Local Artist Spotlight: JJ Barrows

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Every once in a while you see (or hear) a piece of art that really speaks to you. And sometimes this can happen in the most surprising places. Around this time last year, local artist Jennie Joy Barrows (she goes by JJ) had some of her art displayed on the walls at Mike Hess Brewery in Ocean Beach. JJ’s colorful surfboards paired with snippets of stories made the walls feel inviting and inspiring (and the beer probably helped, too). A year later, we’re still feeling inspired, so if you haven’t yet been acquainted with this local artist, allow us to introduce you.

We sat down with JJ recently to chat about her story and hear what she’s learned about art, comedy, and life in general. She has a really easy going and humble spirit, which shines through in her stand-up as well as her casual coffee shop talk. Our conversation led us through her progression from painting to comedy, and we traced her journey from South Carolina to San Diego. We talked about the best advice anyone has ever given her, how she learned to face her fears, and what keeps her going.

JJ lightheartedly jokes about having felt disillusioned with the typical arc of life: grow up, get married and/or get a “respectable” career, and spend your life chipping away at those mile markers while time passes by. (And that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with those mile markers.) But JJ says that as she got a little older, she gradually began to realize that she had already lived so much of her life doing what other people wanted and expected her to do. So she gradually began to steer her life in a direction she was happier with.

She dove into the things she was passionate about, and this genuine passion eventually opened up a lot of doors and led to some great opportunities for her. Her art has been showcased at a lot of local spots around Ocean Beach (The Lazy Hummingbird, Mike Hess, Winston’s, and Helm’s, to name a few). She started selling her pieces and even hosting live art shows in San Diego. Then, near the end of 2016, JJ decided to try her hand at something new (again) and she began to pursue other artistic avenues.

Laughter has been a big part of JJ’s life since she can remember, but for a long time she let fear keep her from testing the waters of improv and stand-up. She reminisced with us about the first few days of her stand-up class and how she felt so far out of her comfort zone: “I was terrified the first day, and almost didn’t go back the second… But I think if you let fear dictate your life, that’s when you become unhappy.” JJ made it through the class and at her graduation showcase, Dat Phan (winner of the first season of Last Comic Standing), saw the set and asked her to open for him at The Comedy Store in La Jolla.

Since then, she’s immersed herself in the San Diego comedy scene. So, what has she learned so far? “Don’t quit your day job just because you have one good show. And don’t quit just because you have one bad show”. JJ is a lively, authentic local artist to keep your eye on. She can always make you laugh and her art really does bring joy to everyone who sees or hears it. Check out her YouTube channel, Facebook, and go support her at one of her upcoming comedy shows!

Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at [email protected].

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