Out of the woods: Christmas card for Help Musicians

Every year, for eighteen years, I have produced a card for Help Musicians. As each year passes it becomes more difficult, but this year’s image came in like a blast of vision. I’d spent a very hard year working on The Lost Words. This would be something very different, so, get a cup of tea, and come with me on a painting journey.

It began with a flash, an image, in the mind’s eye. Then came the task of drawing it out. It’s a long story. You will need that cup of tea if you are coming with me.

It began in a short novel I am working on. The idea being, having written The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow around past designs I would work on a novel that linked to this year’s image. Hmmm, great idea, but… well, I don’t have the same control over my writing as some authors do and although the novel contains characters from the last card, it ended in a very different place from where I thought it was going. Still working on that one. It was supposed to end at a carousel….

But then the card went in its own direction too.

Unsure of where this had come from I thought it best to follow, stretched paper, began work. A big piece like this takes a long time. I worked on it, went away, came back, continued. The novel still waits, needs editing, reshaping, and I think this piece may have become an answer to a question….. but, sorry, back to this….

I use watercolour, Arches hot pressed paper. Over weeks I have painted.

Some years ago, I think on twitter, someone commented that the Song of the Angel Cat design reminded them of Eighteen Songs of the Nomad Flute. I looked it up, bought the book, and yes.

I can see why. This book was propped up on the floor, by my drawing boards, and i think it has crept into my subconscious to rise again in this year’s card. At some point I would love to retell this story in novel form with images, and this will lead me on to my next blog post, about ‘cultural appropriation’. For now, I love the echoes and ripples….

Also, stuck to my ceiling above my desk:

‘The woods are lovely dark and deep,

but I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep’

this beautiful card by Mary Fedden. I love her word. I love woods. And though the card began by being called the Running of the deer it’s now called Out of the Woods.

These things ripple through the image, and I would blog about the difference between plagiarism and influence, but that subject is so dull, and those who copy other people’s work and ideas know the truth of it in their souls.

For anyone interested enough I will put up images of this work in progress on another page. It’s almost done now. Just letting it settle and doodling with areas to pull all together. The cards will be available from Help Musicians soon and I will try and let people know when. The painting is for sale at The House of Golden Dreams  

Prints are also be available, limited edition. Email me if you wish to buy one.

So, still working on the novel, wondering whether to write a short story about this card, but I think it will work its way into the novel after all, but meanwhile if you want more The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow is a picture book for grown ups published by Graffeg. Signed copies available from Solva Woollen Mill, along with a smaller, blank notebook for Quiet Thoughts.

And the Christmas cards are now available to buy from Help Musicians.





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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6 Responses to Out of the woods: Christmas card for Help Musicians

  1. Teodora Dumitriu says:

    Dear Jackie,

    “It’s an old Gnostic tradition that we don’t invent things, we just remember”~ poet Robert Bly

    I started by quoting Robert Bly because the exquisite artwork that your card is looks/feels like something… something SO familiar… that i’ve seen/heard/read somewhere… but where oh where… and then i remembered:

    “The flute of interior time is played whether we hear it or not,
    What we mean by ‘love’ is its sound coming in” ~ Robert Bly “The Kabir Book”

    Dear Jackie, everything SEEMS to have been said/done/felt before. (Terry Pratchett said it best — ‘This book was written using 100% recycled words.’) Painters forever paint using the same old-fashioned colours :). Musicians make do with the same old, same old seven notes. But certain works of art, as well as certain people, make us gasp: “THIS one, i REMEMBER! Now where oh where have i met her/him/it before?” (The moment i started following you on Twitter as @zanyonefivefive i knew i KNEW you – despite me living in Romania for all 53 years of my life. But, you see, i grew up with Brehm’s Life of Animals as a Bible, and learned to read on Grimm Brother’s Tales)

    “The Universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest” winks Kurt Vonnegut with a Carl Saganesque accent and a clownish glint in his eye. But some of us have CERTAINLY met some others (at a very specific time, in a very specific place) before. The place is called home. Of course big kids who moved to town miss it so badly. And it’s our brothers and sisters who STAYED – artists like you, Jackie – who , from time to time, send to the rest of us, who don’t live there anymore, letters from home. Sometimes take pictures of it. Of course the feeling of senders and recipients is the same; of course the letters sort of sound the same (“A poem begins as a lump in the throat.” ~Robert Frost.) Of course the pictures kind of look the same 🙂

    Much love and many thanks to you, dear Jackie.


    • Jackie says:

      Thank you so much for this. And yes, sometimes a poem begins as a lump in the heart also.
      Yesterday I switched on the radio and heard something dreadful that I wish I could remove from my memory. It was the darkest evil. At lunch time also.
      But I also heard such beauty.
      Thanks for this.

  2. Ellie Bartleman says:

    ‘Out of the Woods’ is indeed a lovely and atmospheric image.
    The words ‘The woods are lovely dark and deep……’ are from the Robert Frost Poem ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Day’. One of my favourites.

  3. Bernie Bell says:

    I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, Jackie – it’s such a beautiful image, but I suppose other things in the world are with us….Anyway…..the image, and the words ‘Out of the woods’ , put me in mind of the people who are fleeing oppression – hopefully, getting ‘out of the woods’ – carrying their colours and ways and wonderful differences with them to…wherever they’re going.
    Once again – good on you, girl!

  4. Karen D Riegle says:

    I would really love to buy Out of the Woods, but can’t figure out a way to do it. Please help. Your images move me. Thank you.

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