IF you've ever browsed around or wandered past the Fan Cave art shop at Meadowhall, the chances are you've seen some of Jamie Wilkinson’s paintings. The Rotherham artist first featured on these pages back in 2014, when model Calum Best — the son of a certain famous sportsman — publicly hailed his talent, and has been building his profile ever since. Michael Upton caught up with him to talk celebrity meet-and-greets, honing his talent and how painting is his great escape.
1 It’s been a little while since we’ve featured you in the paper? What have you been up to, art wise?
I know, thanks for having me back! I recently hosted my very first solo exhibition in Sheffield, which I called 7. I displayed seven portraits of familiar faces for seven days. I chose the title as seven was the shirt number of George Best, so it was a thank you to his son Calum for originally discovering my artwork on Twitter a few years ago. I have also signed a contract with Redtooth memorabilia to produce exclusive pieces of artwork, so my work will be in charity auctions around the country and the Fan Cave at Meadowhall.
2 Have you altered or tweaked your technique over time? What materials are you mostly working with?
The way I put the paint down on the canvas I has improved.
My technique has evolved and grown as I have as an artist and I have become more confident
I mostly work with acrylic paint on a cotton stretched canvas but I also create artwork on my iPad.
3 How do you select who to draw or paint?
I produce mostly portraits of iconic faces. These are normally commissioned pieces and those I produce exclusively for the Fan Cave. Some are because I have an affinity for the subject — I enjoy challenging myself to get a likeness. I have also just branched out into painting dog portraits.
4 Tell us about some of your celebrity meet-and-greets and how it feels to have your subjects endorsing your work.
It has always been a hobby for me to paint so meeting celebrities has been a nice added bonus.
The first celebrity was Calum, who arranged to meet me to promote my work and get me noticed.
From meeting him, I was lucky enough to meet Sir Alex Ferguson who kindly invited me to join him for the evening at Old Trafford.
Meeting Sir Alex gave me a springing board to meet more celebrities. Jessica Ennis-Hill invited me to join her at a training session ahead of the Olympics. She was lovely and it was great to see her train.
I met Jack Whitehall in Manchester and have also been lucky enough to meet Alan Shearer, Howard Webb and more recently Chris Waddle.
Everyone I have ever met has always been really supportive and impressed with the work I have produced. It makes the hours spent on each piece of art worthwhile.
5 How long does a typical painting take to produce? Can you tell us a bit about the process? Do you have a dedicated space to work in?
Each piece is different but I aim to complete a painting from start to finish over two days. This usually involves me working for 12 hours straight, before adding details and finishing touches the following day.
This is currently all done in my kitchen, although one day I would like my own studio.
6 How are you working to improve as an artist?
I try and make every piece better than the last painting. I think it’s healthy to keep pushing yourself and keep improving. I like to experiment with different techniques and mediums and enjoy watching other artists online, as it gives me inspiration and is also very therapeutic.
7 The last time we spoke you were working as a lab technician — is this still the case and how does it fit alongside your art?
Yep, I am still a lab technician. I fit my art around my day job which makes me very busy, but I would eventually like to paint full time.
8 How did you develop your artistic talent to begin with? Who has passed on useful tips or otherwise inspired you?
I have always had the urge to draw. Art was one of my favourite subjects at school.
A friend asked me to paint her portrait, which was the first one I’d done — she loved it and still has it hanging in her house!
I then decided to practise using famous faces.
I get a lot of my inspiration from artists on social media, including Instagram, and have been inspired by Sheffield artist Pete McKee.
9 Who would be your dream subject for a painting and how would you ask them to pose?
David Beckham, as he is one of the most photographed faces in the world and instantly recognisable. I would like a natural action shot of him so I would probably ask him to take some free kicks while being photographed.
10 Is painting helping during the coronavirus lockdown?
Definitely — I have stocked up on a few canvasses to produce new paintings during lockdown.
It’s a great way of escaping what is going on in the world at the moment.
11 I manage to make a mess even when painting a wall. Have you had any mishaps? And do you have any tips for stopping the paint going where it shouldn’t be?
There have been plenty of times when I have smeared paint onto the canvas that I didn't want to be there. I work with acrylic as it dries quickly and allows me to paint back over mistakes. I also use masking tape — it’s good for stopping paint going on areas that it shouldn’t, and for creating a straight, neat edge.
12 Can anyone paint or do you have to have a natural talent? What is your advice to any would-be artists?
Anyone can paint! Pick up a brush, sponge or whatever and get creative!
There has to be some sort of natural ability to produce great art but people can learn with practice.