father was in the United States Army when she was growing
up, which meant that the family was often transferred from
city to city and country to country. She was born in Chicago
in 1950 but soon moved to Virginia and, by the time she was
five, the family had relocated to Germany. They later spent
time in Okinawa before Cummings returned to the United States.
Cummings had artistic inclinations from a very early age and
remembers drawing pictures of ballerinas that she would "sell"
for nickels and dimes or chocolate bars. Her parents encouraged
her artistic endeavors with moral support and a ready supply
of paint and brushes. She studied art at Pratt Institute in
Brooklyn and the Atlanta School of Art. Shortly after her
graduation from Pratt in 1974, Cummings was commissioned to
create posters for the Billie Holiday Theatre for Little Folk.
her first opportunity to illustrate a children's book when
an editor at Coward McCann was impressed with her work that
was featured in a publication distributed by the Council on
Interracial Books for Children. Her first assignment was to
illustrate Eloise Greenfield's Good News. Feeling completely
overwhelmed, she drew upon the influence of her circle of
friends to set up an appointment with fellow illustrator Tom
Feelings. He generously provided the practical and technical
information necessary to survive in the publishing industry.
Cummings is still indebted to him and tries to help other
her first book in 1977, Cummings has continued to illustrate
the books of outstanding writers such as Mildred Pitts Walter,
Nikki Grimes, Mary Stolz, Angela S. Medearis, and Joyce Durham
Barrett. In 1985, she wrote and illustrated her first book,
Jimmy Lee Did It. Since that time, she has written
and illustrated a number of other titles for children, including
C.L.O.U.D.S.; Carousel; Clean Your Room,
Harvey Moon; The Blue Lake; Dear Mabel!; and My Aunt
Came Back. In addition, she has written a three-volume
study of children's literature artists titled Talking with
Artists. In these volumes, distinguished picture book
artists talk about their early art experiences, answer questions
most frequently asked by children, and offer encouragement
to aspiring artists. A similar volume about adventurers, coedited
with her sister Linda, was released in 1998.
is also involved in teaching children's book illustration
at the Parsons School of Design. She has taught advertising
design and illustration and cotaught a class with Nicholosa
Mohr on writing for children. She loves to share her knowledge
of drawing and writing and finds the interaction with the
students to be very stimulating.
work has received critical acclaim and has been honored by
a number of organizations. She received the Coretta Scott
King Award in 1984 for her illustrations in My Mama Needs
Me, an Honorable Mention for the King Award in 1983 for
Just Us Women, and again in 1987 for C.L.O.U.D.S.
Her work has been exhibited at Black Enterprise Gallery in
New York and the CRT Gallery in Hartford.
has two books scheduled for publication in 2000. Angel
Baby is written and illustrated by Cummings, and Lulu's
Birthday was written by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard. Cummings
continues to do what she loves best, writing and illustrating
for children, in the bright and airy spacious loft that she
shares with her husband, Chuka Lee, and their cat, Cash.