illustrator – gregory christie

December 18, 2011


1)  When we hear your name, we immediately think of your prolific and multiple award winning children’s book career. But you first broke into the world of illustration from nightclub scene, then to whole bunch of jazz album covers. I am curious to know if you ‘fell’ into children’s books rather than having that as a goal when you started? Also, can you let us know briefly how this progress happened?

Being an artist was a path in life I chose very early on, but children’s books as a career came as a surprise to me and started shortly after getting the attention of Lee and Low Books, then winning the Coretta Scott King Award Honor on our first project, The Palm of my Heart; Poetry by African American Children. These events all came about during my development as a person new to being social and new to New York City. I chose to pursue a career in illustration as an after thought to applying to an art school, before then the education in art was my time spent alone with my paints as a teenager, no prom, no class ring or social life just many weekends learning about what the various mediums could do in my hands. That being the case, my first years as a young adult in NY were about P-A-R-T-I-E-S! I was a terrible art student, not in terms of my draftsmanship but in the aspects of my discipline.

I came from a small town in NJ and decided at that point it was more important to develop my social skills and to learn how to be comfortable around people. So I went from being shy and antisocial to a social network in night clubs. After some time I saw that although it was fun I couldn’t turn from my nature, the art had to be there with me, so I decided to put my time to better use and approached the manager of my favorite nightspot, asking him how he felt about bringing some culture in to the place. Surprisingly he said “sure”, and a one time experiment turned in to a steady gig for me. Before I knew it, these slide shows became a bi weekly event where I asked friends to show work, gave them a guest-list, payment and drink tickets. Other promoters wanted this idea and soon after it escalated in to live paintings along with the presentation and this opened up opportunities to paint in Malaysia, London, Amsterdam and Sweden and kept those years very interesting.

During one event I stopped one of the members from a group called Justice System as they left the stage from a live performance and went in to their dressing room with color copies of my artwork. The manager loved the idea of original art on their debut album and when he signed his group to MCA records, he signed me as well. It was my earliest and most publicized job and some editors at Lee and Low Books put me in the running for my first award winning children’s book.

I love the freedom and purpose that comes from illustrating but as a child I never intended to become an illustrator, so I am really shocked to see my work in books, to have awards on my wall and to set down cultural seeds for a generation that isn’t even born yet.


One Response to “illustrator – gregory christie”

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