|Jonathan Bean ’01, adjunct instructor in art (pictured right, seated), demonstrates the use of watercolor to students in his illustration class.
Award-winning author/artist heads back to the drawing board
While most authors would be disappointed if their audiences nodded off to sleep while reading their books, Jonathan Bean ’01, adjunct instructor in art, probably wouldn’t mind. Bean, a graduate of Messiah College’s studio art program, wrote and illustrated the children’s bedtime book At Night, which was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in July 2007. Selected as one of the top 150 books of the year by Publisher’s Weekly, At Night also received the Kirkus Review Editor’s Choice award, was named an Honor Book in the Charlotte Zolotow Award competition, and appeared on the Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List.
Having made guest appearances in art classes at Messiah over the years since graduation, Bean returned to the College in January to teach illustration. He brings a wealth of experience, having completed a Master of Fine Arts in illustration in 2005 from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Bean remembers that it was in his senior year in Professor Stephen Fieser’s illustration class when he realized that illustration was what he truly wanted to focus on. “One of the great things about my friendship with Steve,” Bean says, was that it was “much more than him teaching me the subject—it was more of an invitation, from him and all the professors in the department, really, to enter into the discipline, the world of art.”
As an instructor at Messiah, Bean focused the content of his three-week illustration course on narrative illustration—creating sequential images, or telling a story with images—in ink and watercolor. He presented his students with a project involving Mother Goose rhymes. “Some that aren’t as common,” he says, “so hopefully they hadn’t seen these illustrated before. What I’m excited about with those is that there’s a narrative there, but it’s not fully defined. You can interpret the narrative in many different ways, silly, serious, political. . . . There’s a lot of room to move around in to create an interesting story,” while still making sure the images jibe with the text.
Bean enjoyed being back in the studio in Climenhaga Fine Arts Center in his new role as instructor. He was surprised, he said, by “the amount of joy I take in seeing the students’ work. It’s different from creating something myself and taking joy in it. I didn’t expect that degree of ownership—maybe it’s more like stewardship.”
Art major Ammon Perry ’09 appreciated the skill and experience Bean brought to the classroom, describing him as “quietly confident. His modesty was especially apparent as he sat calmly painting during his demonstrations on watercolor and inking. He paints like he is just breathing but graciously and quietly receives compliments. His experience definitely contributed to the assignments as they were practical and realistic.”
Following the 2007 release of At Night, and two other books he illustrated—Mokie and Bik (Henry Holt) and The Apple Pie that Papa Baked (Simon and Schuster) Publisher’s Weekly named Bean one of “Four Fresh Children’s Book Talents.” While the little girl in At Night found rest on the rooftop of her city home, Bean, who lives in Manhattan, is already hard at work on a new children’s book about a family’s experience building a house.
—Susan K. Getty ’84
Over 150 readers entered to win a free copy of alumnus Jonathan Bean's award-winning children's book, At Night.
Winners will be notified in April and announced in the next edition of The Bridge Online.