Hitchin artist who started painting at 41 exhibits in national gallery

The portrait of Alastair Campbell painted by Paul The portrait of Alastair Campbell painted by Paul

Tuesday, June 25, 2013
3:09 PM

A SELF-TAUGHT artist who only started painting in his 40s has seen his work exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery.

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Paul (right) with Alastair CampbellPaul (right) with Alastair Campbell

Paul Anthony Barker’s oil painting of former government spin doctor Alastair Campbell was featured at the gallery, after making it through to the prestigious BP Portrait Awards.

The Hitchin resident, who taught himself to paint, started up the art in 2007 at the age of 41 after falling in love with the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh during a visit there with wife Brenda.

In preparation for his latest piece Mr Barker, 47, spent time with Mr Campbell in Watford, making sketches and taking notes and photographs while the communications expert worked.

It took him about three months to paint the picture itself, which he squeezed in alongside his full-time job, after contacting Mr Campbell in November.

“I thought about entering the awards but wasn’t sure who to paint,” said the Bedford Road resident, who has named his work Alastair Campbell: All In The Mind.

“I was driving home from work and heard him (Alastair Campbell) on the radio talking about charity work. He does a lot of work for Mind and I thought it would be nice to paint someone like that.

“He’s got a reputation for being quite tough, but I knew there was a deeper side and I wanted to bring that out.”

Mr Barker, who says he would most like to paint President Barack Obama or Sir Alex Ferguson, aspires to paint full-time.

But prior to 2007 he had no idea about the talent he was hiding.

“I didn’t know I could paint like that,” he said.

“I love portraits more than anything else. I love when a painting comes alive and looks back at you.”

Mr Barker’s work went on display at the London gallery last week. The exhibition continues until September.

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