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Ashley Bryan - Click to see all titles by this author.

Joyful - Living life with a jubilant outlook, taking time out of every day to smile, laugh, and sing.

Ashley Bryan’s birthday is on July 13th.

An artist, writer, Illustrator, teacher, storyteller, and humanitarian, Ashley Bryan was the first African American to publish a children’s book as an author and illustrator.

He was born in 1923 in Harlem to immigrants from Antigua, and raised in the Bronx. Although he recalls his childhood as an idyllic time of learning and family closeness, racism was nevertheless a harsh and largely unchallenged reality. Early on, Ashley decided that, although life is often unfair, it is important not to give up “in the face of a creative and constructive challenge,” especially if it is “something that would make you grow bigger and stronger and better as a person.” Ashley attended the Cooper Union Art School in New York, and eventually graduated from Columbia University, doing post-graduate studies in Europe on a Fulbright Scholarship. Ashley has worked nonstop on his art while holding teacher positions at Queens College, Lafayette College, and Dartmouth College, and eventually retiring from Dartmouth as chair of the Art Department and an emeritus professor.

Studying Ashley’s masterpieces, one can discover the heartfelt and enduring impression his parents, teachers, and mentors made on him. He recalls growing up to the sound of his mother singing from morning to night, and he still uses the scissors with which she made colorful crepe-paper flowers to brighten their home. Another influence was his father’s love of birds—he had over 100 parakeets, finches, warblers, and canaries living in birdcages on shelves in the living room.

Ashley now lives in Islesford, one of the Cranberry Isles off the coast of Maine, where he rises every morning at dawn to paint, draw, and create in his studio. The seacoast setting inspires his work. He can often be found exploring the shoreline with a clutch of children, all singing and, as he says, finding richness in the moment--“finding things to use to create from, look out to the ocean, look up to the sky, … always … reminded of the promises of nature.”

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