Artist Eric Jackson’s irreverent take on Cheshire

Artist, Eric Jackson in his studio

Artist, Eric Jackson in his studio - Credit: Archant

Lockdown has given artist Eric Jackson more time to paint – and new inspiration for his irreverent illustrations of people and places in the North West

Marple poster (c) Eric Jackson

Marple poster (c) Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant

Back in the day, Eric Jackson’s journalism tutor told the aspiring cub reporter he treated life with too much levity. That ingrained Mancunian sense of humour alluded to, stood him in good stead during his 36 years in the newspaper business, and it’s proving an inspiration today, in the age of Covid-19, at the age of 63, and in his late-blooming second career as an artist.

“I took it as a compliment,” says the former Manchester Evening News arts editor, TV critic and travel editor. He’s also used it to invigorate his collection of modern-retro posters and prints illustrating the quirks and peculiarities of his beloved home city, and of Cheshire, whose towns, people and persona are ripe for the Jackson treatment. His print of Prestbury (the village so beloved of Premiership footballers), for example, shows a 1950s schoolboy in his football kit, holding hands with his gym-slipped sweetheart and telling her: “We’ll never afford to live here when we grow up because footballers earn nowt.”

Eric, born in Burnage and now living in Cale Green, Stockport, with his wife Jane, studied at art school before becoming a reporter. He returned to his first love of painting after retiring from his career in journalism, which included university lecturing. “Two things led to me picking up my artwork: I had foot operations and was confined to the house for over three months, which gave me time to paint again. And I saw the Grayson Perry tapestry exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool; it almost moved me to tears and I vowed there and then to take up my brushes,” he says.

Eric sells his posters, print, aluminium pictures, mugs and greetings cards through his website, exhibitions, and at markets including Macclesfield, Knutsford, Urmston, Altrincham, Levenshulme, Stockport and the Northern Quarter in Manchester. His work is being shown at the Produce Hall in Stockport and has been showcased on the walls of the Red Willow bar in Macclesfield.

Testing Positive (c) Eric Jackson

Testing Positive (c) Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant

Now lockdown has given the father-of-two more time to paint, as well as the chance to exploit that characteristic levity and irreverence. An example is his Tested Positive poster: “Since the coronavirus crisis started, and the cancellation of the markets and the closure of the shops (now reopening) where I sell, I have had a lot more think time, hence doing six new posters in four months – prolific by my standards.

“While it’s never felt as though I’m on a treadmill, I now feel much freer. Poorer, but freer… And while I’m as scared as the next person about what this is all going to boil down to, I feel that it’s more important than ever to try and have a laugh and look on the bright side. Which is why I did my ‘tested positive’ poster. At first glance it looks like a Covid warning, but in reality it’s nothing of the sort. It’s about that old north/south thing, and hopefully it will make people smile and take their thoughts away from doom and gloom.”

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Eric often gets his ideas from customers: “Usually it starts with someone persuading me at a market that ‘you must do our town/village/city.’ Once I’ve decided to do it, I spend a few hours wandering around the place in question, taking notes and pictures, looking for inspiration. After that it’s a question of messing around with various slogans and designs before deciding on a final picture, which is hand painted in acrylic. The typography is done in InDesign on the computer.

“My style reflects my love of poster art and my love for the region I live in. I may poke fun at places, but they mean a lot to me, especially around Manchester. The fun aspect came from my view that art, though absolutely vital, sometimes takes itself too seriously. I wanted to create a bit of joy in people’s lives.

Altrincham poster (c) Eric Jackson

Altrincham poster (c) Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant

“All my work hints at people’s aspirations and prejudices a bit too. With each of the pics, although they speak for themselves, I think it’s worth a caption summing up the sentiment you’re getting across.”

The artwork featuring on the cover of this month’s Cheshire Life, drawn to illustrate the magazine’s feature on adventures after lockdown, will be added to Eric’s collection. It shows Lymm Water Tower – a family-owned Airbnb for romantic breaks and family gatherings – and a trapeze artist, to represent the circus skills workshops run by aerial performance specialists Barnton Circus at the Life Church, Barnton, Northwich.

'Back in the Swing' cover art for Cheshire Life July 2020 issue (c) Eric Jackson

'Back in the Swing' cover art for Cheshire Life July 2020 issue (c) Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant

Artist, Eric Jackson in his studio

Artist, Eric Jackson in his studio - Credit: Archant

Photo: Eric Jackson

Photo: Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant

 Photo: Eric Jackson

Photo: Eric Jackson - Credit: Archant