Kadir Nelson

Today I want to share imagery by one of my favorite artist/illustrators, Kadir Nelson. You probably know this artist’s work already. He won a much-deserved Caldecott as well as a Coretta Scott King award this year for his book The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander. Kadir’s work also embellishes a number of USPS stamps, and album covers, and movie posters, and many (of my favorite) New Yorker Magazine covers. And his paintings hang in a lot of prestigious places, including the U.S. House of Representatives.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kadir Nelson in Orlando at the 2004 ALA convention. He won his first Coretta Scott King award that year for Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange.

This book illustrates Shange’s poem about growing up in the midst of African American leaders like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois.

I peruse Kadir’s books whenever I want a lesson in composition, or dramatic perspective, or skillful use of a restrained color palette, or emotion as told through gesture and expression. Or if I just want to look at beautiful paintings.

I think what I like most about Kadir’s painting style is the evidence of the drawing behind it. Kadir’s linework seems to flow from his fingers freely and without error. He makes it look so easy.

I met Kadir again a few years later at an NCTE convention in Nashville where I sat in on a presentation he gave. He spoke with humble confidence. He said he uses photography as reference. But his work extends far beyond realism. He enhances the expressiveness of anything he draws, even if that thing is an inanimate object.

Even his skies tell stories.

I have shown examples here from the few books by Kadir that I own, but if you want to see more of his outstanding work, you can purchase his books online, or find them at your local libraries (when they open up again). His work highlights stories of courage, perseverance and strength; stories that we all benefit from reading.

9 responses to “Kadir Nelson

  1. Sharon Creech

    His work is extraordinary. Thank you for posting these, many of which I had not yet seen.

  2. laurakvasnosky

    how wonderful to see these selections of his work all together. the perspectives, the compositions: wow. the thanks, Margaret.

  3. Mercedes L Lawry

    Powerful and timely

  4. Such a powerful illustrator. I’ve read a couple of these, but not all. Clearly, I need to read more of his work. Thank you!

  5. Love this post, Margaret.

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