Jon J Muth

Little events — leaves falling in a circle, the owl sitting just outside my window last week, the coat thrown over a chair that reminds you of your grandfather — is what my work is trying to celebrate. These moments are life’s way of beautifully punctuating our being here, and they are with all of us.
~ Jon Muth

Jon J Muth’s watercolor art has been called “quietly life-changing” by The New York Times. He is the author and artist of "The Three Questions" and the bestselling picture book "Zen Shorts," as well as a Gold Medal winner from the Society of Illustrators for his illustrations in "Come On, Rain!"

Born and raised in Cincinnati to an art teacher mother, Muth has been drawing since he can remember.

“I've always loved stories. When I was young my mom introduced me to stories through art. I would draw and then later would write stories to talk about what was happening in the pictures. She took me to many museums and showed me lots of art books. There were tremendous stories in the paintings of Carravaggio, and Turner, and Goya.”

Muth has had a lifelong interest in Asian Studies, including tai chi chuan, sumi ink drawing and chado, "the way of tea.” His studies have included stone sculpture and sho (brush calligraphy) in Japan.

“I like pictures to let the air in and let you, the viewer, in. Art from all around the world can have this quality but when I was growing up, it was in work from Asia that I found it first. It was a naturally occurring understanding of space.”

As a young man, Muth studied with two different artists: a romantic realist and a Neo-Dadaist poet. Muth had his first one man show at the age of eighteen and now exhibits his work internationally.

1995 was the centennial year of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Muth was commissioned by philanthropist Louise Nippert to paint a portrait of then CSO Music Director Jesús López-Cobos. The portrait now hangs in Cincinnati’s Music Hall.

For over twenty years, Muth put pictures and words together in comics and graphic novels.  This part of his work culminated in the industry's highest honor, an Eisner Award for "The Mystery Play." In 1996 he was invited by Japanese publisher, Kodansha, to write and draw an original story for them. “Imaginary Magnitude” was published monthly and ran for three years.

At the time, they were looking for international artists to offer whatever difference we might bring to the table in terms of comics. I described what I wanted to do, which was a surreal story of a father and son. It gave me a chance to explore what it felt like to be a first time father and that's how that whole body of work came about.”

“Many people have their first heart-opening experience in childhood; an awareness of that innate and natural connection between playfulness, joy, and curiosity, and what is sacred and holy and meaningful. It often gets explained out of them. Literature has always been a reminder for me of what's possible. Human beings do very little without models, and literature has an intimacy and power that can't be overestimated.”

In 2005 Muth was asked by Caroline Kennedy to illustrate an anthology of poems. Their book, A Family Of Poems, went on to be a national bestseller. They did three collaborations celebrating poetry and language including 2013’s Poems To Learn By Heart.

“Drawing from life reveals the world in a way that is very intimate. Real authentic exploration through drawing is an act of great intimacy with life.”

Jon J Muth’s books have received numerous awards and critical acclaim. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. "Stone Soup," a familiar tale set in China, won a National Parenting Book Award. "Gershon's Monster" by Eric Kimmel was an ALA Notable Children’s book, winner of the Sydney Taylor Award, winner of the National Parenting Book Award, and a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. "No Dogs Allowed," written by Sonia Manzano, was chosen as one of the Best Children's Books of the Year by CHILD Magazine. New York Times Bestseller "Zen Shorts" as was Quill Award nominee, and was awarded the 2006 Caldecott Honor, to which Kirkus Review said "Every word and image comes to make as perfect a picture book as can be."