Shabazz Larkin
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Book Covers

Commissioned | Professional

Why did you make this work:
When Folio approached me to help visualize this story, I saw it as an opportunity to show how beautiful, disparate and empowering the black woman was from a very intimate point of view. In that way, the illustrations included in this project is both and abstraction of Maya Angelou's striking characters, but also a visual essay on the brilliant and powerful black woman that made me who I am today.

How was the illustration used:
Book publishing

How did you make this work:
My process is inspired by the portrait tradition of hiring models to create a scene. I found my technique in studying the process of Norman Rockwell. But in my work the images are darker, moodier - but entrenched in the old american portrait traditions.My hope is that in the end, we get from these images is a snapshot at the life, love, joy and resilience of being young and black.

Commissioner Company :
The Folio Society

Social Media:

Personal Website:

Shabazz Larkin is an American artist, painter, writer, illustrator, book-maker and product designer. He has worked as an art director for many creative advertising agencies and for some of the world’s largest brands from Pepsi to Sean Combs, and helped Barack Obama launch the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, Obama’s first initiative after leaving the White House. Larkin lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has become a rising voice in the fine art world. He paints portraits of Black people in stark black or red skin, a rebellion against Eurocentric notions of beauty, and is best known for his desire to capture the beauty of resilience in Black culture. His technique of vandalising photographs, overwhelming use of colour and bold typography veils his true intention to explore issues of race, justice and religion. Larkin’s many projects and interests include the God Speaks Project, which documents accounts of normal people’s encounters with God, which he has begun writing on oversized paper and placing around Nashville. He is also the founder of Larkin Art & Company, creating a line of creative products that bridge the mindfulness gap for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour, including children’s books with Black protagonists, a family game that celebrates the intersection of African and American culture, and self-care tools that leverage Black culture. His books have environmental themes and include Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (2013) and The Thing About Bees (2019).