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It's the young at art: Winners of children's painting competition showcased

Art, breathtaking beauty and stunning images – all put together by young talent.

An exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Belfast is currently displaying the winning masterpieces from the 59th Texaco Children's Art Competition 2013.

The competition aims to be a testament to the enduring innocence of childhood and to the power and inventiveness of a child's imagination.

Showcasing the diverse and striking pieces from across the island, it's a dream come true for many of the 126 budding artists.

James O'Neill (18), from Portadown, was one of the thousands of entries put forward for judging.

His work, The Royal Fisherman, which he painted in a self-confessed rush, came second in the 16-18 year old category.

Now having the artwork hanging in the prestigious gallery is an honour for the student of Friends' School, Lisburn. "This is a pretty big step forward in my life, to have my name out there and of course for people to see what I can do," he said.

"Art is my hobby and has been a big part of life since I was young.

"My interest in animal history and nature can be expressed in this way, and I mostly concentrate on animals and plants."

James revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that although he is an award-winning painter, he hasn't even studied the subject since Year 10 at school.

"It's all a hobby and I sell pieces when I can," he said.

"I'm already working on next year's entry and I won't give too much away, but it will definitely be bigger and better than 2013's."

His passion for the arts shines through as he eagerly talks about his creative side.

"All being well I'll go on to study zoology at university. That doesn't mean I'm turning my back on art – I just want to be able to do it for me, to have it as a hobby without the pressure," he said.

James is just one of the annual 50,000 entries to submit a touch of creativity and a flare for the arts to the long-running, popular competition.

The judges, made of up six leading professionals in art, design and history, included the director of the National College of Art & Design, Dublin, Prof Declan McGonagle; director of the Highlanes Municipal Art Gallery, Drogheda, Aoife Ruane; and Colleen Watters from the Ulster Museum.

The exhibition of the 126 award-winning paintings runs until Sunday, January 5.

Belfast Telegraph