Jon J Muth’s ‘Stonecutter’


I came across this gem of a book when looking for a present for one of those ‘hard to buy for’ friends and liked it so much that I had to get a copy for myself. I think that the original story is a Chinese parable and in this instance a new text was written by John Kuramoto with illustrations by Jon J Muth. The story tells of a stonecutter who wants to be everything he is not and has to learn the hard way that what he really wants to be is exactly who he is.

The text is only one or two sentences to a page with an accompanying illustration. The images are delightful, all monochrome and wonderfully succinct. The book itself is really nicely produced, small (125mm x 165mm), hardback, printed on gloss paper and is a real pleasure to hold and read.

The reason I’m mentioning this in my Brushes with Watercolour is because after buying the book I looked up Jon J Muth and came across a brief video about the artist and his work on this particular book. The film and book have a similar feel and exude a zen like stillness and calmness. What I really enjoyed was, after have seen the illustrations in such a small book, being given a glimpse in the video as to how they are produced. He used black ink and an absolutely enormous Chinese squirrel hair brush – the sort you can barely get your hand around.


It was great to see the artist’s assuredness and confidence with the brush and, in the book, how economically he distills the essentials to tell the story and leave you with images that live on in the mind. I’d love to be able to exert a similar distillation of unnecessary details on my own work. Since first buying this book as a present I’ve bought it for quite a few people and it’s one of those presents that’s a real pleasure to give. Should you ever be short of ideas, you can pick up a copy of Stonecutter on Amazon.

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