Artist James Owen Thomas's eye-catching works of art are drawing admirers across country - but look closely and you'll see they're all made out of old scratchcards!

James, who lives in Pateley Bridge, was inspired by a discarded scratchcard floating in a puddle of water by the road, which caught his attention as the sunlight made its colours glisten.

“For something most people would consider unpleasant rubbish, I decided to pick it up, clean it and keep it safe in a plastic container,” he says.

“From that moment I noticed how many scratchcards were to be seen littering our streets, parks and hedgerows. I had to do something about it and started picking them all up, building quite a collection. I then decided to use some of the colourful parts and symbols of the scratch cards to create pictures."


James’s quirky works of art have led to exhibitions at venues across the north, including Bradford Industrial Museum, Durham Cathedral World Heritage Visitor Centre and the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield.

James, who is studying at Bradford School of Art, has also exhibited in Durham and created special collages for Pontefract Racecourse.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A collage by James Owen ThomasA collage by James Owen Thomas

Aged three James was diagnosed with autism and could not talk until he was five, but through art his confidence has blossomed.

“You have to be strong to be different and the way I keep strong is through my art,” he says. “Speaking to galleries has definitely developed my confidence and given me a voice.”

Having built up his reputation, people also pass on scratchcards to him. “Nowadays, many of the used scratchcards that I need are donated by people I know,” he says. “Some shops are good enough to save them for me. They tell me that in time the discarded scratchcards may only go into landfill and are happy to pass them on to me.”

Now James's artwork is set to be on display in Milton Keynes, Harrogate and the Lake District. 

He has been chosen to exhibit at a prestigious national show at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, where a chair he decorated with old scratchcards is now on display.

“I really enjoyed bringing new life back into the chair,” he says. “It had been fly-tipped in Sussex woodland and donated to me by the Revd Peter Owen Jones who found it and kept it in his church in the village of Firle for some time,” he says.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: James's art on display at MK GalleryJames's art on display at MK Gallery

“I felt very proud when I saw the piece on display because this is the first time I have had an exhibition of my artwork in Buckinghamshire,” he says.

Called MK Calling, the exhibition - which runs until May 15 - is a display of around 100 different artists works from across the UK, selected from 700 applications.

“I was really pleased and excited to be chosen,” says James. “The gallery is also taking a range of my greetings cards for sale in their shop.”

Closer to home James’s art - which includes collages as well as decorated furniture - will be on display with the work of other students during the summer holiday at Bradford College. It will be open to the public.

On March 12, James will be exhibiting at Henshaws Charity Art Event at Rudding Park near Harrogate.

His colourful works of art will also be on show at the Hudson Gallery, Reeth, as part of Swaledale Festival, from May 23 to June 6, and in August he is taking his work to the National Trust property Allan bank in Grasmere in the Lake District. “I will also be doing a collage workshop for children in their art room.”

James is also working towards an exhibition at Farleys House & Gallery in East Sussex. “I know the area well as I was born in Eastbourne and regularly go back,” says James.

“For this exhibition I’m going to start work on an old table which has been in the family for years and is in a very tatty state,” he says. “I have already drawn out a circular design on the table top ready to collage using recycled materials. These may be a mix of discarded lottery scratch cards along with tickets, old leaflets and brochures that people have donated to me.”

For more information on James's art, visit