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Growing up, my main love was writing. I have always had worlds and worlds full of stories in my head that are constantly trying to fight their way out. However, my second love was drawing.

My art teachers at school never really “got” me. I’m not good at drawings things that look real, I’m good at drawing patterns, shapes, letters and words. My English teachers “got” me. They understood my passion for stories and characters, the shape of sentences. I was always passionate about doing what I do, but it was never really something I shared because it wasn’t as celebrated as my writing.

Colour And Rhyme by Sarah Wood and JJ Barnes

Drawing For My Daughter

I stopped drawing for a long time. Not because I didn’t still love it, just because it wasn’t something I prioritised. I always wrote because, as I say, those stories fought their way out. I blogged, I wrote, I scripted. But I was able to suppress the desire to draw more successfully, and work and life consumed the space in my day that drawing might otherwise have taken.

Then I had my first daughter. As she grew up she began to show a passion for art that I shared. And she loved to colour in. Despite countless piles of colouring books, she wanted some different. She wanted something personal. She asked me to draw for her. And, when time would allow it, I did. And in doing so, I rediscovered that passion, and with my daughter as an excuse, I was able to force drawing into my life again.

Colour And Rhyme

I made a friend. I’ve previously written about what a Hellscape Twitter is, and I stand by it, but it’s also pretty special. I made a friend named Sarah. A poetic, funny, wonderful woman with a beautiful family, a lovely partner, and a fascinating life story.

Colour And Rhyme by Sarah Wood and JJ Barnes
Colour And Rhyme

I showed her my drawings and she loved them, and it gave her an idea. As I was writing books, and the work with Siren Stories meant they could be published, she suggested we combine forces and work on something together. She had ideas for children’s poetry, I had ideas for pictures. Despite never having met in person, we managed to work together to produce Colour And Rhyme, a book of her poems with my drawings, side by side.

I won’t lie, this was one of the more challenging experiences in my professional life. Not because of Sarah, who is truly brilliant, because of me. I was drawing each picture by hand in ink on paper, before scanning it into the computer. Ink on paper means there’s no room for mistakes. And I make mistakes. I make mistakes a lot, as it turns out. Especially when I’m stressed about the possibility of making mistakes.

Time and time again I was getting close to the end of of my my pictures before smudging, or going wrong, or dripping water on it when having a drink. Time and time again I was screaming bloody murder and throwing a scrunched up ball of paper across the room and raging at my own incompetence. Still, eventually it was finished! Hurrah!

Digital Drawing

My love of art fully reignited now, but my self loathing also raging powerfully, I knew I needed to do something. I needed to be able to draw my intricate and complicated pictures, in my own personal style by hand, but in a way that wouldn’t result in me howling in despair at my own clumsiness.

JJBarnesArt on Redbubble
Redbubble Shop

I found exactly what I needed in the Kenting Drawing Pad. I could draw with the digital pen, just like a normal pen, get my illustrations on the screen just like on the paper, but if I went wrong I could just erase it and fix it. LIFE CHANGING!

Now I am able to draw pictures for my Redbubble Shop, to work on drawings for future colouring books, and make pictures for friends and family just for my pleasure. Without swearing. Without throwing balls of paper across the room in fits of rage. And without giving my natural enthusiasm for self loathing too much air.

Now I Am An Artist

If I could go back in time and tell child me that not only would I actually publish books, but people would spend money on art that I have drawn, then I’d have had my mind blown. It takes a lot of work, and it’ll never make me rich, but it’s something I am so proud of. Rediscovering drawing has given me a chance to say something I never thought I would. Now, I am an artist.

JJ x


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