Belfast Telegraph

Watch: This stunning William Dunlop portrait will help raise funds for road racer's widow

By Claire McNeilly

It's sure to become a treasured memento of a much lamented sporting hero - a new pencil portrait of the late William Dunlop.

And every purchase of the limited edition print will benefit the tragic road racer's pregnant partner Janine Brolly, who is already mum to William's two-year-old daughter Ella.

Pre-orders of the stunning A4 artwork by 'Billy the Artist' (real name David Bell) will be taken up until September 9, and even at £25 a time there's likely to be no shortage of takers.

William (32) was killed during practice for the Skerries 100 road races in Co Dublin on July 7.

It was the latest tragedy to befall the legendary Dunlop road racing dynasty, following the deaths of William's uncle Joey and father Robert, both of whom died doing what made the Armoy brothers world famous.

William, whose younger brother Michael is understood to be considering his future in the thrilling but dangerous sport, had been making his return to competition, having pulled out of this year's Isle of Man TT to be with Janine, who will receive a royalty from each print sale.

Full-time artist Billy (47), who is renowned for his depictions of the road racing scene, said the poignant portrait of William was completed over a period of three days.

"I get the outline down first, and then I start with his eyes, nose and mouth and then I work from there," he explained.

"There's no formula that I copy each time other than I pick up a pencil and away we go. That's about the size of it. I just get on with it."

His website, billyart.co.uk, offers a link to a time lapse video so people can watch the drawing take shape, from the very first pencil line to the finish. "I put the time lapses up so that people can see the art actually being produced," he said.

"Janine is getting the original pencil drawing. I've taken that to the framers. The value of it is around £700 for the amount of work that's in it. I'm sending that over to Janine because it's William and it's obviously horrible what's happened.

"Then I get the prints reproduced as a Giclee fine art print so that it's accessible to as many people as possible at an affordable price."

For the artist, the passion for his work stems from a boyhood love of road racing.

"I loved bikes and I enjoyed following the road racing scene for my own personal pleasure," said Billy, who is married to classical music tutor Sharon (48) with whom he has three children, twins Peter and Hannah (24) and John (22). "I've got a Bonneville (motorcycle) but I don't compete. I stick to what I'm good at with drawing and painting."

The Staffordshire-based artist has been connected to the legendary Dunlop family for many years, having first been contacted to paint Joey by his widow Linda's friend. "That's how I ended up doing the art of Joey and there's copies of the art up in Joey's Bar," he said. "When the tragedy happened with William I was already planning on doing a piece of art on him because I haven't done William for a few years now and everyone was asking me to do one at that obviously sad and difficult time."

It wasn't until late last Sunday that the family got back to Billy with the go-ahead. Like Linda, Janine will get a royalty of £5 for each print sold, while Billy covers all the production costs, including postage and packaging.

"Because this was such an unfortunate set of circumstances, the print is available for pre-order up until September 9 and that will determine the edition," he explained.

"At the moment, it's between 150 and 200. Joey Dunlop's pictures, they tend to be an edition of 300-350. The one that I've done of Joey of his very last TT win, that's an 850-edition, so it just depends on what people want.

"It's literally down to the people out there who will determine the size of the edition by the pre-orders by September 9."

Billy revealed that he once met William, then aged 27, at Belfast Motorcycle show in 2012, when he brought his youngest son John to the Ulster Grand Prix.

"He was a quiet, lovely, lovely gentleman," Billy recalled. "I was there with my art and William saw that. It was nice to chat with him."

But Billy admitted William's late father Robert is one of the road racers he hasn't yet painted - but he has plans to do so.

"Robert is the person who I've not done yet. I've done Michael, William and Joey. I have an incredible to-do list as you can imagine. There's more than 20 riders on this year's list. Robert will be on the list for next year. People keep asking for specifics and there's a beautiful image of Robert and Joey together coming round a roundabout."

The A4 prints cost £25 including UK postage and packaging and £35 for international orders.

Belfast Telegraph

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