A House Built of Cards

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.

Card for Aries of Three KingsOver 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.

first card for the Musicians Benevolent FundProcession for Musicians Benevolent FundBalloons for the Musicians Benevolent FundArcsDrawn by swans, for the Musicians Benevolent fundCavalcade, for The Musicians Benevolent FundCity of Music for The Musicians Benevolent FundMusical Feast for The Musicians Benevolent FundWinter Journey, for the Musicians Benevolent Fund

Two Bears, for the Musicians Benevolent FundTower of Song for The Musicians Benevolent FundThe Music Cart for The Musicians Benevolent FundI have about 2 more days work to do on this years card and then it will be finished.

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.

Work in progressOver 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.

Can You See a Little Bear board book

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.

Cheltenham Festival poster

And this is the house that cards built.

My house, from the herb garden

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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10 Responses to A House Built of Cards

  1. I love the year on year story in those cards. Isn’t it amazing to think each of those little stories is somewhere, perhaps pinned to a frame, a mirror; telling it’s own story. Makes me quite humble just to think of the silver spider web of travel they have woven.

  2. Mo Crow says:

    what a beautiful house you have built out of your cards with huge heart and loads of talent!

  3. gemma says:

    Hi Jackie,
    I am a big fan of your work and your blog, this post was super inspiring, being a fledgling illustrator myself i love to pop by and see how a “professional” does things, and to know that your drawings paid for your house is amazing! Things are starting to pick up for me at the moment on the illustration front and im keeping my fingers crossed it continues and one day i too can buy a house through my doodles.

    Happy Tuesday
    xxxx

    • Jackie says:

      Cheers Gemma. I think it was very important for me to do the other work too. Meant that I got out and met people. For the last 22 years I have grown a family and paid the mortgage through the use of coloured water on paper and pencil lines as well as manipulation of the alphabet. I think of it as being something like a lucky alchemy. Best advice: take every opportunity that is given but never sell yourself short.

  4. Carrie says:

    They are a story in themselves, especially all shown together… I’m so glad you and James made ‘Can you see a little bear’, that book set my feet on a new and winding path through sun dappled woods… sometimes the path gets overgrown, or little more than the fleeting animal tracks of a story just beyond sight, but there are myriad pathways through those woods and many whisperings beneath the leaves…
    This was a good post for me to read this morning… I have a small question, but I think I’ll email you if that ok :)

  5. June Pearson says:

    Lovely post Jackie….we are (once again) in class reading ‘Can you see a little bear’. Such a favourite, the children have remembered everything you told them about the details in the pictures. They think Little Bear needs to go on another journey!
    and also reading again…..’Starlight Sailor……’ and looked at the wishing boats we made, lovely memories.
    June…

  6. What a pleasure it is to think of all the happiness and comfort your cards brought to people. I’ve made some, (just for promotion of my photography, you know), but am proud of them and love sending them out. So much hard work goes inot your art…I love reading about your dedication. I also love reading success stories; gives me so much hope. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Brenda says:

    Jackie,
    I love your exquisite cards, they truly would be a treasure to send and receive.
    This was a wonderful story, and your house is beautiful.
    Beautiful art provides grace and hope to our world, I believe.
    Brenda

  8. lyn lewis says:

    I bought that book because I loved the illustrations and the story……..to read to my grandchild that I hadnt got – then – but do now lol so have the fun of reading it to him as well as myself!!
    fabulous artworks and a cute house too!

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