Seneca News

Joseph Osei Bonsu

Seneca grad Joseph Osei Bonsu illustrated Canadian Olympian Andre De Grasse’s children’s book, Race With Me!, due out this summer. (Photo: submitted)

May 20, 2021

Joseph Osei Bonsu is no sprinter, but the Seneca graduate is racing with Canadian Olympian Andre De Grasse to the finish line this summer.

An alumnus of Seneca’s 3D Animation graduate certificate and Digital Media Arts diploma programs, Mr. Bonsu illustrated Mr. De Grasse’s children’s book, Race With Me!, which will be released by Scholastic Canada in July.

“I was super stoked when I was approached by Scholastic for the project,” he said. “I knew about Andre De Grasse — he’s a big deal. This is an Olympian, so I’d better step up.”

Race With Me! focuses on theme of overcoming adversity and follows Mr. De Grasse’s race-day routine. Mr. Bonsu was provided photos of Mr. De Grasse, who he has not met, and given artistic freedom to illustrate different scenes in the book.

“I’ve illustrated children’s books in the past with independent writers and self-published authors, and all of them were amazing experiences,” Mr. Bonsu said. “Scholastic is one of the biggest publishers in the world, so I had to bring my A game working with both the Scholastic team and Team De Grasse.”

Mr. Bonsu’s artwork is inspired by comic books and animated shows. When he’s not busy illustrating for clients, he can be found doodling superheroes from around the world.

“Growing up, I loved comic books like X-Men, Spider-Man and Fantastic Four,” he said. “I used to open a comic book and practise drawing characters. I also bought Wizard magazines. I’d learn from their how-to-draw segments.” 

I can hear the crowd and I know millions of people are watching. When it's time to run, I know you'll be cheering me on with every step I take. Your cheers are my fuel. I take a deep breath and step out into the bright sun of the stadium. I feel your energy already. It is a perfect day to race!

A page from Andre De Grasse’s Race With Me!, featuring illustration by Joseph Osei Bonsu. (Image courtesy of Scholastic Canada)

While in middle school, Mr. Bonsu would go to the Tim Slater School of Cartooning in Toronto on Sundays. In high school, he learned from artists who were his contemporaries. One of them, Mark Williams, later became his best friend at Sheridan College, where Mr. Bonsu studied art fundamentals.

The two co-founded Heroes of the World in 2005, when Mr. Bonsu created Captain Ghana (picture Captain America with Ghana colours in his outfit) in honour of his Ghanaian background. From there, Mr. Bonsu and Mr. Williams also collaborated on a Heroes of the Caribbean poster series that they took to Toronto Caribana.

They have since designed more than 1,200 characters representing different countries.

I am so excited! Today is the day of the big race. I feel the energy in the air. When we arrive at the stadium, it's very busy. There are thousands of people here — and around the world — getting ready to watch me run.

A page from Andre De Grasse’s Race With Me!, featuring illustration by Joseph Osei Bonsu. (Image courtesy of Scholastic Canada)

“Our goal is to create an animated series,” Mr. Bonsu said. “And we want Heroes of the World to be the next top-tier brand, along with Marvel and DC.”

Mr. Bonsu credits his time at Seneca for preparing him to be a professional artist.

“Seneca was an awesome experience for me,” he said. “I was able to brush up my life drawing skills, use Photoshop extensively and learn about the business side of things. It was highly beneficial.”

As for his advice for artists starting out, Mr. Bonsu says never give less than 100 per cent.

“For every job that you do, whether it’s your own stuff or for a client, you always have to try your best to do it,” he said.

Race With Me!, co-authored by Mr. De Grasse and Robert Budd, will be available on July 6 in English and French.

Pre-order the book online