Content created in partnership with HP
One of the most recognisable artists working in Aotearoa, illustrator Ruby Jones shot to international acclaim after the Christchurch Mosque attacks when she posted a now iconic image of solidarity to her Instagram feed.
Shortly afterwards she was approached by Time magazine to illustrate a cover story on the attacks. The resulting image, published on the cover of the April 2019 issue, features three women staring out over a starry evening; the 51 stars featured representing each of the victims.
“There’s no question that the Time cover was a hugely important, once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I can never think of it in terms of a ‘highlight’,” Jones tells Ensemble. She was incredibly humbled, “being asked to give voice to things after the Christchurch tragedy”.
A working artist for over seven years, since 2019 (a period which saw her social following swell from around 400 to over 58k), Ruby’s biggest project has been the launch of her first book All of This is For You, published by Penguin in 2021. “I’d always dreamt of creating a book but it’s one of those things you don’t really think will actually happen, so it really was an absolute dream come true moment for me.”
Another dream? Working with HP on their new HP Smart Tank printer launch.
Having a home printer that has the ability to print, scan and copy is “incredibly helpful when I’m working on a book,” explains Ruby. “I like printing the storyboards and pages I’m reviewing so that I can scribble notes and ideas all over them.”
She then scans pages to email them to her editors. “To this day, nothing beats having a hard copy of a document to review.”
Despite the HP Smart Tank printer being on the cutting edge of technology, there’s a certain analogue side to it that also helps with Ruby’s focus. “It’s relaxing to be in another space, off a screen,” the artist says, “like going into a little cone of silence for a moment.” She shares with Ensemble more about her incredible career, artistic influences and the surprising ways her work comes to fruition.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Gentle, fun, playful, soft, pastel, dreamy.
Where do you find your inspirations?
Real life experiences are what I work from the most, whether it be my own, someone close to me or sometimes things shared by complete strangers. I’m also inspired by words I just catch along the way – a line in a song, a sentence on a page, something said in conversation.
How long have you worked with HP?
I’ve used their products for years and we started officially working together a few months ago. When they approached me about this launch, it immediately piqued my interest; since I began illustrating digitally, printing has always been an important part of my creative process.
I often create different versions of each image I’m working on - repositioning objects, adding or removing text, changing the size etc. Then I print out the different versions I have, and place them up on the wall to compare what works best. This can be a very iterative process so it’s important I have a printer that can keep up with all the edits.
That’s another thing I like about the HP Smart Tank printer: it comes with up to two years of ink, so I don’t need to worry about running out too quickly.
I’ve found the HP Smart App especially helpful. When I’m in a rush it gives me peace of mind knowing I’m able to connect to my printer using the app and print while I’m on the go so my documents are ready for me to grab as soon as I get home.
Talk us through your creative process.
I like to print off each illustration to have a physical record of it.
The digital workspace is brilliant but when I want to compare, contrast, ‘feel’ how things are working, it’s hard to replace laying different versions out on the floor, the table, the wall and reshuffling them, thinking about colours etc. It just feels like a really important part of the process to me, whether it’s for a commission, prints I’m selling, or something I want to share in my own online space.
I like to explore the different ways an illustration could turn out using the same template. I’ll often do three or four totally different colour palettes for one illustration just to play around and see what works. Working digitally means I can create layers for those different palettes, but I also love playing around and colouring them by hand with felt pens, pencils, water colours etc. It’s also a great way for me to get away from the screen when I need a break too.
You said you liked to look at pages in order and printing was helpful for that. Can you expand on that part of your process also?
I find this really helpful when I’m working on a book or a series of illustrations that need to flow together well. For something like a book there’s often a lot of shuffling around of different images and words so it’s essential to be able to hold those in your hands and get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, and what the reader will be experiencing. Printing pages and illustrations is so important in the fine-tuning of what I really want at the other end.
Do you have other non-art related usages for your printers?
I use it for a lot of other pretty standard things like printing off contracts but it’s mostly a creative tool for me.
When we think of printers we think ‘tech’, but there is something very analogue/old school about the power of a piece of paper.
I totally agree. There’s something incredibly beautiful about printing. I love hearing the paper and the ink speaking to one another, the sounds of magic happening inside this little machine.
When I was little, my mum was a client rep at a printing plant so there were always paper off-cuts that my brother and I could use at home. It might sound silly but those big piles of paper meant endless possibilities to us as kids – each piece waiting for a drawing, a brand new idea, with no restriction on having to get it all right the first time.
HP has some pretty lofty sustainability goals. Do you have a favourite initiative or practise you find particularly appealing or that stands out to you?
It is so important that sustainability is front of mind. I love that the printer is made using up to 45% post-consumer recycled content and the energy-saving auto on/off function is a bonus for me, just not having to think about that at all, it’s taken care of for me. Ink bottles can be recycled and all HP paper is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™, so that all matters to me.
As an artist, aesthetics are obviously very important to you. Do you have any advice for ‘displaying it’ in a room?
I am all about mashing it up a bit and making things feel bright and light and fun. With working from home being so much more common for people now, I think it’s really important to make sure your home still feels like home – while still having the tools and workspace you need. So I love my workspace feeling like it’s really blended in with plants I love, art I love, all the little silly nic-nacs I love.