Barb Jacobs

Barb Jacobs

The wonderful Barb Jacobs, author and artist of Xyliatales, sent us some wonderful examples spanning years of her illustrative work. We’re honored that Barb agreed to be featured on ArtBloom, and excited that she was willing to share so much!

I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I made the announcement at the age of six that it was my career path to be a writer and illustrator of books. I’ve worked as a freelance artist for twenty years, but I’m still looking for that break into publishing, and I’m always trying to improve. I’m hoping by showing my early work compared to my newer pieces that some sense of progression is achieved, but also that any young artists out there might see that everyone starts out with markers and manila paper. ^_^

The work that I’m sharing here is from my cartooning archives. Cartooning has always been my favorite thing. Check out the dates on these pieces, kiddies. Yep – from the days before personal computers. Man, am I old…

Woody the Woodpecker and the Alligator

A page from my first book, Woody the Woodpecker and the Alligator – 1971, marker on manila paper.


“Mermaids” – 1980 (Ariel hadn’t even been thought of yet!) Prismacolors, marker.

Baby Beetles Book II

A page from Baby Beetles Book II – 1981

This was a continuing story I created with a friend that was an homage to my favorite band, The Beatles. Graphite on the back of scratch paper made from pitched legal documents. (I was recycling before it was fab!)

Return of the Baby Beetles

A scene from the Return of the Baby Beetles – 1988
Graphite on proper Bristol board.


Concept piece from Commonwealth – 1989. This was the story that eventually morphed into Talismen. Prismacolor, marker, gauche.

The Scepter: The Frigid Castle 1999

Illustration from The Scepter: The Frigid Castle 1999 by Steven Jones and myself – 1990. Pen & ink on Bristol.

Dena & Doodle 2004

Illustration from a children’s book I’m working on: Dena & Doodle 2004 – digital.

In 2003, my writer friend Steven Jones approached me about resurrecting characters from a project we had worked on earlier called Commonwealth and changing them into 12 year olds. With the working title of CW Kids, I began sketching, and Steve began writing from the ideas that we brainstormed. What resulted is the forthcoming book, Talismen: The Knightmare Knife which will go on sale in July 2009.

Jen faces the Slobberworm

Jen faces the Slobberworm in this concept sketch – 2003, marker.

Timmy's Nightmare

The first drawing of Timmy’s doppelgänger – 2004, graphite.

Jen faces the Slobberworm

Concept sketches of Jennifer and Colin.
Steve’s daughter informed me that Colin’s hair was too
much like a character on “Jimmy Neutron,” so I changed it.

Eventually, I developed the digital style that I came to work in the most often.

Talismen 2004

Concept art from the Talismen series – 2004, digital.

Talismen 2005

Concept piece from the Talismen series – 2005.

Most artists eventually draw themselves because there are no other models handy. It’s also an interesting way to observe the aging process…

Self Portrait – 1983

Self Portrait – 1983, graphite.

Self Portrait – 1994

Self Portrait – 1994, watercolor prismacolor.

Self Portrait – 2001

Self Portrait – 2001, watercolor.

Self Portrait – 2009

Self Portrait – 2009, graphite.

In 2007, I began working on a new project, Xyliatales which I continue working on at present. When I look at some of my older work, I still see some of that in my new drawings.


Claudius – 2008, digital painting/PS3.

Xyliatales Title Page

Xyliatales title page – 2009

Xylia concept piece

Xylia concept piece – 2007

Xyliatales: Nigel's Opus illustration

Xyliatales: Nigel’s Opus illustration – 2008, graphite.

Xyliatales: Nigel's Opus Illustration

Xyliatales: Nigel’s Opus Illustration – 2008, digital.

8 Responses to “Barb Jacobs”

  1. Chelsea says:

    Wow, what a fascinating read! I do love the mermaid piece from your youth, but your last self-portrait is my favorite. 🙂

  2. Lucas says:

    Wow Barb, your talent goes WAY back! Seeing the evolution of your style is incredible Very inspiring!

  3. Cara Stardusst says:

    What a wonderful idea. I loved seeing your art.

    I would love to see the finished product of Dena & Doodle. It looks so cute!

    Your self-portraits are great too. Just one question: Is your hair naturally curly or straight?

    You look awesome with both, btw. ^_^

  4. Albone says:

    That was a fun look at the evolution of your art style. I love Xylia, but I’m thinking you might have to pick up Woody Woodpecker and the Alligator again.

  5. Hey thank you, everyone! Sarah, I can’t wait to see your submission.

    It was really fun looking back on some of those old art pieces…and it forced me to clean up my archives!


  6. Peg says:

    Always cool to see your work, and the progression is an added
    bonus. 🙂

  7. OctoDude says:

    Wonderful kaleidoscopic montage…
    Alligator and woodpecker – too cute!
    Hard to pick a favorite, but the Slumbering Griffon may be mine. Don’t know why.

  8. ArtsAngel says:

    Awesome, Barb! Nice to see the early work and the progression through to now – you can definitely see the style evolving.