Christmas drives book sales like nothing else, there’s always a key tome that ends up in everyone’s stockings the country over, that’s piled high in Waterstone’s and sells like hotcakes.
For a while it was those survival guides, then it was the letters to newspapers that weren’t good enough to publish books, and now the Christmas stocking crown has passed to Charlie Mackesy.
In case you’re not a stocking-filler type and need an introduction, Charlie Mackesy is an artist and author whose heart warming illustrations have brought calm and solace to so many during the past months of lockdown.
An artist and author whose heart warming illustrations have brought calm and solace to so many...
So much so that we’ve cobbled together some of his most calming Instagram posts here that helped get us through the worst of 2020, and are continuing to inspire our start to 2021.
Born in 1963, Charlie Mackesy has been an illustrator for The Spectator and the Oxford University Press and despite no formal artistic training the artist has spent his career wielding a paintbrush, in print and at various galleries.
But 2019 saw him shoot to notoriety after his book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, sold over 1.4 million copies.
The book spent 55 weeks in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List top ten...
The book from the relatively obscure illustrator spent a straight 55 weeks in the Sunday Times Bestsellers List top ten, was selected as the Waterstone’s Book of the Year 2019 and was subsequently shortlisted for the British Book Awards in 2020.
Mackesy has created an alternative universe, inhabited by a boy, the mole, the fox and the horse.
A simple world of home truths, hope and gorgeous drawings, the tender illustrations were great in 2019; but who knew they were exactly what we would need in 2020?
The four unlikely friends’ conversations are perfectly pitched for a world in flux and speak clearly to us all at what has to be most of our most difficult moments.
There’s an innate wisdom, a wonderful tone and an implied hope that combine to be exactly what we need to hear at this very moment.
Which, of course, means that they’ve been shared online innumerable times throughout lockdown, it’s the social media equivalent of sending a hug (indeed often his images are of hugs themselves!)
And that’s how Mackesy scored his biggest break in the first place. The illustrator took to Instagram to express his creativity and after a picture drawn off the back of a conversation with his friend Bear Grylls went viral his account came to the attention of a publisher at Ebury, who suggested they work on a book together.
The pair collaborated and the result was one of the best selling publications of the past decade.
The book, freshly plucked from Christmas stockings everywhere, was sitting there on the nation’s collective coffee table, nightstand or on the floor in the downstairs loo just as the nation underwent the trauma of lockdown.
And we discovered it was the perfect antidote.
An image of the boy and the mole riding on the horse’s back in the ocean along with the subtitle ‘Everyone is a bit scared, said the horse, but we are less scared together’ suddenly takes a far deeper meaning when we’re all scared together with every news report that flashes up on our phone, or each time we contact vulnerable relatives.
Charlie Mackesy draws heavily on his personal faith as inspiration for his work. Having been a confirmed atheist he was moved to tears by the gospel song O Happy Day around 30 years ago.
Since then his work has been infused with Christian themes and undercurrents as the artist-turned-evangelist makes sense of the world through his art.
He’s even turned his hand to preaching, with a moving Christmas address combining his oratory and artistic skills.
His art has been lauded by many, from Oprah Winfrey to Carey Mulligan, Miranda Hart to Joan Collins. Not to mention by his showbiz mates, Richard Curtis and Bear Grylls.
Lauded by many, from Oprah Winfrey to Carey Mulligan, Miranda Hart to Joan Collins...
He’s even been promoted by the Duchess of Cornwall in her book club The Reading Room.
The artist, who openly struggles with depression and is as self effacing and British as you can get, is the ideal narrator for these difficult times.
Mackesy’s drawings and paintings have been a natural source or hope, finding themselves pinned up in school and hospital staff rooms, or shared by those experiencing the darkest moments of 2020 and beyond.
He often references his NHS friends, along with encouragements. The charcoal drawing of an angel tenderly kissing the pedestrian (right) is accompanied by the caption “Thought I’d post this drawing, especially for my tired nurse friends. I hope you’re doing ok today”
A constant source of wisdom, of context and hope, the artist has been there for us through lockdown.
If you’ve not bought his book, then do. Sadly we can’t browse bookshops like we normally do, but you can find it online and still support local booksellers by buying from Bookshop.org or contacting your favourite bookseller directly.
Or just subscribe to his Instagram account and leven your Insta feed with something wholesome and helpful.
Mackesy’s most frequent posts are of embraces with the words One Day. It’s a sentiment all of us share.