A long time ago I was asked to design 8 cards for a company called Snap. Then I was asked to do another 8 for a company called Paperlink. Until then I had worked at part time jobs to pay the rent, selling cheese in Guildhall Market, shop assistant in Seasons Wholefood shop and washing up in The Circus Restaurant at different times. I earned enough to get by on and illustrated anything that came my way. I still remember popping in to WH Smiths to just ‘have a look’ at my cover for The New Statesman on the way to my shift at the cheese stall. I was 28, lived in a rented flat in Bath. As a result of having 16 pieces of work to do I quit my part time job and since then have lived by painting, illustrating and writing.
Over the years I designed many cards, for Greenpeace, Amnesty, Oxfam, The Natural History Museum and for Paperlink. The design above was for Aries. It was seen by a woman who worked for The Musicians Benevolent Fund who asked if I would do a Christmas card for them.
I did. They sold twice as many as the year before and since the first card I have produced one card a year for about 13 years.
And some of the originals and prints of others will be exhibited at The Parabola Arts Centre in Cheltenham as part of Cheltenham Music Festival.
Over the years I must have painted about 200 cards, hundreds of thousands have been printed and sold and bought and sent to all 4 corners of the world. They have been sent to people on their birthdays, Christmas, to celebrate births and commiserate deaths, love letters, thinking of you letters, all kinds of communications. At one time I was under pressure by my card publisher to paint one design a day, working 14 hour days painting. As a result I was able to save enough money to put down a deposit on a house, something I never thought I would be able to do.
So, in a way, you could say that I live in a house built of cards.
A book grew out of the MBF cards, Can You See a Little Bear, written for me by my very good friend James Mayhew. Simple text that allowed me to just play, Can You See a Little Bear is one of the books I most enjoyed working on. And James is a wonderful author and illustrator who loves music.
James will be appearing at Cheltenham Music Festival on 7th July. If you get the chance to go and watch and listen to either his appearance at Cheltenham or Lichfield then go. He is astonishing as he tells the story of the music and paints live on stage. Just wonderful. Here is a taste of what you might hear, what you might see.
And this is the house that cards built.