Last month, R. Gregory Christie received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor for The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore! This is Gregory’s fourth CSK Illustrator Honor, so we wondered: does it feel new each time?
Here’s what Gregory has to say about his previous CSK Honors and The Book Itch:
“It feels amazing to be in such great company once again. The first time I won the [honor] award was in 1997. I was in my 20’s and really didn’t have an in-depth understanding of its prestigious legacy before getting that congratulatory phone call. [However,] I was elated that I was being given any type of honor on my first book and still feel such grateful excitement today.
“Each book project that comes my way is not only a chance to showcase art techniques but also an opportunity to open up doors. Doors of diversity, imagination, empathy, and whichever human response a book is able to evoke from a reader.
“When it came to being the illustrator for The Book Itch, creating the visuals for this story had such a special meaning for me. As a bookstore owner myself, I really read the book with empathetic feelings. Much of what Vaunda Micheaux Nelson wrote about Lewis’ long hours and fervor for changing lives through self-knowledge resonated with me. I know that the times were different, but for me much of the psychological points of view and day-to-day events told through Lewis Jr.’s eyes hold true today.
“I feel that the book is a peek in to the past, mostly for those who were not there to live it; so I tried to create images that would pay homage to the art of that time period. I was very painterly and kept the tonal values down because I felt that a retro style would really fit the text. It certainly was new territory in terms of technical skills for me, but I’m glad to play my part in the Michaux family’s legacy and thankful that the 2016 Coretta Scott King Award committee will help to keep this book alive on the library shelves.”