Norfolk child art prodigy Kieron Williamson reflects on his ‘chosen path’ as he turns 16
- Credit: Archant
He was dubbed 'Mini Monet' when he first hit the headlines at the age of six, but, now nearly 16 and almost six feet tall, child art prodigy Kieron Williamson is looking to shake off the 'mini' moniker and carve a career as a 'grown up' artist. KAREN BETHELL spoke to him ahead of his latest exhibition and book launch.
Entitled My Chosen Path and illustrated with 120 paintings, drawings and sketches, Kieron's second book shows his progression from 'loose' landscape artist to more figurative painter, with recent subjects including idyllic scenes of Norfolk farmers working in the fields, Cornish fishermen mending their pots and Romany gypsies' roadside encampments.
'I hardly ever think about the Mini Monet name now,' he said. 'I think I'm stuck with it, but it really doesn't bother me.'
Helped by his home-school tutor, Kieron penned most of the book in Cornwall, where he spends weeks at a time painting with his parents, Keith and Michelle, and younger sister Billie-Jo.
'It's really an update from my last book in 2012, it's about what makes me tick,' he explained. 'It shows how much more diverse my work has become and, in a way, I wanted to do it to cap off my childhood.'
Since his first exhibition sold out for £14,000 in 2009, Kieron, who celebrates his sixteenth birthday in a few weeks time, has become a worldwide art phenomenon, with nearly 2,000 Twitter followers, a mailing list of more than 1800 and collectors of his work willing to queue for hours to get a first glimpse of his latest paintings.
While he now takes his fame in his stride, his first TV interview, at the age of eight, saw him have a last-minute change of heart when he was asked to paint live on the BBC's This Morning programme.
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'We got to the green room and Kieron said he didn't want to paint,' his dad explained. 'I told the producers, but then he looked out of the window and saw the boats on the Thames and, bingo, that was it.'
Kieron has since been interviewed on The One Show, met the Countess of Wessex and his footballing idols Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, has been asked to produce Christmas cards for the Royal Household Cavalry and painted 'live' at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.
He was also broadcasting legend Sir David Frost's youngest ever interviewee, and was last year the subject of a BBC documentary entitled Mini Monet Millionaire.
Often recognised while out painting 'en plein air', Kieron enjoys speaking to fans of his work and says he wants to encourage other young artists in the same way has been encouraged.
'People can be quite starstruck and will come up and ask to touch Kieron's hand,' explained Mr Williamson 'But he is surrounded by people who keep him level-headed and he's loveable, inspired and inspiring to other people – he's my best buddy and the ideal son.'
Despite the attention, Kieron says he doesn't feel he has been prevented from having a 'normal' childhood and puts his matter-of-fact attitude down to his 'amazing' parents, who handle the business side of things – organising framing and exhibitions and responding to the dozens of emails and messages he receives.
'I don't feel I have missed out one bit,' he said. 'It hardly ever interrupts my life and although being recognised is quite surreal, it doesn't bother me at all.'
Up at six every morning, Keiron, who 'lives and breathes' art, works in his studio at his home just outside North Walsham until lunchtime and, after a break to walk Norwich terriers Beau and Daisy – or to play football with friends - will often return to painting in the afternoon.
'Playing football is a nice balance as it takes my mind off painting,' he said. 'I go and run around and burn myself out, then I'm ready to go back to the studio again.'
When not working on a picture, he can be found cycling around the countryside on the lookout for a new subject, with his head in an art book, or watching TV shows including The Big Painting Challenge and Portrait Artist of the Year.
'I never get tired of painting,' he said. 'I do get frustrated when I don't feel I'm doing well, but then suddenly everything just falls into place.'
His dream is to buy some land, learn to ride and keep horses.
'I think if I wasn't a painter, I'd be a farmer, I love being out in the countryside and working with horses and cows definitely appeals to me,' he said.
Featuring 60 paintings, Kieron Williamson's latest exhibition runs at The Gallery, Picturecraft, Holt, from July 6-18. Opening times are Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm (11am-4pm Sunday). Kieron will be signing copies of his book, My Chosen Path, during exhibition hours. For more information, visit www.picturecraftgallery.com