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black illustrator - MAIJIN | Freelance Graphic Designer, Concept Artist, Brand Developer, and Illustrator.

Best Black Children’s Book Illustrators to hire: Tips for Hiring a Black-owned Illustration Company

By Author, Blogging, Children's Book, Hiring, How To, Publishing, Self-Publishing No Comments

The children’s book industry has a long history of excluding the black voice and perspective from publication, unfortunately, it is still common to see the majority of picture books illustrating a narrow representation of stories and images to kids and schools across America. However, there has been a growing awareness of the need for diverse representation in children’s literature, and publishers and authors are starting to take note. Despite this progress, hiring Black illustrators for children’s books remains a challenge for many in the industry.

To address this issue, it is essential to recognize and uplift Black-owned illustration companies and the talented Black illustrators they employ. These companies provide a unique opportunity to not only support Black artists but also to ensure that the stories and images in children’s books accurately reflect the experiences and perspectives of Black children.

The lack of diverse representation in children’s books has significant consequences for the self-esteem, worldview, and education of Black children. Research has shown that children who see themselves represented positively in books have higher self-esteem and a better understanding of the world around them.

Therefore, hiring Black illustrators for children’s books is an essential step in creating a more inclusive and representative children’s book industry.

In this article, I will discuss how the best Black children’s book illustrators can bring unique perspectives, experiences, and talents that can help to create stories and images that accurately represent Black children. I will also highlight the best Black children’s book illustrators to hire and providing tips for hiring a Black-owned illustration company, which can empower authors and publishers to make meaningful strides towards diverse representation in children’s literature.

I believe we should all work together to ensure that ALL children can have access to books that accurately represent their experiences and perspectives. Let’s get started…

Table of Contents:

The Best Black Children’s Book Illustrators to Hire
The Importance of Diverse Children’s Book Illustrations
The Impact of Black Children’s Book Illustrators
The Unique Styles of Black Children’s Book Illustrators
Tips for finding and hiring Black children’s book illustrators
Hiring Black Children’s Book Illustrators
Famous Black children’s book illustrators
Black Authors Hiring Black Children’s Book Illustrators

 

The Best Black Children’s Book Illustrators to Hire

The question who/what are the best Black children’s book illustrator to hire is common amongst authors and publishers who contact me because they’re interested in drawing from untapped and underrepresented stories about Black culture. As a Black-American children’s book illustrator, I understand the importance of finding and hiring the best illustrators who bring a fresh perspective to their illustrative craft, and indeed, Black illustrators have a one-of-a-kind experience that can shape a child’s empathy and perception of all cultures and expand their imagination. Black creators who can illustrate African-American stories with a depth of authenticity and reverence can resonate with young readers from all cultures, and can have a particularly significant impact on Black children who need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read.

If an author or publisher aims to tell Black stories, then hiring a Black children’s book illustrator would be best since we can draw from our own experience, traditions, history, and culture of being African-American to inform and interpret the illustrations we create. For decades, Black children’s book illustrators have been at the forefront of creating compelling and culturally relevant illustrations for children’s books, but those products have infamously not been propped up or marketed due to the limited appeal, according to black creators who’ve danced around with many traditional publishers before.

But things are changing… the new Black renaissance in the entertainment and media industry is here – and has intensified the calls for many talented artists and creators to explore Black stories to expand the social and political consciousness of readers from all walks of life. The success of Black stories in film, television, gaming, and published media has only amplified the marketability and sales of intellectual property that houses the Black perspective. This has effectively changed the publishing industry forever, and continues to pave the way for new generations of creators and illustrators like me to follow in their footsteps.

 

The Importance of Diverse Children’s Book Illustrations

The newly founded recognition of the importance of diverse children’s book stories and illustrations has come with a clear understanding that it is essential for children to see themselves and their experiences illustrated in the books they read. Black children’s book illustrators have been at the forefront for representing diverse cultures, races, ethnicities, family structures, and experiences, by creating illustrations that celebrate the richness and diversity of minorities and people of color.

Diversity in children’s books is even more critical for Black and African-American children who have been historically underrepresented in children’s literature. As a Black children’s book illustrator, I have seen firsthand the significance of ensuring that a wide range of experiences and viewpoints are represented in the picture books that kids read. Representation in children’s books cannot be discounted, as it can profoundly influence a kid’s sense of racial identity and self-esteem, while combating negative stereotypes and biases, and promoting a more positive and holistic perceptions in society.

Whether youre a publisher, author, or illustration like me… it is our responsibility to seeking out and promoting diverse voices in the literary industry by hiring African-American children’s book illustrators.

We must ensure that Black children’s book illustrators have a seat at the table and we recognize, celebrate, and honor the beauty and diversity of Black experiences in children’s literature.

 

The Impact of Black Children’s Book Illustrators

As a Black child growing up in America, I often found myself searching for books that truly represented my experiences and the experiences of those around me. Too often, the books I came across failed to capture the nuances of Black life, relying instead on tired stereotypes and tropes. This lack of representation is not only disheartening for a black youth audience, but also detrimental to the publishing industry and consumer mentality as a whole. It is for this reason that I believe Black children’s book illustrators can make a significant impact in the world.

2018 study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center found that only 10% of children's books published featured characters of color or black characters

2018 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center.

The publishing industry has a long history of marginalization of voices from underrepresented communities. This has led to a lack of diversity in both content and representation, resulting in a published media that is out of touch with the experiences of many minority readers, including Black children. In fact, a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center found that only 10% of children’s books published in 2018 featured characters of color. This lack of representation is not only harmful to kids of color, who are deprived of representation, but also to the publishing industry as a whole. The underrepresentation of Black children’s book illustrators has a long and troubling history, with publishers often excluding them and citing concerns that their illustrations would not sell as well as those created by White illustrators. Even when Black illustrators managed to break through these barriers, they faced discrimination and marginalization. For instance, Tom Feelings, who was first African-American illustrator to win a Caldecott Honor Award, faced numerous obstacles throughout his career, including having his work rejected by publishers and being asked to remove his name from his illustrations to avoid being associated with Blackness. The legacy of these challenges still exists today, with Black illustrators continuing to face underrepresentation and marginalization in the industry.

Luckily, consumer attitudes towards diversity and inclusion continue to evolve across all industries, and publishers who fail to embrace diversity, risk alienating significant portions of their early reading audience and the parents.

Black children’s book illustrators have the power to both increase representation and challenge stereotypes. By creating books that authentically depict the experiences of Black children, illustrators have the power to make a significant impact on young readers, the publishing industry, and consumer mentality.

However, Only 5% of professionals in the publishing industry identify as Black, according to a 2019 study by the Diversity Baseline Survey. Showing while progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to diversify for writers, editors, artists, agents, and other publishing professionals in the publishing space.

a-2020-study-Diversity-Baseline-Survey-Only-7%-of-publishing-professionals-identify-as-Black

a 2020 study Diversity Baseline Survey.

This lack of diversity is not only detrimental to the industry itself but also to the quality of the content being produced. When a diverse range of perspectives and experiences are not represented, the resulting books can lack the richness and depth necessary to truly connect with young readers. Black children’s book illustrators have the power to bring their unique perspectives to the page, resulting in books that are richer, more complex, and ultimately more meaningful.

I have seen firsthand the immense talent and potential of Black artists in the publishing industry. However, I have also seen how a social and political nostalgia in the publishing space can prevent these artists from achieving the recognition and success they deserve. It is for this reason that it is so important to actively seek out and support creative Black illustrators, both in the publishing industry and in the broader art world.

Hiring the best Black children’s book illustrators can have the power to make a significant impact on young readers, the publishing industry, and consumer mentality. Through their art, they can increase representation, challenge stereotypes, and promote diversity and inclusion. However, this work cannot be done alone.

 

The Unique Styles of Black Children’s Book Illustrators

I have worked hard to shape the broader art world by contributing a strong voice in my professional contributions, and the unique styles of Black illustrator is something i’ve consciously injected into my illustrations and stories. Whether it is in my interpretation of character designs, personality archetypes, colors choices, intricate textures, media techniques, and/or subject matter… every application is more of an expression of my creative genes than just an aesthetic choice; it is a conveyance of my emotions and a footprint of my experiences which i integrate into my work to hep me tell more authentic and compelling stories.

What makes Black illustrators so distinctive in modern times is our understanding of the power of representation, because the black culture has been on the receiving end of when a lack of representation goes awry and fosters a whole host of imperceptions that create devastating harm. So we understand the important of drawing upon the richness and complexity of Black culture and experience in our work, and create illustrations that reflect the positive beauty, resilience, and diversity of the Black community to educate, inspire, and empower young readers. Our artistic style gives us a powerful and cathartic tool for storytelling and artmaking that allows us to tap into our cultural heritage to create work that is authentic, respectful, and meaningful to the black community.

Our work not only entertains but also inspires and empowers young readers, offering them a window into the world that helps them explore it with open hearts and open minds. Black illustrators offer a one-of-a-kind contribution to the human experience and the world of children’s literature.

 

Tips for finding and hiring Black children’s book illustrators

I wanted to offer some tips for finding and hiring Black children’s book illustrators because it is absolutely essential, if we are to shape to promote tolerance, empathy, and diversity for a better world which can be done during the early reading phase in children’s literature. Children who see themselves reflected in the books they read feel a sense of validation and belonging, which can help to build their self-esteem and open their minds to new perspectives that they can carry with them as they grow up. A 2016 study found that exposure to ethnically diverse literature can reduce prejudice and promote empathy and understanding among young readers, which is why it’s important that we continue to create and promote books with diverse representation.

To increase the representation of Black children’s book illustrators in the industry, we must actively seek them out and hire them. There are many ways to find Black illustrators, including researching them online, attending art shows and exhibits, and networking at events and conferences that promote diversity in children’s literature. It’s also important to consider hiring Black illustrators for a range of projects, not just those that focus on diversity and inclusion.

here are some tips for finding and hiring Black children’s book illustrators:

  1. Research Black illustrators: Conduct thorough research to find Black illustrators whose work aligns with your project. Check out social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, where many illustrators showcase their work. You can also look for blogs and websites that showcase Black illustrators.
  2. Attend art shows and exhibits: Attend art shows and exhibits in your local area to find Black illustrators. You can also attend events like the annual Black Comic Book Festival, which showcases Black illustrators and comic book creators.
  3. Network: Attend events and conferences where you can meet Black illustrators and other industry professionals. Join online groups and forums where you can connect with illustrators and other creatives.
  4. Hire Black illustrators for a range of projects: Don’t just hire Black illustrators for projects that specifically focus on diversity and inclusion. Black illustrators are just as skilled and talented as any other illustrator, and they should be considered for all types of projects.
  5. Pay fair and equal rates: Black illustrators have historically been underpaid and undervalued. When hiring a Black illustrator, make sure that you pay them fairly and equally to their non-Black counterparts.

As publishers, authors, and illustrators, we can inspire and educate the next generation of readers, we can help them understand and appreciate the rich cultural and historical traditions of the Black community, creating a brighter and more inclusive future.

Let’s recognize and celebrate the diversity and richness of Black culture in children’s literature.

 

Hiring Black Children’s Book Illustrators

As a powerful tool for shaping the values and beliefs of young readers, children’s books have can act as a social driver to promote a more diverse and inclusive culture.

Hiring Black or African-American children’s book illustrators is a great step towards promoting a more inclusive and equitable society. Not only does it open up a new world of stories, art, and culture to readers, but it also bridges the gap between cultures and communities. Black or African-American illustrators can offer a new and unique voice to children’s book literature that feels fresh and edgier to younger readers, and consumer studies have shown that diverse representation in children’s books can increase engagement, revenue, and marketability of a book. Ultimately, hiring a Black or African-American children’s book illustrator is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic decision for creating a more inclusive and profitable business.

If you are a children’s book author or publisher looking to hire a Black illustrator, there are several resources available to help you find the right match. One good place to start is with organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which has a directory of member illustrators that you can search by location, style, and experience. Or, if you have a black story to tell, then you find or hire me as your Black Children’s Book Illustrator here. Remember, when hiring a Black children’s book illustrator, it is important to ensure that their work is a good fit for your project. Take the time to review their portfolio and assess their style and experience. Be sure to communicate your vision and goals for the project, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have.

 

Famous Black children’s book illustrators

As a sidenote, I wanted to discuss Famous Black children’s book illustrators like Jerry Pinkney, who became an award-winning illustrator in the 1960s and 1970s, have been creating illustrations for Black children’s books for over 50 years. Pinkney has illustrated over 100 books and has won numerous awards, including the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Society of Illustrators Lifetime Achievement Award. Pinkney’s illustrations are known for their stunning detail and the way they capture the spirit of the story being told.

Growing up in a world where Black artists were often underrepresented and undervalued, seeing the work of Jerry Pinkney was a revelation when i was a kid reading picture books in school. Even at a young age, I was struck by their beauty, detail, and power, and by how each line, color, and detail was carefully crafted to bring the spirit of the stories he illustrated to life. His illustrations were both faithful to the text and uniquely his own.

Jerry Pinkney has illustrated over 100 children’s books, many of which have received critical acclaim and have become beloved classics in children’s literature, and his most well-known works include:

“The Lion & the Mouse” (2009)

“The Ugly Duckling” (1999)

“John Henry” (1994)

“The Talking Eggs” (1989)

“Mirandy and Brother Wind” (1988)

“The Little Red Hen” (1980)

“Aesop’s Fables” (1971)

“The Jungle Book” (2003)

“Noah’s Ark” (2002)

“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” (2011)

Pinkney’s illustrations showed me that it was possible to create art that was both culturally relevant and aesthetically stunning. He demonstrated that my work as a Black artist could have a significant socio-political impact. Additionally, he showed me the power of storytelling and how Black illustrations could serve as a conduit to speak truth to power and open young minds to a whole new world of understanding. His illustrations inspired me to push the boundaries of my own art, take risks, and trust in my own voice and vision.

 

Black Authors Hiring Black Children’s Book Illustrators

As an epilogue, I wanted to discuss black authors because many have contacted me with questions. Black authors have told me they first went to generic job marketplaces and settled for non-black illustrators to create the black-centric artwork due to an inability to find the black talent or to save a few dollars. Don’t cut corners. Here’s my suggestion…

For Black authors, I know it may be difficult in seeking out children’s book illustrators who can authentically help you complete your project. So that is why hiring Black illustrators like myself can ensures their vision is fully realized and authentically represented. Both author and illustrator should come from a similar cultural background to effectively communicate and convey their ideas, resulting in a cohesive and impactful story. The illustrations should reflect the text and the culture, and hiring a Black illustrator can help to ensure this connection.

Hiring Black illustrators is a means to show reverence to the distinctive voice, viewpoint, and culture of Black people, which has been consistently overlooked and marginalized in our world. The process of selecting a Black children’s book illustrator ought to concentrate on finding the one who can best showcase the opulence of Black culture, mold the values and beliefs of young readers, and visually amplify the narrative surrounding Black people and their stories.

Hiring a Black children’s book illustrator is beneficial for Black authors or anyone looking to tell Black stories in several ways.

  1. it can result in a more authentic representation of Black characters and culture in the book. Black illustrators may better understand the nuances and intricacies of Black culture, allowing them to create illustrations that accurately depict and celebrate the diversity and beauty of Black experiences. By incorporating cultural references and nuances specific to the Black experience, the illustrator can create a more immersive experience for the reader.
  2. working with a Black illustrator can provide a sense of community and shared experience, which can help a Black author feel more supported and understood. They may draw upon shared cultural experiences, language, and history to create a collaborative work that resonates with readers.
  3. hiring a Black children’s book illustrator can help promote diversity and representation in the children’s book industry. By intentionally seeking out and working with Black illustrators, authors can create a more inclusive and equitable industry, where diverse voices are celebrated and elevated.

So hiring Black children’s book illustrators for children’s books represents an act of enlightenment, casting the brightest possible light on a Black culture where many of our stories remain untold. Together, we can honor the abundance and multiplicity of Black experiences and inspire future generations of readers to do likewise.

 

Contact me if you need to find and hire a Black children’s book illustrator for your next project! 

 

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