Russell is oldest student at Yarmouth College at 86

He shares the same pride and satisfaction of all the students whose work has gone on show at Great Yarmouth College's first summer festival.

However, in the case of Russell Dinsdale there is one big difference – he was drawing and painting before many of the other students' parents, and in some cases even grandparents, were born.

At the age of 86, Russell, of St Nicholas Road, Yarmouth, is indisputably the college's oldest learner, and art lecturer Dave Dibb is eager to attest he is also one of the most keen.

Having clocked up dozens of college courses over the decades, including 24 evening Futures courses during the past eight years alone, the retired painter and decorater is still eager to learn new skills and has already begun thinking about the autumn term.

Russell, whose acrylic works in the end-of-year library showcase include portraits and a study of flowers, said: 'Art has always been a passion of mine since I was a little boy.

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'I remember it was my dad's party piece getting me to draw Mickey Mouse in 1930.'

He remembers studying in the grand setting of Yarmouth's old art college in Trafalgar Road while he was still at the town's Priory School where he was recognised as 'one of the brightest at drawing'.

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During the war, art had to take a back seat when he served in the Royal Navy and was on the craft that transported the first Sherman tanks to Omaha Beach during the Normandy landings.

Russell, who met the Norwich-born artist Edward Seago several times through his long-time association with the Great Yarmouth Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, said: 'I started evening classes almost straight after the war and have carried on doing them all my life. Art is such a wonderful thing. There is no limit to what you can paint.'

Over the years, the divorced father-of-two has even experimented with photography and had a book of black and white portraits focusing on Cobholm published in the 1990s.

During his working life, art was a weekend hobby after he had finished painting people's walls and ceilings during the week.

Now he has more time for his first love, but confesses that he still needs the stimulation of his three-hour Wednesday night art classes.

Describing Russell as an 'inspiration', part-time art lecturer Mr Dibb said: 'There is a very good social group; students learn off each other and appreciate a little help and advice from someone as experienced as Russell.'

Although Russell was the oldest student, there was always an impressive spread of ages on the Futures courses from people in their 20s to others in their 70s.

'You are never too old to learn something new. It is only in the past seven years that Russell has developed his watercolour painting,' he said.

'I think there are a lot of people out there on their own who could do with joining something like this that would open up their lives again.'

Russell is already looking to his next eight-week course and said: 'I will carry on as long as my legs carry me.'

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