R. Gregory Christie is an award-winning children’s book illustrator and lecturer with a long track record of creating inspiring art. Christie is best known for his beloved Coretta Scott King Award-wining books: No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal, and Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Only Passing Through, and the NAACP Image Award-winning books: Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change. To date, Christie has illustrated more than 60 celebrated books in the last 20 plus years.
Christie’s original NCCIL exhibition, “Work and Whimsy: The Art of R. Gregory Christie,” will open Feb. 3 and run through May 21.
Christie was born on July 26, 1971 in Plainfield, New Jersey, to Ludra V. St. Amant Christie and Gerard A. Christie. His mother was a Louisiana Creole and his father was a pharmacist. He was raised in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, close to the Jerseyland Resort.
He went to St. Bartholomew the Apostle Elementary School. Christie recalls always having an interest in art and drawing characters from comic books from age 5. Christie began painting illustrations of public broadcasting service shows when he was eight years old. He graduated from Fanwood High School in 1989 and attended New York City’s School of Visual Arts. During that time, he worked at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum bookshop in Manhattan and again after its renovation, as a security guard. During his time on the nightshift, it took him six months to complete what would become his debut picture book. Christie graduated from the School of Visual Arts in 1993, with a BFA.
His first illustration was published in the Star Ledger, the largest circulated newspaper in New Jersey, in 1990, while he was still attending university.
His first official illustration job for a book was for a volume of poetry called The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children, with text by Davida Adedjouma, was published by Lee & Low in 1996. It won him his first Coretta Scott King Award at age 25.
Since then, many of the books he has worked on have gone on to win major awards, including six more Coretta Scott King Honors, a Caldecott Honor, the Schneider Family Book Award, the NAACP Image Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. His illustrations have also appeared on HBO Kids and the PBS children›s show Between the Lions. As a freelance illustrator, some of his clients include The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and more.
He cites the works of American artists William H. Johnson and Romare Bearden and Ezra Jack Keats’ children’s books as the sources of some of his inspiration. Many of Christie’s works center on mostly African American historical figures and he has worked on picture book biographies of Muhammad Ali, Sojourner Truth, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Louis Armstrong and Richard Wright, among others.
Christie’s highly sought-after lectures on art, diversity and literature are family friendly. His educational programs are fun and engaging, allowing audiences to find a love for books. He has been a guest speaker at conferences and libraries and teaches after school art programs all over the country.
Christie currently lives and paints in Atlanta, Ga.
Contributed By The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature