in history, depicting them with poignancy and depth for young readers.
Many of the books Mr. Lewis has illustrated offer a narrative of the African American experience. Titles such as Margot Theis Raven’s The Circle Unbroken: The Story of a Basket and its People, Hester Bass’s Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville Alabama, and most recently, Susan E. Goodman’s The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial make a vital contribution to the body of children’s literature, telling the stories not found in history textbooks.
But what truly distinguishes E.B. Lewis’s work is his ability to use the medium of watercolor to evoke emotional response across picture book genres. In Coming on Home Soon, a work of historical fiction, written by Jacqueline Woodson and set during World War II, readers instantly relate to the constancy of longing while missing an absent loved one. In Each Kindness, a contemporary realistic fiction title, also by Jacqueline Woodson, readers experience a different kind of longing, the regret a young girl feels, as she reflects on compassion unoffered to a now absent classmate. In Trouper, a book written by Meg Kearney in the first person voice of a rescue dog, E.B. Lewis allows the reader to experience the pure exuberant joy that even a three legged Labrador Retriever finds in the chase and the embrace of his boy companion. In Hester Bass’s The Secret World of Walter Anderson, an award winning nonfiction picture book, Mr. Lewis explores the quiet joy of solitude and concentrated focus experienced by an artist who paints the natural world. In diverse settings, through diverse characters, and embedded in diverse experiences, E.B. Lewis offers us his lens on the landscape of human emotions. As we, as a society, work toward greater inclusivity and connection, this perspective on our common humanity is truly a powerful offering. – Erika Thulin Dawes, Ed.D. Associate Professor of Language and Literacy, Lesley University