Although he’s always ‘dabbled’ in paint, it wasn’t until he retired, that Leicestershire’s Kelvin Adams began to take his artistic pursuits to the next level – painting large, iconic portraits and proving that it’s never too late to plunge headfirst into a brand new challenge…
Over the past eight years, the 78-year- old has painted a wealth of famous faces in his bold, distinctive style, winning competitions and attracting attention from across the county – even from notable celebrities themselves.
In 2019, he won ‘Best in Show’ at the Visage Art Group Exhibition, held at Heather Village Hall. His winning piece, ‘Ballerina’, was chosen by none other than Stephen Graham – a local acting legend, who has starred in Hollywood films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’
In fact, Mr Graham was such a fan of Kelvin’s work, that he went on to buy the painting, alongside two more for his home in Ibstock.
“I congratulated him on his taste in art!” revealed Mr Adams, when asked how he responded to the star.
“I was quite flattered really. He’s a super bloke – a really nice character, and it was definitely a memorable moment when he picked my painting as the winner.
“Artists are like butterflies – we like flattery I think – we like to be appreciated, so that was really nice.”
“I never thought I’d produce something that someone else would admire – let alone want to buy and have in their home,” he added. “Painting is a hobby which has brought out some unexpected success. It’s a real joy.”
Last year, Kelvin enjoyed more artistic success, when his portrait of the late Prince Philip won the ‘People’s Choice Art Exhibition Prize’ in Market Harborough.
The striking piece drew flocks of admirers when it was shown at the event in June.
“I do enjoy working on a face that is lit well and shows signs of having endured a few summers,” he said of the subject matter.
“Although I’ve painted younger people, I generally enjoy older faces – those that look lived in and weathered – with lots of different nooks and crannies,” he added.
“It makes a face much more interesting I think, and I enjoy the challenge of that. I also like to paint people that I admire, and whilst I’m not a ‘royalist’ I had always appreciated what Prince Philip had contributed to the country and to the Royal family.”
Other notable veterans that Mr Adams has captured on canvas, include Sir Bobby Charlton, Captain Sir Tom Moore and Sir David Attenborough – the great animal broadcaster, who grew up right here in Leicester.
“You have to admire him. His longevity – what he’s achieved and what he continues to do is quite astounding,” said the artist.
“Bobby Charlton is another idol of mine. I’ve always been into football, and he was the best player I’ve ever seen. At one time I had two school boy trials for Leicester City and I thought ‘that’s me, I’m going to be a footballer.’ Nothing came of it of course…”
Instead, Kelvin Adams made his living as a newspaper artist for over 43 years, creating editorial and news graphics alongside the production of artwork for advertisements. He was involved with the publication of several limited-edition prints of his paintings in collaboration with the Leicester Mercury.
However, following his retirement, he began to really indulge his passion for painting – something which he carries out from his home studio in Ravenstone.
“I’ve dabbled in art ever since I was able to walk I suppose, but it wasn’t until I retired that I started doing portraits and spending some considerable time on it,” he said. “Before that, I used to do ‘pretty little watercolours’ – things like that… But someone bought me a box of paints as a retirement gift, and since then, it’s just taken on a life of its own really.
“It’s a hobby, but it’s overtaken my life now! I paint everyday and because I use oils, often I’ll have a few canvasses on the go at a time…”
As for his style, Kelvin says that he’s “not smitten by realism.” Instead, he enjoys a more impressionistic style of painting. His favourite artist is J. M. W. Turner.
“I much prefer to see evidence that a paint brush was used to apply the paint, maybe leaving marks that could be described as daubs. In short, I don’t want to end up with something that looks photographic,” he said.
“I suppose I strive to make my work look as though it is a tad slapdash, repainting and trying to obscure parts that look too polished.
“I try not to overthink it. I like to paint quite freely and enjoy the process – capturing the essence and spirit of the person. That’s the most important thing for me, and what I enjoy the most.”