22 October 2023

Ahead of Semi Permanent: 5 Mins With Illustrator, Ruby Jones

In the lead up to 2023’s Semi Permanent coming up in Pōneke this November, we chat with Aotearoa NZ illustrator, Ruby Jones, who will be one of the featured speakers at this year’s event.

Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey? How did your career in illustration get started and what did your path look like that led you to where you are now?

Drawing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember – piles of paper, pens, pencils, were always around at home so it was easy, it was just what we did. But I never dreamt that illustrating could be any sort of career. I’d done a whole lot of things for my social media, just quietly for a few hundred followers – but then one day everything changed in a bit of a whirlwind.


On March 15 2019, I drew and shared an illustration after hearing the news about the terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch. It was a really simple image of two woman hugging with the words ‘this Is your home and you should have been safe here’. It was shared around really quickly both in NZ and globally. It completely took on a life of its own at a time when people just needed something small, some words to hold onto. A few days later, I was invited to illustrate a cover for Time magazine, on a three-day deadline. A month after that Penguin got in touch and I signed up to publish my first book. That little book, All Of This Is For You, was another surprise for me. I still find it bizarre to say it’s an international best-seller, and has been translated into five other languages with a special edition for the US.


I’ve since released a second book, In This Body, which explores what it’s like being in a body we don’t always love, and how to sit with that and still find appreciation for it. Alongside a lot of commercial work, I still make time for personal commissions when I can. I’m also trying to get better at prioritising work that is just for me – work that might never be seen by anyone else, but is still just as worthy of being made.

With this year’s theme of ‘REFORMATION’ – what does this mean for yourself and your own creative practice?

When I think about this, I come back to images and words simply captured on a surface – once upon a time on paper, and most often now on my iPad. But playing around with papers and print and what that can do for me too. So the re-formation for me is about the surfaces, how they’ve changed, accessible surfaces that travel with me, freeing me up to work at home, work away, freeing me – that’s the reformation, the freedom. And I feel like I haven’t lost what I love, which is keeping it simple.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s Semi Permanent event?

I think after the last few – honestly pretty miserable – years with the pandemic I’ve been craving something like this, so I’m just excited to be fully immersed in a big creative event again and to hear from people I really admire. I’m especially looking forward to seeing Ophelia and Ryder Jones, I think their work is pretty magic.

Are you able to share with us a little sneak peek into what you’ll be covering in your presentation?

I’m still sewing all the little threads of my presentation together, but it’s going to focus on how we can continue to come back to our slow, methodical artistic roots in a world where trends, technology and social media are all moving faster than ever – the power of simplicity.

Lastly, where can we follow along with your work?

Either on my Instagram @rubyalicerose or my website