Focus Magazines The local magazines for Abergavenny, Crickhowell, Brecon & Talgarth – Events, News and Advertising
Renowned illustrator and author, Jackie Morris, will be visiting Bookish in Crickhowell in November. She kindly took time out in her hectic schedule to tell us a little about her new publication, Something About a Bear

Jackie, where did the idea come from for your new book Something About a Bear?

I have loved bears for years and always wanted to do a book about bears, so I did. 20 years ago. It was the second picture book I ever did, it sold really well in the UK and USA but I have learned a great deal in 20 years, and so as Bears Bears and More Bears was long out of print I decided to have another go at the same subject matter.

I wrote the book over a few weeks, catching a line here and a phrase there. Much of the words were captured whilst staying with a friend in her beautiful fruit filled garden in Bishops Frome and the book is dedicated to Tamsin and Mike Abbott, who I was staying with.

I worked on the paintings and the words together, sketching and playing with bears and with sounds.

Jackie-MorrisDo you have a particularly favourite illustration in the book?

The Spectacled bear in the tree is a favourite. She took on a real character of her own and then my friend Karin Hines made me a needle-felted version. The bear’s name is Mary after Mary Plane and she has appeared in many a blog posting and has even been in The Guardian online, joining the library. She’s a wise bear who understands the importance of books and the value of libraries.

If you could have a real life pet bear, what type of bear would it be?

Bears aren’t pets, should never be pets; they are wild creatures. They don’t belong to people any more than any animal can belong to people. I live with cats and dogs, but I don’t see them as ‘pets’. I just feel lucky that they are happy to share their time with me. Were I to live in a wild place where bears were at home any or all of the bears would be splendid to see, to watch, to share land with. People do keep them as pets, use them to earn a living, make them perform as dancing bears and worse. I feel now and have always felt that this was wrong.

As a child growing up in the Midlands the world seemed a very confusing place to me. I only began to understand my place in the world when I discovered the myths and legends of the native American peoples. They believed that animals and people were equal. All creatures were people. The bear people no more important than the little people of the air, or the birds as we call them. Not pets. Never.

How did you come to be an illustrator? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?

I always wanted to be an artist and though many people told me I couldn’t be one I have always made a living from colouring in, and now from writing also.

Do illustrations come easily to you or do you spend a lot of time wrangling and re-drafting?

You could say it comes easy. When people ask me how long it took me to do a painting I sometimes reply “ Two days and 53 years”. That’s the thing about art. It’s not a job, or something you do, it’s life. And drawing at the end of the day is only about looking, really closely, learning the shape of things.

What would you say to anyone who’d like to pursue a similar career?

I would say to anyone who wishes to do something that all things are possible if they work hard. I would say follow your dream. Unless your dream is world domination.

I would say that I struggled for many years, not making a great deal of money, but spending my life doing what I enjoy doing. You can always get more money, but you have a finite amount of time in this world. So use it well.

You can read more about Jackie, her art and books by visiting her website:

Enter Our Competition

Something-about-a-Bear-CoverJackie has kindly donated a signed copy of her latest book Something About a Bear, which we are giving away as a competition prize, together with a needle felted bear, made by the very talented Karen Hines (mentioned in Jackie’s interview), of Celestine & the Hare, based in Monmouth.

For your chance to win these wonderful prizes, we’d simply like you to tell us something about a bear in no more than 150 words. Perhaps you had a favourite bear as a child or perhaps you’d like to send us a photo of your childhood bear, or even write a short story or poem. We’ll choose the best entry on 30th November.

Send your entry via email with your full name and contact details to We will contact the winner via email or phone and announce the winner in January’s Focus.

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One response to “An Interview with Jackie Morris”

  1. Judy Lydecker says:

    I enjoyed this interview….

    “Art….is life….” a succinct, profound statement, Jackie.

    Bears are my spirit animal….And as I had unique
    and amazing experiences visiting Knut, the polar bear
    at Zoo Berlin, bears have a big piece of my heart…….

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