AN AWARD-winning artist who makes striking pictures from discarded scratchcards has produced work reflecting his life during the pandemic.

James Owen Thomas, who successfully completed a two-year course at Bradford School of Art this year, gaining a distinction as well as a merit, drew inspiration from his garden to create an uplifting picture of a cherry tree, created in different sections.

“At the time of lockdown I was worried how I was going to complete the final part of my coursework, especially as I was not as high-tech as most other students with working online,” he said.

“Looking out of my window at our cherry tree I knew that it would soon be in blossom as spring was on its way. I decided to create a collage involving the tree using materials I had at home and was pleased when the idea was acceptable for the theme of my final major project. “

During lockdown the young artist created a touching portrait of his grandmother who suffers from dementia.

“It was very upsetting to see how my grandmother’s condition had deteriorated and because of this she came to live with us,” said James. “I decided that I would create a piece of artwork and try to capture the feeling of loneliness. I called it ‘Isolation’ and she was pleased to see the finished portrait. She is feeling much better now.”

He added: “Many people, unable to meet with their families, must be feeling very isolated.”

Thankfully, James - who has exhibited widely and whose work bagged him a Britain in Bloom Young Champion award - has a good supply of scratchcards. “Shops saved me a large quantity long before the pandemic,” he said.

“I have just finished a piece using Spanish scratchcards, which a friend from the Basque Country collected for me. I have called it Árbol de la vida (Tree of Life) and collaged them with the Guernica Tree and Picasso in mind. He has also crafted a rainbow for his local doctors’ surgery in Pateley Bridge.

Aged three James was diagnosed with autism and could not talk until he was five, but through art his confidence has blossomed. Much of his work reflects his love of nature.

“I feel that Covid has led to more people appreciating nature whether in gardens, parks or the countryside. Being out in nature is important for our physical and mental health.

“I have been using other materials combined with scratchcards in my collages - food packaging, bits of old leaflets, tickets, ring pulls and much more as I want my art to make a positive statement about recycling and care for the environment.”

“Nature is an art in itself with its colours of the changing seasons. We may think of colours differently depending on our moods and with all the worry of the pandemic, my thoughts may have remained dark and grey if it were not for spending time outdoors.”