The freelance illustrator and author is supporting friends and local businesses by illustrating books for them to sell and will see the profits of her own colouring book go to NHS Charities Together.
Her book, which plays on the video that went viral last year of Superman actor Henry Cavill building a PC, sets out to support a good cause and bring a smile to people’s faces at the same time.
Jo Rowan, came up with the idea for Cavill’s Computer after a couple of days of minimal sleep and “existing entirely off of the Percy Pigs a family member sent in a food hamper.”
“Mainly it was a joke to cheer up a friend who lost her mum to cancer earlier this year. A little bit of silliness to finish off what has been just a horrendous year for her.
“But then I made a post on Facebook about it and the reception from other people was mental. It ranged from ‘you’re mental’ to ‘this is going to be massive’. I’m just hoping I don’t get sued,” she told Oh My Goodness.
Dubbed The unofficial colouring book of the best thing to happen to gaming in 2020, Jo actually did not start illustrating until November last year, only a month before the book’s release.
“I’ve always had a pen in my hand, but I’ve never had the confidence to put myself out there,” she said.
After her partner bought her an iPad as a birthday gift, Jo decided to push on and take her creativity to the next level by turning her illustrations into something real; but Cavill’s Computer was not her first book.
The illustrator from Reading describes her creative journey, which began in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, as “bittersweet”.
Made redundant in August, lockdown posed further challenges for Jo as it became harder to care for her 59-year-old mum, who has late-stage early onset Alzheimer’s.
Not wanting to sit back, Jo then decided to take it upon herself to design and publish a colouring book that would tackle a market containing many books designed for Alzheimer’s that she describes as “not fit for practice”.
“There are a wild mix of styles which can be confusing, some are poorly cropped, some were far too intricate and detailed which isn’t great for the visual perception changes associated with dementia, and some were clearly designed for children.
“We’d spend a fortune on books that after one or two pages would turn [Mum] off or majorly shake her confidence,” she said.
That’s when I Remember When… In The Garden: Designed with dementia in mind was born.
With larger print images that tell a story and setting out to ‘utilise reminiscence to help people with dementia and their carers spend time sharing treasured memories’, Jo hopes I Remember When will help her raise awareness of the “care crisis”.
“There are people who haven’t seen their families for almost a year thanks to Covid who are confined to their rooms with little for entertainment, companionship, or enrichment. I felt very much that the sooner I could get these books out there, the sooner they could be making a difference,” she added.
However, Jo did not stop there, doing her best to support others during these difficult times.
At the start of the pandemic, she sent money to her hardest hit friends on the understanding that when their business were up and running again it would pay for services.
Going one step further, Jo decided to illustrate books to support them and struggling local businesses.
“I [saw] that there are many of my friends who are scared about losing their businesses, homes, and not being able to provide for their families and I hated that I couldn’t support them. I might not have money right now, but I do have time,” she said.
Illustrating books for a local aerial fitness studio, a local cosplayer, and a local burlesque troupe, Jo gave them all the sole rights to the books, ensuring that once they are published, they get 100% of the income.
“It’s the best way I can think of to help them maintain engagement and income (no matter how minimal) throughout the pandemic,” she added.
Along with volunteering day-to-day as a Social Media Manager for The Transforming Austim Project, Jo is working towards her goal of being a published children’s author and runs an Etsy shop when she is not illustrating new books.
Relying solely on word of mouth, the illustrator was shocked at the response to Cavill’s Computer after sharing on social news site Reddit, which saw 13 copies purchased in one day.
“Given that I thought it would make one person smile and that would be the end of it I’m thrilled! It would be amazing if it could build some momentum. The possibilities would be endless,” she said.
Jo says “it means the world” to be able to be able to make any kind of donation to support health workers on the frontline against the coronavirus pandemic.
“The NHS really hasn’t had the recognition it deserves throughout the pandemic, and my contributions are minimal.
“While there is no target, as long as the book is selling I’ll be making donations to charities supporting the NHS,” she added.
Jo’s says her next I Remember When books are ready for publication and once she finishes working on the promotional books for local businesses, she is ready to follow up Cavill’s Computer with something ‘more fun’.
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