Varnette P. Honeywood, a celebrated artist famed for her colorful painting depicting African-American life, died Sept. 12 in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer. She was 59.

Honeywood’s work was prominently featured on popular 1980s and ‘90s sitcom, “The Cosby Show” and the California native went on to produce the popular “Little Bill” children’s book and TV series with entertainer Bill Cosby. In addition, she painted the mural showcased on “Kid’s Say the Darndest Things” and works on “Amen” and “A Different World.”

Honeywood’s art, which she said was strongly influenced by Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, often focused on the favorable aspects of Black life and showed African Americans in familial settings like churches and relative’s homes.

Honeywood was born on Dec. 27, 1950, in Los Angeles, and studied art at the Chouinard Art Institute as a teenager. Her parents, Stepney and Lovie Honeywood, were elementary school teachers from the South. She graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta in 1972 and earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California in 1974. In the 1970s, Honeywood and her sister also founded Black Lifestyles, one of the first greeting-card and art organizations devoted to African-American themes.

According to, Honeywood’s funeral takes place Sept. 23 at Messiah Baptist Church in Los Angeles.