Jenni Sparks loves to journal – and she’s ridiculously good at it.
The 32-year-old illustrator from London enjoys documenting her life through words and images – something she’s done while travelling before. This year, though, travel was out the question. So instead, she illustrated the pandemic – and the result captures just what we’ve experienced this year.
“When everything was getting more serious and the idea of lockdown was imminent in the UK, I saw some posts on Instagram talking about how it would be interesting to keep a diary of this time in history,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Last year I travelled round Europe and kept an illustrated journal of my travels, and thought it would be a good idea to apply the travel journal formula to my emotional state instead!”
During lockdown, when there wasn’t much to do, Sparks says she spent a lot of her time walking around the streets of London and observing all the changes happening to the city. “It went from being the busiest city to completely quiet, and it was pretty strange,” she says.
“I kept a note on my phone of all the things that I saw or thought or felt during the week, and then on Sunday mornings I picked out the most important ones and illustrated them.”
In her illustrations, she marked the dates of the week she was drawing, as well as specific things that had happened, and her own thoughts and feelings.
“Will we ever be able to make plans again?” one question on the page below reads. While another page captures the kids’ rainbow drawings for the NHS, staring at our own faces on Zoom, and the launch of Test and Trace.
Illustrating how the world was changing was a huge help for Sparks, mentally.
“Firstly because it gave me a routine (I drew it every Sunday),” she says, “and it also allowed me to mentally distance myself from how I was feeling, which often was not very good, as well as process the rapid succession of events that were constantly happening.
“In a weird way, actually drawing myself in the journal allowed me to laugh at what was going on which for me is an excellent coping mechanism.”
Sparks says she kept a diary a lot as a teenager, then picked it up again a couple of years ago as a way of helping her process her thoughts and feelings.
Now, she’ll write two to three pages most mornings, as well as keeping the illustrated journal for the pandemic. “I’d encourage other people to do it, too,” she says.
“I think it’s important for mental health to get everything out of your head and on to paper.”
Sparks decided to turn her illustrations into a short, self-published zine – and it’s available to buy for £8 on her website.
“It’d make a good Christmas gift, if I say so myself!” she adds.