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It would be fascinating to paint Donald Trump, says Belfast artist who portrayed Queen

By Claire McNeilly

He has already painted the world's most famous woman, and now his brush is pointing at its most controversial man.

Internationally renowned Belfast artist Colin Davidson has revealed that, although he never actively pursues commissions, he would love Donald Trump to be his next muse.

Indeed, having just unveiled a new portrait of the Queen to widespread acclaim, the 48-year-old's careful gaze has turned towards the colourful new President-elect of the United States.

"I think that he would be a fascinating human being to meet and study," he said.

"It doesn't matter if he's the President or what people think, or if he's a divisive character or not, although he unquestionably is. But as a human being, he would be fascinating."

Davidson - who would love to paint Van Morrison too - also revealed that he had switched from real royalty to pop royalty by recently painting Ed Sheeran.

And he admitted that he "wasn't 100% happy" with his portrait of the Queen, although it was the best he could possibly achieve.

"It wasn't easy, trying to trap something of the spirit of her in the painting itself," he said.

"I can't say that I'm 100% happy with it, but I never am with my paintings. It was unquestionably, however, the best that I could do - I wouldn't have released it otherwise."

The father-of-two, from Crawfordsburn, first met Her Majesty in June 2012 when he was asked to display five of his portraits for the royal visit to the Lyric Theatre in south Belfast.

It was an event hosted by Co-operation Ireland - of which the Queen and the Irish President are joint patrons - and he was there when the Queen and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness shook hands.

Then, last year, the body that facilitated the historic handshake commissioned Colin to produce the 4ft x 5ft canvas that shows Her Majesty wearing a turquoise Karl Ludwig dress, with a hint of a smile on her face.

It was the end product of a one-to-one 90-minute sitting in the Yellow Drawing Room in Buckingham Palace "on a lovely May morning" followed by more than four months of fine-tuning.

"The changing of the guard was going on, and the Queen remarked that it was very appropriate that the Irish Guards were playing in the background," he said.

"She was incredibly gracious. I felt very welcome in her home and I felt she really wanted to put me at ease."

During a subsequent tour of the palace, Colin said he was struck by the view from the balcony in the central drawing room, where so many historic episodes have played out.

He was also charmed by the Duke of Edinburgh, who he described as "engaging and witty" and "extremely supportive of the Queen".

Despite having painted significant public figures, including actors Liam Neeson and Brad Pitt, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, Davidson said the Queen was in a different league.

"There were three things I had to bear in mind with that painting," he added.

"The first was that it was commissioned by Co-operation Ireland. As an artist, I have to consider the stature and standing of the person I'm painting and it doesn't get any more important than the Queen. Another thing was that this is an Irish painting of the Queen, and people will be looking at it as an Irish man's interpretation of the Queen, so there is that responsibility.

"And then there's the responsibility of being honest to your own craft and true to yourself as an artist and trying not to compromise that."

Ever the perfectionist, Davidson said he was not truly happy with the end product.

"I can never ever say that I'm 100% happy with any of my paintings," he added. "That's the bit that drives me on to the next piece. I think if I was ever 100% happy with anything I would stop."

Colin's wife, Pauline (49), and their daughters, Emma (19) and Sophie (16), were invited to the unveiling of the painting on November 8, where they met the Queen and Prince Phillip.

The girls also have their famous father to thank for an introduction to 25-year-old English singer-songwriter superstar Ed Sheeran after one of his recent concerts.

"I've been working on a portrait of Ed Sheeran," Colin said. "He sat for me in his house last year and he'll be seeing the painting soon. He's such a down-to-earth, engaging, very gifted, driven guy. And a dream to paint because of the red hair. He has such a good look."

And who knows what Davidson's future holds?

"I would love to get a chance to paint Van Morrison (left) at this stage of his career," he said.

"But a lot of the time, the career of the artist is not quite knowing what's next."

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