Ashley Bryan Painter & Poet at High Museum of Art

Painter & Poet: The Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan at High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA.  The exhibit is sponsored by The Carle Museum.

Ashley Bryan is a noted artist and poet. He has been creating stunning, colorful works of art for half a century and has published more than 50 titles including many incredible children’s books about the African and African-American experience. The exhibit, organized by the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in partnership with the Ashley Bryan Center, is presented by the High Museum of Art. Don’t miss out on this colorful “Wonderful World of Ashley Bryan.”

Overview of Bryan’s work and exhibit

Bryan is committed to filling the void in black representation by creating books about the African and African American experiences.

Bryan’s art is as varied as his stories. His accomplished draftsmanship is evident, whether he is drawing with a pencil to create meticulous renderings, printing with cut linoleum to make vibrant celebrations of linear movement, or using tempera in colorful paintings that simulate his block prints and impart a similar visual intensity. In addition to his works on paper, Bryan also creates puppets from found objects and returns to one of the earliest forms of visual narrative in the stained-glass windows he fashions from sea glass and papier-mâché.

This exhibition showcases the breadth and depth of Bryan’s creative output, from the dynamic figure drawings he made while serving as a soldier in World War II, to his first published book in 1967, to his 2016 book Freedom Over Me, awarded a Newbery Honor, Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.


Ashley Bryan Painter and Poet

Grits & Grace Favorite Books by Ashley Bryan

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives, and Dreams Brought to Life

Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.

Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern.

You, an object. An object to sell.

Beautiful Blackbird (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner)

Long ago, Blackbird was voted the most beautiful bird in the forest. The other birds, who were colored red, yellow, blue, and green, were so envious that they begged Blackbird to paint their feathers with a touch of black so they could be beautiful too. Although Black-bird warns them that true beauty comes from within, the other birds persist and soon each is given a ring of black around their neck or a dot of black on their wings — markings that detail birds to this very day.

Ashley Bryan’s Puppets: Making Something from Everything

Little Cranberry Island. It’s a small island, with fewer than a hundred inhabitants, but it’s got more than its share of treasures—including the magnificent Ashley Bryan himself, a world-renowned storyteller and author of such classics as All Night, All Day and Beautiful Blackbird. Daily, for decades, Ashley has walked up and down the beach, stopping to pick up sea glass, weathered bones, a tangle of fishing net, an empty bottle, a doorknob. Treasure.

Let it Shine

With a kaleidoscope of color and cut paper, Hans Christian Anderson Award nominee and two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Ashley Bryan celebrates three favorite spirituals: “This Little Light of Mine,” “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” The power of these beloved songs simply emanates through his joyous interpretations. Come, sing, and celebrate!

What a Wonderful World

What simpler way could there be to express to children the beauty and the harmony in the world around them than through the lyrics of this song by George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, made famous by the great Louis Armstrong? And what better visual accompaniment than the bright colorful artwork by award-winning Ashley Bryan depicting children of many backgrounds (and Louis Armstrong himself) performing a puppet show that brings the lyrics to life. Here is a book of brightness, wonder, and hope to be shared by all.

Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum 

Here are five Nigerian folktales, retold in language as rhythmic as the beat of the story-drum, and illustrated with vibrant, evocative woodcuts.


ABCs of African American Poetry
African Tales, Uh-Huh
All Night, All Day: A Child’s First Book of African American Spirituals
Aneesa Lee and the Weaver’s Gift (illustrator)
Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life’s Song
Ashley Bryan’s Puppets
Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum
Beautiful Blackbird
Dancing Granny
Freedom Over Me
How God Fix Jonah
I’m Going to Sing: Black American Spirituals
Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals
Lion and the Ostrich Chicks and Other African Folk Tales
My America (co-illustrator)
Salting the Ocean
Sing to the Sun
The Night Has Ears
The Story of Lightning and Thunder
The Story of the Three Kingdoms (illustrator)
What a Morning! The Christmas Story in Black Spirituals
What a Wonderful World (illustrator)
Who Built the Stable?
Can’t Scare Me

Have you seen the Painter & Poet exhibition at High Museum? Let us know. If not be sure to purchase your tickets here and check out this amazing event!

What are your favorite works from Ashley Bryan? Let us know in the comments below.

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