Most of us remember the Afrocentric art hanging on the walls of The Cosby Show. You might be surprise to know that the artist behind those paintings was the late Varnette Patricia Honeywood. Honeywood was an American painter, writer, and business woman. Her paintings often depicted the African-American life. Not only were her paintings a part of The Cosby home but appeared on the spin-off A Different World, and on the TV series Amen and 227.
Honeywood was born to Stepney and Lovie Honeywood on December 27, 1950 in Los Angeles. Her parents were from Louisiana and Mississippi and both were school teachers. Honeywood attended Spelman College in Atlanta where she earned her degree in art. She went on to later earn her master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1974 in education.
Camille Cosby discovered Honeywood’s work on note cards and she and her husband Bill Cosby started collecting her works. This led to the inclusion of Honeywood’s artwork, including her 1974 painting “Birthday”, on the walls of the Huxtable living room on the set of The Cosby Show. Honeywood later created a mural as a backdrop for Cosby’s television series Kids Say the Darndest Things, and her art appeared in the television series Amen, 227 and A Different World.
In the 1990s she collaborated with Mr. Cosby on the 12 titles in the series “Little Bill Books for Beginning Readers,” creating the characters and providing the illustrations. The books were the basis for “Little Bill,” the animated series broadcast on CBS from 1999 to 2004, for which she served as a consultant. Honeywood died at the age of 59 in 2010.