Reflections: The work of Ann Jonas

Bird Talk
©Ann Jonas – Bird Talk 1999

There is an exhibition of my mother, Ann Jonas’s, picture books on display now at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central branch. We are so pleased with this exhibition that includes many of her books, early student work and design work. It has given us a great opportunity to reflect upon her wonderful career.

When mom passed away last fall, it was easy to talk at length about how much we loved her and all of the special things she did for us. She was a loving mother and wife; nearly a daughter to her mother-in-law; sister to her sister’s-in-law; good sister; aunt and special friend.

My parents ran their own business from home, Donald and Ann Crews Design, and I felt pretty involved in what they did. My sister and I spent many hours in their studio. We mostly had our own art supplies, but were always given what we needed from the studio to complete any project. When deadlines were near, we might be told to go play in another room and we would hear them working well into the night.

When my mother started doing picture books, I was in high school and actually able to help her out a little. Her first two books were done with pre-separated art and I helped by filling in outlined images; labeling and checking completed art to make certain everything was ready to go. Later when I was in college, I would come home and talk with my mom about the projects she was working on. I’d try to apply ideas I’d learned in my art classes to her work. I’m sure I was pretty obnoxious, but she seemed to enjoy it anyway.

Color Dance
Ann Jonas – Poster for Color Dance 1989

Because while my mother was very open to listening to the opinions of others, by the time she was putting a book together she was pretty sure of what she wanted to do. There might still be challenges and details to decide, but the concepts were thought through and the direction already decided.

My mother was fond of Swiss design and preferred standard sans serif fonts like Helvetica and Akzidenz Grotesk. By her fourth book, she started using Dr. Martin’s watercolor dyes and continued to use them almost exclusively for their clarity and intensity of color. These choices of typeface and artist media reflect her love of clarity. In her books she created magical, intellectual adventures and presented them honestly and unadorned. And these choices reflect exactly who she was. Honest, clear in act and opinion, and very smart.

Please stop by the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library to see the work in person. The last day of the show is Sept 21, 2014!

Round Trip
©Ann Jonas – Round Trip 1990


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