Jonathan Twingley

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Jonathan Twingley is an American author, artist and illustrator. His work is regularly exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States. His paintings and illustrations also appear in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Mother Jones, and The Progressive.[1][2][3]

Twingley's first novel The Badlands Saloon was published by Scribner in 2009.[4]

Early years[edit]

Twingley was born in Bismarck, North Dakota. His mother was a librarian. His father, an artist and high school arts instructor, would often allow Twingley to paint on the backs of his test-proofs with large brushes and lots of tempera paint. According to Twingley, “I began my career as an Abstract Expressionist, allowing the paint to do most of the thinking. And then I turned four and became a Social Realist and never really looked back.”[1]


Twingley's primary and high school education occurred in his home town of Bismarck. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 1996, and completed his Master's Degree in Fine Arts (MFA) in illustration at the prestigious School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City.[2]


As an illustrator, Twingley's work appears regularly in United States national publications including the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and The New Republic.[5][6] In addition, Twingley is often commissioned by the Columbia Journalism Review, Boston Magazine, and trade magazine publishers such as Corporate Counsel,[7] The Deal, The Chronicle of Higher Education,[8] and Re-Thinking Schools.[9]

Twingley's illustrations show a profound awareness of character − pertaining to people and places alike. With contours and palette akin to those of Matisse, and a social awareness reminiscent of Fritz Scholder, Twingley arranges his compositions in a careful manner, like a cinematographer, paying close attention to narrative elements that individualize each separate work.[1]

The Badlands Saloon[edit]

Badlands saloon.jpg

After illustrating dozens of books, magazines, trade journals and newspapers for 11 years, Twingley wrote and illustrated his own debut novel The Badlands Saloon. Published by Scribner in 2009, the 224-page hardcover tells the story of Oliver Clay, and his life-changing summer in a small North Dakota town.[10]

The town is Marysville − once a booming oil town, now a tourist spot − a "Wild West fishbowl" with a state-of-the-art amphitheater, an Old West Shooting Gallery, bumper cars, and a glad-handing mayor with his own daily radio show. Like much of America, "the town had become a strange version of itself...a generic vision of what towns once looked like when there were cowboys and Indians and wagon wheels and campfires. But there was an authenticity to it all, too."[11]

The town resembles Medora, North Dakota. At the south entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Medora provides a touristy western experience with wooden planked sidewalks, old fashion ice cream parlors, and buggy rides. Just like Marysville, Medora offers several museums, the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Badlands Shooting Gallery, Medora Mini Golf, and the Burning Hills Amphitheater with nightly productions of the Medora Musical.[12] Both Medora and Marysville were named after a French aristocrat. Also resembling Marysville, the entire economy of Medora (with its 112 residents and 0.37 square miles) is subsidized by a foundation - the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation.[13]

The novel was uniquely constructed. It was not a graphic novel with comic book panels, but an illustrated novel with 38 full-color illustrations covering 76 pages. It was also a personal memoir, yet explosively populated with characters reminiscent of The Iceman Cometh, the Coen Brothers' Fargo, and a Fellini circus.

Critical reception[edit]

The Badlands Saloon evoked the lyricism of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County and Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, and it was well received.

The New York Times Book Review stated"The Badlands Saloon is filled with hallucinatory incidents and flamboyant barflies...Before the summer’s out, young Ollie will learn the usual life lessons, amid much faux wisdom that crumbles under the glare of the trailer park lights. The book’s chief attraction is Twingley’s sketchbook of illustrations, whose broad outsider-art strokes work in concert with Ollie’s naive ruminations.”[14]

External video
You can watch a video of Jonathan Twingley discussing his book Badlands Saloon here

Booklist signalled Twingley as "an up-and-coming artist" and praised his "uniquely stylized characters...a gallery of portraits rendered in prose, punctuated by visuals, and delivered with unsentimental but heartfelt honesty."[15]

According to Library Journal Review, The Badlands Saloon "feels like catching up with an old friend over beers. A wonderful read; highly recommended for lovers of the American landscape and fiction readers of all kinds."[15]

Recent work[edit]

Twingley's paintings and drawings are regularly exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States.[1] The first solo museum exhibition of Twingley's art occurred at the University of Minnesota's Rourke Art Gallery. He continues to exhibit his work there, and in the Rourke Art Museum, on a regular basis.[16][17]

PRINT magazine featured Twingley's work in a showcase of 20 artists under the age of 30.[2] His work has also been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, the Society of Publication Designers, and Communication Arts Magazine.[2]

Arts education[edit]

Twingley is a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia), one of the United States' oldest universities dedicated to the arts.[2]

He was also a visiting artist-in-residence at Minnesota State University Moorhead, where he met individually with students, lectured on art and writing, and illustrated these with selections from his own work.[16][17]

In 2012, Twingley juried the Rourke Art Museum’s 53rd annual Midwestern exhibit.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Beefy Will Taser Himself Momentarily: The Art of Jonathan Twingley | Feature | High Plains Reader Archived 2012-05-08 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ a b c d e Jonathan Twingley | The University of the Arts
  3. ^ Jonathan Twingley - Artist Profile - Gallery |
  4. ^ Twingley, Jonathan; The Badlands Saloon; pub. Scribners, 2009; ISBN 978-1-4165-8706-4
  5. ^ Letters | The Nation
  6. ^ Lippman, John (December 19, 2010). "'Prejudices: The Complete Series,' H.L. Mencken". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ Seah, Jessica (April 2012). "Tail Wags Dog." Corporate Counsel Magazine. Accessed July 2012.
  8. ^ Stop Lowering the Bar for College Athletes - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education
  9. ^ Rethinking Schools Online
  10. ^ Twingley, Jonathan; The Badlands Saloon; pub. Scribners, 2009
  11. ^ Twingley, Jonathan; The Badlands Saloon, p. 15; pub. Scribner, 2009
  12. ^ Medora - North Dakota's #1 Vacation - Medora Musical
  13. ^ Medora - North Dakota's #1 Vacation - About T. R. Medora Foundation
  14. ^ Stuart, Jan (September 1, 2009). "Fiction Chronicle (Book review)". The New York TImes. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 
  15. ^ a b Reviews: The badlands saloon :
  16. ^ a b c Alum, Jonathan Twingley delivers lecture Oct. 28 «
  17. ^ a b "Visiting artist, author Jonathan Twingley delivers lecture Oct. 28". Minnesota State University Moorhead. October 21, 2009. Retrieved July 8, 2012. 

External links[edit]