How one Big Issue vendor became a saint

Bournemouth-based artist Harriet Muller finds redemption in Big Issue vendor Mark Morgan during her search for the perfect Saint Jude

Saint Jude – the patron saint of hope and impossible causes, something many of us are most definitely familiar with. Bournemouth-based artist Harriet Muller was struggling to find the perfect model to pose for her portrait of the saint, which she was creating for the Sacred Heart Church in the seaside resort.

“I had been searching for a model for my painting of Saint Jude, but no one I had met had possessed the rare appearance of wisdom, kindness and a willingness to help others,” she said. “The success of this painting would be down to the qualities of the model sitting as the saint.”

All hope was not lost. Not for the first time, The Big Issue provided redemption. Muller found her saint in the form of popular Big Issue vendor Mark Morgan.

“Mark had always struck me as being very amiable but one day I was suddenly struck by the kindness expressed in his face every time he smiled.

“I was a bit nervous about asking him to be the face of Saint Jude but to my delight he said he was happy to be asked and I had to persuade him to accept remuneration. The painting is now up in the church and I’m very grateful to Mark,” she added.

Mark currently sells The Big Issue in Bournemouth Square – and is a bit of a painter himself. He is saving up for a van to help him set up a painting and decorating business with a friend.

“I wasn’t nervous about doing it,” Mark told us. “Since I started selling The Big Issue I’ve really come out of my shell and don’t mind speaking to people any more.

“I had to stand with a stack of magazines in one hand and holding a can of deodorant like a staff in the other.”

DID YOU KNOW…

There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

Saint Jude is often depicted holding a scroll (the Epistle of Jude found in the New Testament). The fiery flames of the lighthouse represent his steadfastness, as he guides the hopeless through the wind and rain.

“Every so often she’d come by with a picture of how it was looking. I’ve seen the final painting and I’m really happy with it.”

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Mark with his finished portrait

Mark was even spotted after his stint as a model: “I had one of my customers come up and ask if I was that Saint Jude after he’d seen it in the church.”

Mark isn’t the first vendor to be immortalised in art – as some of our vendors swapped the high street for the fields of Somerset this summer. At this year’s Glastonbury, our vendor Dave appeared as a portrait by artist Jim Woodall made up entirely of The Big Issue’s magazine covers.

Jim Woodall with his 'Dave The Big Issue Seller' installation

Bristol based vendor Jeff, made his foray into the art world when he was featured in a stencil piece by graffiti artist John D’oh.

You can view more of Harriet’s work harrietmuller.com.