This month's Featured Illustrator is Romica Jones. Before going to art school, graduating with a BA in graphic design, she studied social and cultural anthropology. She is now a teacher on Skillshare and Youtube and hopes to get some of her children's books published soon.

I was born in Germany to a Swiss and Austrian missionary couple who dreamed of a peaceful world when Europe was divided and the Berlin Wall was still standing. After the Iron Curtain fell, we moved to the Czech Republic and I have my first memories there, going to Kindergarten and drawing the little mermaid over and over again.

Looking back I can really see those early influences of old German and Czech books and tv shows I had been exposed to during that time. The colours, shapes, and peaceful nature themes are something I am still very much drawn to and keep reemerging in my work. Growing up, I loved illustrated images in fairy tale books by Russian artists, cartoons like Biene Maya, Krtec the Mole, or stories about little gnomes and fairies living in the woods in secret houses in trees or mushrooms or under the ground.

Drawing was a form of expression but also a form of healing. I drew every day after being out of the house to process what I experienced that day or to tell stories on paper. After 34 years of walking this earth, I am coming to realise that I have always shown signs of being highly sensitive. I experience the world very intensely and drawing as a child was a beautiful way of making sense. I had a wonderful childhood, and it was simply the everyday little joys and dramas that I wanted to capture or turn into stories.

Some of my key memories relating to art remind me that drawing always held a special place in my heart. It wasn’t just a hobby. I felt it was part of my soul. I still vividly remember visiting the Prague Bridge where a lot of artists were drawing and my parents gifted me my first charcoal pens. For weeks I left smudges all over the pages and loved it. 

Another memory is of my Swiss granddad who was a stonemason, sculptor, and engineer, who gifted me some beautiful coloured pencils which had such rich and creamy colours when drawn on paper. Although I work mostly digitally now due to being a mum of two young children, I still appreciate when a pencil is highly pigmented and smooth and it reminds me of those pencils.

Another early influence was Alphonse Mucha. I had a pack of postcards of his work and was amazed by his use of shapes and colours and those beautiful artworks of women. Only later did I learn that some of them were actually posters or used for advertising and that this is how some people make their living, as graphic artists.

When I was 6, we moved to Austria near my father’s parents to a tiny village of about 300 people and that’s when I started school. Computers weren’t common then in the area, and I remember drawing on a greyscale Microsoft Paint on my father’s work laptop and printing one of my first “books”. I was fascinated by computers and being able to draw digitally and when my primary school had their first teacher’s computer with COLOUR, I - a very obedient and rule-following child - stole myself into the teachers’ room to be able to use Paint with colours for the first time. My mind was blown.

Not surprisingly, I wrote into every friend’s book (Stammbuch) that I wanted to be a graphic designer. I did not really know what that meant but I understood that it’s a job where you can use your creative talents. That lasted into middle school when suddenly everything changed and years of a love-hate relationship to art and that aspect of me created a lot of internal conflict.

When it came to choosing a career, my career advisor said that I would never find a job as a graphic designer, despite having won several competitions for my drawings, my art hanging on the school walls, and having shown academic merit not only in art but all other subjects. This shook me deeply. As a family, we lived very simply and I could always tell we had less money than my other friends so the idea of not being able to support myself financially with my creativity hit me hard. So hard that I decided to abandon this idea and go to a business school.

Years went by and I never felt “at home” in accounting, admin, and the like that we learned over 5 years. I continued to draw digitally as a hobby but made little progress. After graduating from business school at 19 with distinction, I had a severe burnout and felt empty and hopeless.

In my twenties, I went back and forth but couldn’t commit to signing up for a graphic design school. I studied social and cultural anthropology instead, graduated, and went on a year-long mission trip throughout Europe to find myself and God again. I met my husband during that time and decided that I didn’t want to live any longer with regret.

I started to prepare to go back to school for art but I did not really know what to put in my portfolio. At my first portfolio review in a potential school, my orange flower plastic folder was mocked and my art was laughed at but this time I didn’t back down, challenged the comment, asked for constructive feedback, and wouldn’t let myself be discouraged or leave the room in defeat.

The atmosphere in the room changed. The professor realised that I was serious and helped me to put work into my portfolio that showed my skills. Composition, live drawing, things I knew but didn’t show. Before, I simply had chosen random pieces that I liked and with his help, I realised what I needed to work on and which skills I owned but had unknowingly omitted from my selection.

I was accepted into two highly competitive programmes very soon after, a Masters in Communication Design and a Kolleg for Graphic Design but ended up doing a BA in Graphic Design in England after getting engaged to my now husband. Looking back, things could have turned out so differently if I hadn't finally stood up for myself in that little office at my first portfolio review.

What followed was a wild journey with many obstacles, mostly internal. During my time at uni as a mature student in my late twenties, I realised that I loved children’s illustration and storytelling and started to write and illustrate my first books. Here you can see a few sketches and work in progress from some of my books.

After many rejections from publishers and agents, I am still hoping these books will delight children and adults alike. I know that there will be the right time and the right place someday.

Through my experience, I also realised that I enjoy sharing my creative journey, and its ups and downs. I know I would have really benefitted from seeing others actually paving their paths in the creative industries so I started sharing my journey on YouTube and teach what I know in classes on Skillshare.

What I learned is this. Don’t let other people’s opinions determine your future. It is never too late to get back into drawing and there are so many amazing classes online that can help to create a portfolio and work that has an impact. But going alone can be hard, that’s why being part of a community online or in person is so precious and I really appreciate all the amazing opportunities I had to speak with other illustrators and art directors thanks to the SCBWI.

*All images: Romica Jones


Follow Romica's journey on Youtube

Take Romica's classes on Skillshare

See Romica's Portfolio

Follow Romica on Instagram


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures
Find their work at fourfooteleven.com 
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org 


  1. I have known Romica Jones since school days and it is admirable how she has developed and evolved. She just has a talent for drawing cute things. I appreciate her work very much and I wish her only the very best.
    For me she is a great drawer. I am very proud of her. For her I wish all the best for the future for the further good ideas what she has and good health to her and her little family.


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