Gallery: Brantham artists’ painting of David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and John Lennon makes Winehouse exhibition at London West Bank Gallery
- Credit: PA
Success was almost instant for Amy Winehouse; the most talented British female singer of her generation whose rare artistry was ubiquitously celebrated.
But for 48-year-old insurance engineer Leigh Hammett, recognition has had to wait.
Not that the Brantham resident and amateur artist has ever sought fame and glory from a lifetime of sketching and painting. It has been a relaxing avocation in which he expresses his creativity.
Yet, his artwork has been a viewed by a new global audience in the nation’s capital after being chosen to feature in a contemporary art exhibition honouring the legacy of Winehouse at the London West Bank Gallery.
“It was quite an honour to think your artwork is good enough to feature in a London exhibition which is quite highbrow,” Mr Hammett admitted.
“I am a hobby artist and have never really done anything like that.”
His painting, which unites Winehouse with portraits of David Bowie and John Lennon, was displayed alongside work crafted by some of the country’s best street artists, such as the curiously named Scroobius Pip, and other established figures including Dita Von Teese and Chemical Brothers collaborator Kate Gibb.
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Winehouse, 27, was found dead at her home in London in 2011. Henry Hate – a friend of Winehouse who doubled as her tattooist – curated the gallery in aid of the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
He spotted Mr Hammett’s work through the intricacies of social media.
“I have my own Instagram account and Henry contacted me asking if I would be part of the exhibition,” explained Mr Hammett, who works under the name OilyBloke.
“I said it would be an honour. I love her music and have her Back to Back album. She is a very good subject.”
But it wasn’t his first interaction with the Winehouse family.
“I did a portrait painting of Amy’s mum earlier this year round her house,” he revealed. “She is a family friend and is a very nice person.”
He also contacts various celebrities on Twitter, asking them if they would like a portrait painting. If they agree, he meets them in London and hands over the finished piece.
Notable recipients include: Coronation Street actress Vicky Entwistle, former Wham singer Shirlie Holliman, singer Belinda Carlisle and model Jodie Marsh.
But he gets most of his praise at home, from wife Michelle, and children Luke, 13, and Olivia, nine.
The self-taught painter said: “I have been drawing all my life and painting for the last four years. It is something I have always been interested in. It is not about the money; it is about doing something you like.
“I paint for an hour a day and it is a nice release. Nothing is ever rushed; it is all about enjoying it.”