A graduate of the School of Visual Arts in 1970, Lilly became an ‘illustrator’ which spanned over 30 years. Recently he’s turned his focus to fine art and plans to create new works for his life’s pursuit, a series he calls ‘Black Life in America’, which will chronicle the ordinary every day existence of an extraordinary people, from coast to coast and from north to south. Lilly says “It is my intention that when future African American children (or any children) and adults alike visit various museums, they will see realistic oil painted documents of us (themselves) doing what we do and being how we be, and thus knowing ‘Our’ importance in ‘This’ society”; quiet as it’s been kept.
Coming from a commercial art background, Lilly has painted a huge assortment of people, places, and things. Some of his favorites and most memorable are ‘Malcolm X’, 1973, originally painted for Encore Magazine and the next year became the well known cover of ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’, by Alex Haley. Then, too, there was ‘Hanibal’, painted for Budweiser’s ‘Great Kings of Africa’ series in 1979. More recently there’s ‘Crispus Attucks’, February, 1999 painted for Crisis Magazine/NAACP, and ‘Mt. Freedom’, painted for the cover of Dr. Molefi Kete Assante’s book ‘African American History 2002’ A Journey of Liberation, the People Publishing Group, NJ.