Belfast Telegraph

Artist Colin Davidson goes back to Belfast school where it all began

Davidson tells pupils at old school about famous works

By Allan Preston

Belfast artist Colin Davidson returned to Finaghy Primary School after nearly 40 years yesterday, sharing stories from his career that has seen him capture figures like the Queen, Seamus Heaney, Ed Sheeran and Brad Pitt on canvas.

Invited to speak by primary seven pupils Liliana Baban and Thomas McClelland, Mr Davidson got the chance to thank his first ever art teacher, Jay Mateer (80), who he credits for inspiring his career.

An exclusive artwork was also unveiled when his former primary five teacher Heather Currie presented him with a clay Beatrix Potter model he made for her when he was just eight.

Talking about some of his most famous portraits, he told pupils a chance encounter landed him one of his most well-known commissions.

After painting Dame Mary Peters, the former athlete brought her friends to see the finished portrait.

"The lesson is you don't know who you're going to meet, it was just chance. Who knew Mary Peters' best friend was Ed Sheeran's granny?"

He explained it was the person behind the celebrity that interested him most.

Recalling a 2012 sitting with film star Brad Pitt he said: "Looking through the fame I got to see the husband and the dad. That's what my work's all about."

In 2015, he said he spent time with an emotional Liam Neeson.

"His wife had just passed away a few years ago," he said.

"He was still terribly sad and the grief still showed on his face and that comes across in the painting."

In 2016, he visited Buckingham Palace for an official portrait of the Queen.

"She asked me what she should wear - if I asked her to wear her crown she would have," he said.

"But I just left it up to her and she wore a green dress.

"But that worked well as it was the first ever Irish portrait of the Queen."

When the moment came for the Queen to unveil the painting, he nervously asked: "Are you still speaking to me Ma'am?"

"Thankfully, she laughed and said, 'Of course I am'."

Belfast Telegraph

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