Kadir Nelson is a critically acclaimed artist and illustrator. He has received many awards and honors for his children's books, including the 2009 Sibert Medal for We Are the Ship, a Coretta Scott King Award for Ellington Was Not a Street, written by Ntozake Shange, and the NAACP Image Award for Just the Two of Us, written by Will Smith.
Nelson began drawing at the age of three, displaying artistic acumen before he could write or spell. "I have always been an artist," Nelson explains. "It's part of my DNA." At age eleven, he was apprenticed by his uncle, an artist and art teacher. Later, he began entering his paintings in art competitions and ultimately won an art scholarship to study at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Upon graduating with honors, Nelson began his professional career as an artist, publishing his work and receiving commissions from publishers and production studios such as Dreamworks, Sports Illustrated, Coca-Cola, The New York Times and Major League Baseball, among others.
Nelson started his career in children's books when an editor asked him to illustrate Big Jabe, written by Jerdine Nolen, as a result of winning an award from the New York Society of Illustrators. Around the same time, actress Debbie Allen asked if he would be interested in illustrating a book based on one of her stage productions, Brothers of the Knight.
Nelson won a 2008 Caldecott Honor for Henry's Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine. In this stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom, Nelson combined his own style of painting with a cross-hatched style of illustration he found used in a historial lithograph from 1850 that documented Henry's arrival to Philadelphia. "The challenge that comes with illustrating historical picture books is finding accurate references," states Nelson. "Deciphering between what is accurate, and what is not."
Kadir Nelson lives in Los Angeles. For more information about him, please visit www.kadirnelson.com.