NEW YORK (AP) — Floyd Cooper, an award-winning illustrator and author of children’s books, whose mission to offer clear and positive images of black history included subjects ranging from the civil rights movement of Frederick Douglass and Venus and Serena Williams , has passed away. He was 65 years old.
Writer Carol Boston Weatherford, whose “Being Billy Holiday” and “Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre” were illustrated by Cooper, told the Associated Press in an email that he died early Friday after being ill with cancer for several months. happened. He did not immediately provide further details.
“His cinematic portrayal brought stories to life and kept readers close,” Weatherford said. “A devoted family man and genuine friend, Floyd was a talented painter and truth teller. His legacy will continue to enlighten and inspire generations to come.”
Cooper was a Tulsa, Oklahoma, native who painted memories of his grandfather while illustrating Weatherford’s book on the tragedy of 1921. He grew up poor, and talked about moving to Tulsa so often that he attended 11 different elementary schools. But he showed an early gift for drawing and received a scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma.
After working on greeting cards for the Hallmark Company in Kansas City, he moved to New York City and illustrated his first published book, “Grandpas Face” by Eloise Greenfield, which came out in 1988.
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He later settled in Easton, Pennsylvania with his wife and agent, Velma, and two sons. He illustrated dozens of books, and his work on Joyce Carol Thomas’ “The Blacker the Berry” earned him the 2009 Coretta Scott King Award for Achievement by a Black Illustrator.
He also collaborated with top writers such as Weatherford, Nikki Grimes, Walter Dean Myers, Jacqueline Woodson and Howard Bryant, whose “Sisters and Champions”, about the Williams sisters, was illustrated by Cooper.
“Floyd was an amazing artist and a fantastic collaborator,” Bryant told the AP in an email on Saturday. “I remember when I first found his opening pages for ‘Sisters and Champions,’ I was absolutely moved. For my first children’s book, I was so proud to share a project with him and I Was really looking forward to doing it again. It’s a huge loss.”
Her other projects include Myers’ “Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History,” Ruth Vander Zee’s “Mississippi Morning” and Leah Henderson’s “A Day for Remembering: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day.” May. He also wrote a handful of books, among them “Juneth for Maze” and “The Ring Bearer”.
Cooper prided himself on bold, dramatic images with what he called the “oil eraser”, a style associated with his childhood, for which he used an eraser to create shapes on canvas. While taking a book, he would read the manuscript till the pictures came to his mind.
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“Sometimes I get a flood of images the first time I read it!” He wrote in a 2018 post for mackincommunity.com. “This is what we painters call ‘finding the connect’. I connect to the story in a special way, as if it was written just for me.”