Javaka Steptoe is an eclectic young artist, designer, and illustrator, building a national reputation as an outstanding contributor to the genre of children's literature. His debut work, In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers, earned him the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, a nomination for Outstanding Children's Literature Work at the 1998 NAACP Image Awards, a finalist ranking for the Bluebonnet Award for Excellence in Children's Books, and countless other honors. His books, Do You Know What I'll Do? authored by Charlotte Zolotow and A Pocketful of Poems authored by Nikki Grimes, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Hot Day on Abbott Avenue, written by Karen English, received the 2005 Jane Addams Children's Book Award. Steptoe is also the author/illustrator of The Jones Family Express. His most recent illustration projects include Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten, published in 2008 and Amiri and Odette: A Love Story by multi award winning author Walter Dean Myers, published in January 2009.
"Amiri and Odette: A Love Story is a haunting story," says Javaka. "I was struck by this poem that reminds readers that love does survive among the drug deals and gang violence of the inner city. In preparing the artwork, I wanted the reader to feel the grit, noise and urgency of the streets. The images are rendered with acrylic paint on slabs of asphalt, some of them as large as three feet wide. I have embellished the collages with candy wrappers, gold plated and 14k jewelry, newspaper, plastic bags, and other items to give them a three-dimensional quality."
Once a model and inspiration for his late father, award winning author/illustrator John Steptoe, Javaka Steptoe has established himself as an outstanding illustrator in his own right. Utilizing everyday objects, from aluminum plates to pocket lint, and sometimes illustrating with a jigsaw and paint, he delivers reflective and thoughtful collage creations filled with vitality, playful energy, and strength.
For Steptoe, "...collage is a means of survival. It is how Black folks survived four hundred years of oppression, taking the scraps of life and transforming them into art forms." As both an artist and educator, he challenges traditional notions of Black art, emphasizing the richness of our collective past through his use of family as a recurring theme and centerpiece. Steptoe explains, "I want my audience no matter what their background, to be able to enter into my world and make connections with comparable experiences in their own lives." Having earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Steptoe is very committed to children's education, making appearances at various schools, libraries, museums, and conferences across the country, including the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, and Reading is Fundamental, Inc.
Javaka draws inspiration from his family and the multifaceted colors and shapes of the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood where he lives and works. For more information about him, please visit www.javaka.com