When I was first commissioned to create a card for Help Musicians UK the brief was simple.
The card had to have musical instruments on it, no notation. That was about 14 years ago and each year since I have crafted an image for the charity. It is one of the calendar markers of my working year.
Each year it becomes more of a challenge, but I still try to move characters through from card to card, and often incorporate things from the world around me. When I painted Winter Caravan a friend had a farm filled with Gypsy Vanner horses. In the background Icelandic horses are tolting along to their own rhythm. In the sky in some Moondog’s wolf sits howling. I had just found his music at the time and it played while I was painting the card. If you look you might find him, in his viking helmet, among the towers.
When I painted City of Music I had recently been to Venice where flute music fell down from open windows to the cobbled streets below.
This year’s card is a winter lullaby. Last years was wrapped around my spotted cat and a curious wheeled creature I had found.
A world has built up around the cards so much so that a friend, James Mayhew, wrote a text for me for a picture book, Can You See a Little Bear, published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.
One of the things I love about the cards is that every year I get messages from people who have been drawn to my work for the first time by a Christmas card sent to them by friends and family.
People write to thank me for the card.
People write and say how happy they are to have another to add to their set.
People write to say that they get all the past ones out every Christmas as part of their family Christmas decorations. (In times when Christmas cards are often thrown away by Boxing Day to know that they have entered the hearts of families to be kept safe year after year is such a compliment.)
People write to say that they always buy them and now their friends and family phone them and request to be sent one in fond and threatening tones.
And every year I get emails from as far away as Kazakstan, Australia, USA to say that people have received these cards from friends and how much they love them.
This year Help Musicians have put together a calendar using some of the images from the cards and mugs from years gone by and some of my paintings.
Already I am beginning to think of next year’s card, trying to catch in my mind an image that will build on the collection, celebrate music, carry a story, sing. And I wonder who I will hear from this year, with stories about the cards, who has sent them, who will receive them, where will they travel. All those cards, sent with love, designed and painted in my small house beside the sea in Wales and sent out across the world.
This year's Jackie Morris card, along with the rest of our Christmas Collection, is now availale from our new online shop. All proceeds will help support musicians, so head over and have a browse.