Creativity: A Family Thing

USA Today has a great article in the Life section about Jerry Pinkey and his family. He, his wife Gloria, their son Brian, and his wife Andrea, all have been published. Their other son Myles and his wife, create picture books. The family name, the article says, graces the covers of 175 books. Their other two children pursue art and creativity in other ways: Daughter Troy is an art therapist and son Scott is a fine-arts painter and creative director of a Toronto ad agency.

Jerry Pinkey didn’t do well in school. He had dyslexia, though it wasn’t diagnosed back then. But he loved to draw. A bit of serendipity happened as he was working at a newsstand at the age of twelve. A patron complimented Pinkey on his sketches. That patron was John Liney, who illustrated a comic strip called Henry that ran for thirty years. Visiting Liney’s studio inspired Pinkey, made him realize that people could have careers doing what he loved to do–make images. He got a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and went on to become an illustrator of works such as Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki-Tikki-Tavi.

Sometimes it works like that. I had a love/hate relationship with English classes, especially diagramming sentences. But I loved to read. That love of reading became a love of writing, but I didn’t take it seriously until I was 29, working part time in a bookstore, and met a group of ladies who were having a signing. Real live authors, y’all. Those ladies were part of Georgia Romance Writers, which meant they were local. Then they told me that they meet monthly to talk about writing and publishing. People do that? I went to a meeting, and the rest, as they say, is history.

But I digress.  This story is truly inspiring on multiple levels, and I encourage people to read it. You’ll find a variety of axioms lived out by this family, and you may even see yourself (or learn a few things) in them. For example, Gloria Jean Pinkey was always a storyteller, but she was a talker, not a writer. It wasn’t until she reconnected with long-lost relatives that she decided to put her story into words. So, you see, it is never too late to bring a dream to the light of day.

The family nurtured creativity:

“Wherever we lived, we created a common space with art supplies and work tables and no TV. The kids could do what they wanted.”

Which for Brian became books on black history, on which he collaborated with his wife Andrea, who also writes teen books and edits for Scholastic. For Myles and his wife Sandra, that means picture books including Read and Rise, which has a forward by Maya Angelou. Seems like marrying a creative person was almost inevitable for these siblings.

Leonard Marcus, a historian of children’s literature, who wrote about Jerry and Brian Pinkney in his 2007 book Pass It Down; Five Picture-Book Families Make Their Mark, says no other family matches the Pinkneys’ “depth of involvement” with books.

Marcus also says Jerry Pinkney “came along at a time when the U.S. still wasn’t quite ready to acknowledge the multiracial nature of our society in the books it gave its children, and he has played a pivotal role in changing that situation for the better.”

Grimes says that in the Caldecott Medal’s 72-year history, Pinkney [who won the award last month] is the first individual African American to win. Leo and Diane Dillon, a multiracial couple, won in 1976 and ’77.

To which the poet adds, “It’s about time.”