Wingham Chronicle journalist creates daily art to spread joy during COVID-19 lockdown

Spreading joy: Wingham Chronicle journalist, Sam Brownrigg and one of her illustrations. Photo by Scott Calvin, art by Sam Browrigg
Spreading joy: Wingham Chronicle journalist, Sam Brownrigg and one of her illustrations. Photo by Scott Calvin, art by Sam Browrigg

Wingham Chronicle journalist, Samantha Brownrigg found a way to not only productively occupy her time during the coronavirus lockdown, but to consciously spread joy to other people at the same time.

Production of the Wingham Chronicle was temporarily suspended beginning in early April, and its two journalists stood down until the end of June. In March Sam had already committed herself to taking part in the #the100dayproject on Instagram, as a counter to what felt like unending months of stressful work.

"It was a really difficult time to go through that and we were bombarded in the news cycle with all the bad stuff (bushfires and recovery) happening, and the same now with COVID, and I just needed a little escape and I found myself wanting to create cute things," Sam said.

"I just wanted to create these little pictures and put them out there as a counter to the negative news cycle. The motivation was to spread joy."

So Sam called on two little characters she had created the year before, Sharni and her best friend Johnny, and started creating daily illustrations using Procreate on her iPad Pro to post on social media.

"Then I had a moment of panic. I thought, 'gosh, 100 days is a long time to draw every single day. Will I have enough ideas?'" Sam said.

Turns out, she did. And with being stood down, she plenty of time to do it.

It was never meant to be a diary of time in lockdown, but it echoed it a bit. I tried to keep them at home. I didn't really send them out too much. I think Johnny went shopping one time for toilet paper for his neighbour.

Sam Brownrigg

While standing in a queue for two hours in front of Centrelink while waiting to put in a claim for Jobseeker payments, Sam dragged out every journalist's trusty companion, her notebook, and started jotting down ideas.

"With Sharni and Johnny, the little characters, it's all about joy, and it's the little moments," she said.

"It's taking these two little characters and looking at the world around me, and the every day little things that happen in our lives and seeing them through their eyes. They just do every day little things.

"It's good practice for me to focus on little moments of joy, and it plays out through the characters, and then you're sharing that moment with other people.

"It just went out there in the world to spread a bit of joy and make people feel happy."

And it really did. Sam's Instagram account grew as a result, and there were frequent comments on posts about the little moments of happiness the illustrations were bringing to people.

"Every day I would post my little picture and would be inundated with likes and the most positive comments. People were regularly saying 'your pictures make me so happy. I love seeing them every day,' and somewhere in the middle of it, people started saying 'this needs to be a book'."

Once the 100 days were over, some people expressed disappointment there were no more daily offerings. One, in particular, was a lady in America, was very sad to see the series end and was only mollified with the news there would be a book.

Sam is now in the process of self publishing the #100daysofjoy series of illustrations in a book. Once the project is printed, she intends starting a new series.

What I really liked about the project was that people were getting that daily dose of joy.

Sam Brownrigg

"I'd really like to do it again. I'm not ready to say goodbye to these characters yet. But I wouldn't mind exploring a different theme. The next theme might be kindnesses," Sam said.

To view the full series of Sam's #100daysofjoy illustrations, go to the Sharni Normal Facebook page, or follow her on Instagram at @sharninormal.

To keep up to date on future projects and on the publication of the #100daysofjoy book, sign up to the email newsletter at sharninormal.com.