Margaret, or Maggie as she is known, first began drawing in the margins of her school books when bored which was quite often, never imagining it might be a talent that she could use. But after encountering Moral Re-Armament (MRA), now called Initiatives of Change, in her teens, she began to find a faith. She wanted to use any artistic ability to help others. This dutiful concept of art led to 4 years at art college studying Graphic Design whereas a more natural one for her might have involved exploring painting and illustration.
After graduating, she had a sabbatical year, travelling through Europe with MRA, in a small revue that channelled stories of personal change, forgiveness and reconciliation in song and sketches. Even then, the drawing crept out as she resorted to a short sequence of cartoons to tell her own experience of change of attitude. But then the group were invited to go to what was then a war-torn part of southern Africa. They were overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation they had been invited into.
As it was Easter and Maggie found herself thinking about the role of the donkey in the Bible story. This small, feisty and sometimes stubborn animal seemed an unlikely choice to carry Jesus on his mission to Jerusalem. Likewise, she could see that God might be able to use them because they didn’t think they knew the answers. Again, she found natural expression of this in cartoons and produced a brief cartoon sequence illustrating this.
After returning to the UK, Maggie began 14 years voluntary work based in London, designing and illustrating the IofC's publications. During this time, she also developed the donkey cartoons into a short cartoon book called, ‘The Donkey's Tale’, which was published in 6 languages (by Scripture Union in the UK and the US). She soon began to realise that cartoons and illustration were her real gift and not graphics. However, after a gruelling experience drawing a long series of cartoons for a different charity with a rather unpleasant person liaising with her in a somewhat bullying manner, she was put off cartoons for some 30 years.
After moving to Surrey with her husband and daughter, she began to paint in acrylics. Having had no instruction in painting, it was a steep learning curve but she read all the available sources of advice. It involved a change of direction on a fundamental level. She had listened to a speech by a bishop who was an accomplished pianist. He was asked about Christian art. ‘Don’t try to do Christian art, do good art,’ he said. A great truth registered with her after years of channelling overt messages through cartoons. Can dutiful Christians only do art if they see the purpose behind it? She came to believe that art is a spiritual gift. She took a step in faith that she would paint without knowing why but trust that the purpose was in God’s power. It might have been to try to convey some spiritual truth, to celebrate what God has created or it might be that she should just relish the experience.
She went on to exhibit paintings in both in the Lake District, London and Surrey. She also enjoyed working with Renewal Arts charity to encourage people to tap into the spirituality and integrity that can make creativity a transformative power for change.
Then, a relatively inconsequential moment brought cartoons back into her life. She and her husband had been on a dreary motorway journey and he had said, 'the nights are getting longer'. She thought it would be funny if that applied to Medieval knights, a joke that only works in English, of course, where it sounds the same. To pass the journey, they played around with other expressions to do with the night and applied them to knights. Maggie, essentially a visual person, could 'see' the cartoons that might illustrate them. The flow of ideas passed some time on the journey but they thought no more about it until Maggie, then, in her early 60s, had an accident that left her chairbound for a month or so. A somewhat restless patient, she did the one thing she could do whilst sitting, which was to draw the knight cartoons. She had forgotten how much she loved the process because it combined her sense of humour with an artistic ability.
Encouraged by the warm response after showing them to friends, she finally had twelve of the knight cartoons published by the national magazine, Country Life. She is hoping to get them sold through historic building giftshops but this is currently on hold (at the time of writing) because of the Covid 19 pandemic.
You can see more of her work in her personal shop.