Ekua Holmes

American children's book illustrator

Ekua Holmes (born in 1955) is a mixed-media artist, children's book illustrator, and arts organization professional from Boston, USA.


  • I fell in love with making art because of the images in children’s books.
  • As a community arts advocate and gallerist, I always encouraged artists to take every opportunity to “show your work.” If no one sees it, it is not doing an important job. Some artists balked at the idea of showing in restaurants or cafes. But I contend that art directors eat, museum curators eat and collectors eat. To that end, I was “showing my work” at a local ice cream store. Someone from Candlewick Press came in with their daughter for an ice cream cone and saw the work.
  • if I had to explain it I would say that my work is about my life and community. Therefore it is seated on a foundation of Black Art traditions. Through a colored lens that may include quilt making, gardening, cooking, interior design, fashion, the healing arts, and spirituality.
  • I think the story is the most important thing. Kids (and adults) love stories. The art – its colors, characters, form, and style serve the story. To the extent that we can imagine ourselves in the story, we can embody and explore its values and lessons.
  • I would encourage displays of books about artists (not just Black artists) and making available tools and activities that encourage choice and creativity. The library is a place for browsing and learning what we are visually attracted to – what we are curious about. Great librarians are always paying attention and help us with our interests. Artists’ visits and presentations add a dimensionality to reading about a particular topic.
  • Absolutely not. If I saw a brown face it was because I colored it in myself. Even at my church, in our bible stories, not one face was tan, brown or black. In college there were two or three Black artists included in my courses. However a black professor opened up my world by helping to arrange a trip to the National Conference of Artists – A Black artists organization that had as members, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis and a host of other from around the country. It was like water to a thirsty child.
    • Responding to "Do you remember seeing any characters who looked like you when you were growing up? How about during your art studies? "
  • I can only remember what was NOT my favorite – Canterbury Tales!! But I was in love with Greek and Roman Mythology…
  • Like the history of Black Americans, once we shine a light on the story, we see its great complexity, depth, detail, and beauty.
  • My Aunt, Ms. Barbara Clarke Elam was a librarian. In her time, as a Black librarian, she was a rare creature. A Simmons graduate in Library Science, she went on to train School Librarians in Boston. Many express their indebtedness to her for opening up the world of literature and education to them. She taught by her actions that reading was fundamental to a rich inner life. It was her love for sharing books and innumerable trips with her and my cousins to the Egleston Branch of the Boston Public library in Roxbury that introduced me to art, found on the pages of books like “Curious George,” “Make Way for Ducklings” and “Madeline and the Bad Hat.” The images in those books intrigued me as a child and set my feet on the path to becoming a visual artist.
    • Responding to "Tell us about a librarian or educator who made an impact on you."
  • Reading and rereading the manuscript. Reading it out loud. Recently I’ve begun taping myself and listening to myself reading the manuscript. Makes for a great before bed activity with a nice cup of tea. Next, I think about colors and the mood I want to set for the book. Then on research: Google and the Public Library.
    • Responding to "What is the first step in your creative process?"

Quotes about Ekua Holmes

  • Illustrated books for children can be extraordinary and powerful vehicles for young people to explore the world. For many, children’s books also provide the first introduction to art. Contemporary children’s book publishing is broadening and transforming at a rapid pace and responding to the longstanding need for children’s literature to be reflect the lives and experiences of all readers. Holmes’ distinctive artistic vision is at the forefront of this positive change. Her richly detailed visual narratives captivate and challenge audiences of all ages, inviting all to see the world anew.
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