FOUR years ago a discarded scratch card floating in a puddle of water by the road caught the attention of James Owen Thomas.

The sunlight seemed to make 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,” explains James. “From that moment I noticed how many scratch cards 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 and decided to use some of the colourful parts and symbols of the scratch cards to create pictures. This is how my interest in making mosaic-style collages with torn or cut pieces of scratch cards began. I don’t use any paint in my collages but select the colours that I need from the cards. When finished I then apply an acrylic varnish to protect the collage.

Seventeen year old James has been doing his scratch card artwork since he was 14 and has had various exhibitions with the National Trust, Durham World Heritage Centre, Bradford Industrial Museum, the National Coal Mining Museum, Yorkshire Dales National Park and others. As a result of his work being at the National Coal Mining Museum, he was recently commissioned to create four pieces for Pontefract Racecourse.

His exhibition Much More Than Meets The Eye! is on show at Farfield Mill, running at the Sedbergh arts and heritage centre until April 28.

Pateley Bridge-based James was born in Eastbourne, and remembers enjoying looking at the views of the coast, especially the Chalk Cliffs and any boats at sea.“As I watched everything moving around me, I felt calm and happy," adds James. "I was regularly taken to art galleries as I was fascinated by the artwork. I’m told that in my early childhood, I learned to communicate by looking at pictures.”

Garden birds have been an inspiration to James’s highly inventive artwork. He’s also been inspired by the National Trust’s sites Fountains Abbey and Brimham Rocks, while he was on work experience. And he was asked to do a collage of Fountains Hall as part of his World Heritage Youth Ambassadors’ course.

The countryside and seaside too also features in his work: “While living in the Yorkshire Dales, I’ve enjoyed among other things photographing barns, dry stone walls and sheep. I am also interested in creating collages of other animals such as red squirrels.

"I completed Abbey Ruins in 2015 and it was my first collage made from scratch cards. It encouraged a different way of thinking and I began to see more and more how they could be used to create collages. I was pleased to find how much other people liked them and my confidence went from strength to strength.”

The Farfield exhibition features 40 amazing and carefully crafted images cleverly created by gifted artist James from discarded scratch cards that depict a range of scenes including the countryside and good luck symbols, such as horse shoes.

“Nowadays, many of the used scratch cards that I need are donated by people I know and also some shops which are good enough to save them for me.”

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