Real Life

Ruby Jones: The Kiwi whose powerful illustration in response to the Christchurch attacks went viral

She little imagined that the simple image she drew in response to the Christchurch attacks would go viral, even propelling her work onto the cover of TIME magazine. As her life slowly returns to normal (that’s her self-portrait, below), Ruby considers what lies ahead of us as a country.

Ruby Jones’ message of support after the Christchurch mosque shootings resonated around New Zealand and the world, within and without the Muslim community.

Her moving illustration of a Muslim woman being embraced by another woman, with the caption “This is your home and you should have been safe here”, was shared around the world on social media and at vigils.

Then came the request to design a TIME magazine cover to accompany an article on the March attacks, and the commissions continue to roll in.

But Ruby, 25, never craved such recognition.

The previously little-known artist says drawing has always been her creative and emotional outlet, and it was the first thing she turned to when processing the tragedy.

The Wellington-based illustrator, originally from Dunedin, works in media monitoring, fitting in her drawing in her spare time. She has no formal training – she studied occupational therapy – but grew up in a creative family and has doodled her whole life.

“I don’t know what I would do without it; it’s always a go-to every single day,” she says.

Here, Ruby shares her thoughts on the healing power of art.

The realisation that inspired her illustration

I was listening to the news unfold and watching everyone react in my Twitter feed, and it was just this pattern of no one knowing what to say and absolute disbelief, and I obviously felt the exact same way.

All I wanted to do was reach out and hug whoever was affected, not really even knowing who the victims were at that stage.

The words came a bit later as I was finishing the drawing. I was having the realisation that a lot of the people affected would have come from different countries, and would have come to New Zealand to find peace.

That was probably the hardest moment for me, having that realisation.

Drawing with intention

I always do my drawings with the intention of putting them out there for other people.

Once I’ve got my ideas out, it’s like, “Who might enjoy this or who might find something in this?”

Once I put them on Instagram, I like the idea that they take on a life of their own, especially the Christchurch picture.

I think it definitely belongs to the world now.

It was extremely touching how many people found a bit of comfort in that picture.

Finding meaning in simplicity

I’ve never thought that my art could really help people, until this event.

It’s totally opened my eyes to how meaningful the most simple things can be.

Ruby was commissioned by TIME magazine to illustrate their April cover.

An opportunity for growth

The Christchurch mosque attacks have shown me how much learning and growing we still have to do as a country.

We are obviously a very accepting country but it’s highlighted how much work there is to do.

I think that’s also the positive side, though: how much this has brought people together. The conversations that we are having now

are really important.

I would love it if we looked at the events of Christchurch as a time to make a big shift in society.

I hope that we aren’t just living in a brief period of, “Oh, let’s just talk about this now” and then there’s not any actual change.

We’re so lucky to live in such a diverse country and we should take advantage of it.

Where inspiration comes from

Sometimes inspiration will come from something that I’m experiencing or that I see a friend going through.

A lot of the time it will be a line from a book or song.

I’ll just immediately see an image in my head and think, “I have to draw that line.”

It’s quite often sparked by words, and then there’s the other side of it where I put my own words in. The two really go hand in hand for me.

Art as therapy

I go into a whole other world when drawing; I find it really therapeutic.

Once I have an idea, I can start drawing immediately and not think about anything else.

It helps with getting things out of my head – if I didn’t draw, I don’t know how I’d express everything.

How to give it your all

Taking each day as it comes and not looking at the bigger picture too much is how I try to get through things.

Always having an open mind and never expecting anything, and just giving everything.

I think that’s when good things happen.

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