12 years at the top for artist who is just 18 years old
- Credit: Archant
Kieron Williamson, the Norfolk painter who took art world by storm aged six, is still creating masterpieces
When Kieron Williamson picked up a paintbrush at the age of six little did he know that 12 years later, when most 18-year-olds were considering their career choices, he would have already forged out his name as one of Britain’s best-loved landscape painters. Kieron shot to fame in 2009 when, at the age of seven, his first exhibition of paintings sold out in 14 minutes, making a total of more than £18,000.
Spending up to nine hours a day in his studio or on location, Kieron is still dedicated to his artistic endeavours. “I love painting more than ever, that passion and drive hasn’t altered, I enjoy painting a subject for longer periods of time now, when I was younger I’d lose interest a lot quicker.
“My technique and style has changed so much, I feel like it evolves every year. I think this is just me changing as an artist really, I’m learning a lot from artists I look at and picking up on the techniques that they used. I think it’s just part of my development.”
Kieron is inspired by artists who took a realist approach to our region’s landscape and English rural life - among them sit Edward Seago, Alfred Munnings, John Arnesby Brown and Stanhope Forbes. “My main thought each year is to produce better paintings and then my second thought is to not lose my identity by doing something completely different but to keep painting fresh subject matter that’s still related to what I’m known for.
“I don’t really look back at my achievements, I love the journey of a painting, not necessarily the end result and when one painting is complete I’m always looking for the next influence and next subject. Perhaps I’ll spend more time looking back as I get older.”
Kieron has taken advantage of the time during lockdown to occupy his studio, painting works inspired by both Norfolk and Cornwall. Originally from Holt, Kieron now lives in the south-west but is still very much connected to Norfolk, travelling back to his house in the county every few months to paint.
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“Looking back I really enjoyed that time, I couldn’t really get out to paint so the one walk a day was spent gathering enough photos to last me until I could get out again.”
The work created during lockdown will form part of his annual exhibition slot at The Gallery in Holt in 2021. “There’ll be a lot of cattle and farm animals in next year’s show because that’s what I was surrounded with during lockdown. It’s had quite a big effect on how I’ve painted this year. I did really enjoy it – the peace and quiet, it was really relaxed. It was a good period of painting for me.”
When Kieron returns to Norfolk to paint the landscapes he grew up in, he always makes a beeline for his favourite spot – the vast landscape surrounding St Benet’s Abbey within the Broads. “The two counties are almost completely different but in a lot of ways they are quite similar. There’s so much subject matter in Cornwall, I find that when I am there I am never short of inspiration.
“I’m attracted to the English landscape, everywhere has got its own character. The light in Cornwall is purer, it’s quite different to Norfolk. I love both counties and I enjoy equally painting in Norfolk when I’m there – the big skies and the red bricks and the pantiles, there’s a lot more colour in Norfolk.”
Kieron, who was home-schooled to allow him time to paint, lives in Port Isaac with mum Michelle, dad Keith and sister Billie-Jo, together with their three dogs and three cats. Outside of painting he is a keen footballer, swimmer and cyclist and spends a lot of his spare time with girlfriend Elsie.
Michelle said: “Kieron’s been in the driving seat with regards to his artwork and exhibitions. We’re just so incredibly proud - surprised that we have survived the journey and that he’s continued to paint regardless. We thought it was going to be a one-minute wonder and he’s just proved us wrong. It’s something that he lives and breathes and I can’t ever see him detaching from that but he’s also the kind of person that will want to give other things a go.
“As long as he has a happy and balanced life that’s the main thing and that’s what we’ve always tried to encourage. And now he’s 18, seeing him stepping into adulthood and taking on adult responsibilities is lovely and refreshing.”
Kieron has made it part of his practice each year to support a different charity through his work and this year he has chosen East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.
To raise funds for the charity he has painted a scene of Morston on a 5ft tall fibreglass owl which will be auctioned off later this year. A drawing he made of the shop front of Bakers and Larners of Holt at the age of six has also been reproduced on a fundraising tea towel in aid of the charity.
“When we lived in Holt we used to live in a first floor flat with no garden so we’d go to Morston to get some air and exercise. It’s where we used to go as kids so it’s a personal, special place - to paint that on the owl is quite nice.”
And what next for the dedicated painter?
Owning a herd of cattle in the Cornish countryside is on the cards.
“I’ll probably start off with some calves and once I’ve got some experience I would like to have a few rare breeds. I love to paint them and I think they’re amazing animals.”
Later this year Kieron will release a collection of paintings for sale online, many of which will have been completed during lockdown with inspiration taken from farming life. “I’m pretty dedicated and I believe that if I put the hours in and I put all the hard work in then I should see the improvement or the results.
“I’m excited to see where my painting leads naturally, I don’t have any set goals other than just to keep improving – whatever that might be. I would like to thank everyone who has purchased my work and also all the people who have visited my exhibitions, some of them have travelled from abroad and long distances to make the effort, it’s this reason why I still choose to exhibit my work at The Gallery, Holt each year and why I think it’s important for me to attend each exhibition daily.”
‘An absolutely fabulous painter’
Holt gallery owner Adrian Hill has represented Kieron since he was seven years old and remembers the young artist’s debut. “We gave him some space at one of our mixed shows,” recalls Adrian. “I remember arriving at work and there was a queue of people at the gallery door waiting to get in; it was a surreal experience!
“By the time Michelle had dropped Kieron at school and got back to the gallery, all 16 paintings had sold.”
While Kieron’s initial success and popularity was founded on the youngster’s art being so advanced for somebody so young, Adrian says things have, inevitably, changed.
“As he’s matured, as his artwork has evolved. We have this wonderful situation now where he is an absolutely fabulous painter in his own right but his ability, skill and technique is still far in advance of somebody of his age.
“The paintings that he produces are capturing elements of social history. His portraiture in particular is capturing in an era of Norfolk farmers and Cornish fishermen that is fast disappearing. And the public relates to his work. Certainly there are artists out there that just capture the hearts through the imagination of the public and Kieran is one of them.”
Having seen so many of Kieron’s painting pass through his gallery, it is a challenge for Adrian to pick a favourite but Kieron’s recent self-portrait, done when he was 17, does stand out.
“That was a really mature in a piece of work; it’s always interesting when the painter paints themselves because it’s a painting of you and how you perceive yourself and how you view yourself. I was particularly impressed with that painting,” says Adrian.
This month The Gallery will be releasing, online, Kieron’s winter collection before a full solo show in July next year.