Getting to Know Barista Magazine Illustrator Jade Johnson


Jade’s art for “Two Histories, One Voice.”

Illustrator Jade Johnson is just one of the many talented Black artists whose work is on display in our August + September 2020 issue of Barista Magazine. Jade is a New Orleans-based contributor responsible for the illustrative art to “Two Histories, One Voice,” an article by Sierra Wen Xin Yeo. We took a moment to learn more about the woman behind the pen, and how her work for coffee isn’t actually all that different from her own playful illustrations.

Jade Johnson is a New Orleans-based visual contributor to Barista Magazine. Photo courtesy of Jade Johnson.

Katrina Yentch: What inspired you to get into illustration, and what kinds of ideas and concepts inspire you?

Jade Johnson: I was always artistic as a child, which is how I imagine most artists talk about the origins of their creativity, ha! I knew I wanted to be an artist at an early age, but I didn’t know what illustration was until high school. I read a lot of comics during that time and they inspired me to become a book illustrator.

How did you get involved with Barista Magazine and editorial work, and what do you do internally to switch gears when you’re working with us?

While at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design), one of my senior courses was an editorial class in which we were given real assignments overseen by art directors. I liked the challenge of a quick (but not too quick!) turnaround and following a brief. Editorial work has helped me to stretch my imagination and think more conceptually.

The majority of my editorial experience has been children’s work. I wanted to try something new, so I approached Barista about working together. And I’m glad I did! When I was asked to create an illustration for “Two Histories, One Voice,” I knew I wanted to create something more serious than my usual work, which is rooted in comedy and silliness. To do that, I created a composition that depicts Asian women uplifting Black voices.

What have been a couple of your favorite projects you’ve completed in the past and why?

My illustration for “Two Histories, One Voice” was an honor and I’m very proud of it. My involvement with Black Lives Matter has grown exponentially in the last few years, and to be able to lend my artistic talent has been an empowering experience for me.

Jade describes most of her art, which is in children’s work, as colorful and playful. She wanted to take a more serious tone with her latest work for Barista.

What is the community like for Black illustrators (either in NOLA or in the United States)? Do you like to collaborate, and what kinds of activities have you done?

I believe we Black illustrators have carved a place for ourselves in the industry where there wasn’t one before. There’s a generous sharing of resources and advice which serves as an invaluable lifeline for up-and-coming Black artists.

I also enjoy collaborating! One of my loveliest collaborations to date was with Antenna.Works, a local gallery and community space for writers and visual artists, creating coloring sheets for stay-at-home activity kits in response to COVID-19. I hope to get more involved in community projects this year.

What would you say to inspire other Black illustrators to get into editorial work?

I would say editorial work is a chance to work on fun assignments while expanding your visual language. It’s an opportunity to explore and step out of your comfort zone. You never know—you might like it!

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.