Wellington artist Ruby Jones began 2019 a relative unknown. Since then, her work featured on the cover of Time magazine, she amassed almost 70,000 Instagram followers and published a book through Penguin.
But there’s a significant catch. This success sprang from artwork Jones created in response to the March 15 Christchurch mosque shootings. It’s an image many readers will recognise: two women hugging, one wearing a hijab, with the now famous words “This is your home and you should have been safe here.”
The Instagram post was shared around the world and Jones found her art becoming a symbol of healing amidst one of the most tragic events in this country's recent history.
Though Jones’ rise seemed to happen overnight, she’s been working at her craft from a young age, growing up in a house full of artists. Her father Parry Jones is a cartoonist and she credits him with helping her and her siblings with their art in its formative stages.
Although it’s evolved over the years, her art still deals with the same subject matter as when she was young. “When I look back at drawings I did when I was a kid, it's always been people - nothing else has interested me.”
Her simple, eye catching drawings are created on her iPad, often accompanied by text, positive sayings or aphorisms. But Jones says she’s more interested in highlighting shared truths, as opposed to positivity for the sake of it.
“I think it's funny when people say it's really positive. I have always just enjoyed trying to show honest, tender moments that people can talk about or think about. It's about honesty, and just what it means to be a person and alive today.”
"I have always just enjoyed trying to show honest, tender moments that people can talk about or think about"
This approach has clearly resonated with people. Even before Jones’ post went viral, she was slowly building a following on Instagram, since first posting her art on the social platform in 2015. But it was after the March 15 tragedy that Jones suddenly found herself thrust into the spotlight.
Ruby’s artwork that went viral
The image seen around the world
“That was pretty crazy.” Jones acknowledges, her voice growing quiet. “This event, which didn't even feel real. The shooting themselves - that's not what happens in New Zealand. It was just overwhelming.” Jones says she didn’t think too much about what she was drawing. “All I thought was that I wished I could give a hug to anyone and everyone affected,” she said in a recent Stuff interview.
Capturing the shock and pain many were feeling, the image quickly spread around the globe. Jones said it took her weeks to process what was unfolding. In the midst of all of this, she received an email in the middle of the night with the subject line “Hello From Time.” The magazine was doing a cover story on the tragedy, and wanted Jones to do the artwork.
“It was so big, I thought I had to do what comes to me straight away, you know. I did a couple of versions and they liked it - I just did one change and that was it.”
TIME Magazine cover designed by Wellington artist Ruby Jones (Time)
In hot demand
Her book, All Of This Is For You was released by Penguin late last year. The first print run quickly sold out but it’s the response from readers rather than sales that’s really stuck with Jones.
“I've gotten so many messages from people that were gifted it by someone. Or that knew someone who would need it. it’s a really special thing that people are sharing with each other.”
“My work is just tiny little moments in life that we don't really think about a lot. Just acknowledging that we all go through these things, and no one is alone.”
Plans to get the book overseas are in the works, and when we spoke, Jones had just cut her work hours down to part time, moving towards making art her full time gig. She never considered that a possibility until recently. Most of the artists in her family have become art teachers - ”it was in my head that was the only way to make money doing what we enjoy.”
She says the book continues in the same vein as her art, pointing out ways we can all be kinder to each other and the world around us. “My work is just tiny little moments in life that we don't really think about a lot. Just acknowledging that we all go through these things, and no one is alone.”