Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without one of Winchester artist Joesphine Chisolm’s bright and colourful festive cards adorning your mantelpiece – she shares her story and inspirations.

It’s been over 10 years since Josephine Chisholm’s colourful depictions of people enjoying urban life in Hampshire caught the eye of Winchester City Council, and she was commissioned to create the first ever publicity illustrations for the Winchester Christmas Market.

Great British Life: 'Once I was described by somebody in the local newspaper as Hampshire's answer to LS Lowry' says Josephine'Once I was described by somebody in the local newspaper as Hampshire's answer to LS Lowry' says Josephine

The commission was the catalyst for a series of festive images of Santa and his merry helpers on their rounds in and around Winchester.

‘Of course, the Christmas market, when it had the skating rink, was the inspiration for one of the scenes, with all the happy people drinking their gluhwein and having fun,’ says Josephine, who has lived in the Hyde area of Winchester with her husband Julian for the past 28 years and had a stall at the city Christmas market for four years. ‘But then I’ve got Father Christmas flying above Winchester Cathedral, skiing and sledging downhill through the city with his friends, singing carols, making Christmas pudding in Winchester Great Hall and helping make sure the statue of King Alfred is all set for Christmas.’

Great British Life: Making Christmas pudding in Winchester's Great Hall (c) Joesphine ChisolmMaking Christmas pudding in Winchester's Great Hall (c) Joesphine Chisolm

As well as illustrating scenes of Santa out and about in Winchester, the collection also includes one of him back home after his duties, putting his feet up with a glass of wine and ‘Titus’ the cat on his lap – a nod to a couple of Josephine’s personal family connections.

‘I love cats and Titus was an amazing much-loved cat – he lived to be about 18 and a half years old, which is quite something,’ she explains. ‘So, I just thought, Father Christmas must get back home, put his feet up with Titus on his lap and have a nice glass of wine or Scotch, and that would make a fun scene.’

The wine in the scene, called ‘Titus Red’, is reference to Josephine and Julian’s own wine they make from grapes grown on their allotment.

Great British Life: Father Christmas enjoying a bottle of Josephine's own Titus wine (c) Josephine ChisolmFather Christmas enjoying a bottle of Josephine's own Titus wine (c) Josephine Chisolm

‘We have a small vineyard, known as the Winchester Vineyard, and make about five different types of wine, one of them is called Titus's Red,’ Josephine, 68, adds. ‘We've been doing it for about 26 years now and this most recent harvest there were an awful lot of grapes. We don’t sell it, we just make it for us so we’re never short of wine for drinking or cooking in our household.’

While Josephine paints all sorts of scenes – you’ll find everything from local landscapes and foreign seascapes to American Bison and the vast deserts of Chile among her collections – she has always been particularly inspired by the colour and magic of people and the vibrancy, theatre and personality of urban life.

‘I like to put people in paintings because people always interest me, and they give a sense of scale to something. That, along with colour, adds life to a picture,’ she explains. ‘Once I was described by somebody in the local newspaper as Hampshire’s answer to LS Lowry, I think my paintings are a bit happier though as Lowry’s look a bit gloomy sometimes!

Great British Life: Here we can see those Lowry-esque examples (c) Josephine ChisolmHere we can see those Lowry-esque examples (c) Josephine Chisolm

‘My own style varies a little bit depending what format I’m painting in. If you're painting with acrylic, you get thicker brush marks, with Gouache or watercolor, you can make finer detail, which might suit a more detailed painting of Winchester, where you’ve got lots of people dashing around, for example. And then I like drawing, so often I use charcoal or pen and wash. I'm a chameleon really. I always say it’s a bit like wearing different clothes. Sometimes I just feel I'm in a black and white mood but tomorrow I'll be in red, pink and blue.’

Having loved drawing as a child, Josephine studied graphic design at college in Bristol, but it was after attending a painting course while living in Harrogate when her daughter was a baby that she began to really hone her craft. Then, following a move to Hampshire in the 1990s, the commercial side of things gathered pace.

‘I've been painting seriously for over 33 years, and it is funny how it grows,’ says Josephine, who this autumn was commissioned by Barclay Homes to paint a picture of Winchester Cathedral to celebrate their new Knights Quarter development in Winchester city centre. ‘Somebody might buy a picture and that's good for your morale and then you get a commission and then you slowly build up. When we moved down here, I was lucky to get to know Christopher Broadbent, who then ran a gallery at Winchester Guildhall, and he saw my works and very kindly let me put on an exhibition and then people have got to know my work from there.’

Great British Life: One of Josephine's most iconic Christmas paintings (c) Josephine ChisolmOne of Josephine's most iconic Christmas paintings (c) Josephine Chisolm

Locally, Josephine is a regular exhibitor at The Minster Gallery, Winchester, and has had three solo exhibitions there, she also has a painting in the Hampshire edition of 'The Public Catalogue Foundation', showing Hampshire County Council's Contemporary Art Collection, and has also displayed her work at the Agora Gallery, in New York.

‘I love to travel and gain a lot of inspiration from our trips abroad – there’s a long list of places we’ve been including Paris, Provence, Vienna, Prague, Venice, Rome, the Amalfi coast and Puglia, Washington, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Las Vegas – it goes on,’ she enthuses. ‘But I prefer not to paint the obvious, I love nothing more than going to a restaurant or cafe, and if there's a paper tablecloth, that is wonderful. I can’t help myself from doodling on that and then I will tear off my drawing and stuff it into my sketchbook. It's fun, you know, I just enjoy capturing people. Whenever I travel, I will always sketch and I take a small paint box with me and those are my recipe books really, for producing other pictures.’

Great British Life: Josephine is inspired by the hustle and bustle of city life at Christmas (c) Josephine ChisolmJosephine is inspired by the hustle and bustle of city life at Christmas (c) Josephine Chisolm

While Josephine loves to travel, Christmas will be spent back in her beloved Winchester surrounded by family, friends and plenty of home-grown wine.

She adds, ‘I'm doing Christmas this year and there's going to be lots of us but as long as you’ve got plenty of food and booze, I think everybody's happy!’

That and a paper napkin or tablecloth for doodling, eh Josephine?

Josephine hosts Kaleidoscope Art tuition for beginners or improvers at Winchester Rugby Club. For more information, or to purchase her Winchester Christmas cards, visit

Great British Life: Enjoying the snow on St Catherine's Hill (c) Joesphine ChisolmEnjoying the snow on St Catherine's Hill (c) Joesphine Chisolm

Favourite places to paint in Hampshire

At home, I paint my bigger pieces upstairs but we have a large shed, which I also use, and I enjoy staring out at the garden and at the goings on in the allotments beyond.

The Hampshire Downs because they are really splendid. So pretty and undulating. One of my favourite places to get a nice view is from Farley Mount.

I had a very interesting time once going around Portsmouth – you get caught up in the old part, where the fishing boats are and that can be really interesting.

Beulieu River because again, you've got the water, the boats and the action going on.


Top Tips

1. Don't worry about being perfect. It's having determination to keep at it that counts, so just do it. You’ve got to try a variety of tools to work with. You might enjoy just literally using a ballpoint pen – you can do some really interesting little doodles, just using a pen, something on your desk, looking out of the window perhaps, or something in the kitchen while you're waiting for a pan to boil.

2. Get yourself a basic small paint box. You don't have to spend a fortune first. If you then begin to realize you're enjoying it then you can trade up. And a few good brushes are useful – cheap ones often tend to moult. I do think a good sketchbook, one with a spiral bone to help you turn the pages. Even a small A5 size one – that way you can still doodle away discretely without feeling too conspicuous.

3. Make it fun and enjoy colour. Colour is so important, in fact, mixing colours is really one of the basic things you need to know. How you make greens, browns and greys - all from using red, yellow and blue.