At age three, Floyd Cooper began drawing with pieces of plasterboard left over from his father’s work as a builder. He drew constantly after that, even on his math and reading worksheets in school! After getting his degree in fine art, Floyd got a job creating art for a greeting card company. But he dreamed of being an illustrator in New York City, and, with the encouragement of the artist Mark English, he moved there. After some time, he got his first book manuscript to illustrate. Only later did Floyd find out that the book, Grandpa’s Face, was written by Eloise Greenfield, a well-known children’s writer. Floyd’s illustrations for the book brought him a lot of attention, and his career has continued to grow ever since.
With more than 90 children’s books published and more than 2000 book-cover illustrations, Floyd has established himself as a master craftsman of children’s literature and illustration. He has received numerous awards and praise for his work, including three Coretta Scott King Honors (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea, Danitra Brown, I Have Heard of a Land), NAACP Image Award (Mandela), the New Jersey Center for the Book Inaugural Award, the Jane Addams Peace Honor (Ruth and the Green Book), Simon Wiesenthal Gold Medal 2011 (Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation), IPPY Gold medal 2011 (Ruth and the Green Book), Pennsylvania School Librarians Outstanding Illustrator 2011, multiple ALA notables, numerous Bank Street College Book of the Year Honors, Parent’s Choice Honors, and starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal, Texas Bluebonnet Award 2011, short list, Grand Canyon Reader Award, short list, Georgia Book Award, shortlist, 2009 Coretta Scott King Award (The Blacker the Berry), the prestigious 2012 Sankae Award, Japan (These Hands), 2013 NAACP IMAGE AWARD nomination (In the Land of Milk and Honey), 2014 Charlotte Zolotow commendation (Max and the Tag-Along Moon).
The illustrative technique Floyd uses is called oil wash on board. He paints an illustration board with oil paint, and then he does something unusual. With a stretchy eraser, he erases the paint to make a picture! He calls this method of painting a “subtractive process.” He likes to demonstrate this technique for kids to show them “that there can be different approaches to age-old problems.”
This Tulsa native now makes his home in Easton, Pennsylvania with his wife and two sons.