Erica Crompton

A man with a criminal record who turned his back on a life of crime thanks to the power of art has seen his blooming brilliant work in the frame for the first time as part of an Olympic-themed campaign.

Of reform, freelance artist Richard Queen tells theRecord: “It’s to do with all the projects I’m doing – I wouldn’t be able to pass my time and do things constructively and help others if it weren’t for all the courses and work I have on.”

And now he’s created three canvas paintings of home-grown sporting stars and local sports facilities which are now under the spotlight in the Perspective Gallery at Jubilee2 in Newcastle-Under-Lyme.

The local Borough Council commissioned the artwork, called “Local Hero”, to complement this year’s Newcastle in Bloom entry which focuses on the London 2012 Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to retain the small city title in Heart of England in Bloom for the sixth year.

Richard took inspiration from Jubilee2’s abstract window art to create a masterpiece of reigning under 18s world swimming champion Rachael Kelly. He also produced a painting of 800m runner Emma Jackson, who is from Newcastle, and a patriotic picture of the climbing wall at Jubilee2.

He held an outdoor painting session at Queen’s Gardens, Newcastle on 13 July as judges wound up their tour of gardens, parks and community projects.

The 35-year-old, from Bucknall in Stoke-on-Trent, has been in and out of prison since the age of 17 and credits the therapeutic effect of art with helping him to stay out of trouble for four and a half years. He now works on community art projects with vulnerable adults and substance users.

Richard said: “I’ve really enjoyed being involved in Newcastle in Bloom this year and got quite a lot out of it personally. I feel like I’ve accomplished something and it’s a way of giving something back.”
Rachael, who is from Ashley, said: “It’s a bit surreal but it’s fantastic to know that people in my home town support me.”

“It’s great to be associated with Newcastle in Bloom because the floral displays really do make a big difference and pull the community together.”

Cllr. Elsie Bates, Cabinet member for culture and leisure, added: “I’m delighted that Richard is involved in such an exciting campaign and would like to congratulate him on his fantastic achievement.

“The Heart of England judges were very impressed with his work so hopefully it might help to give us an edge.

“Community involvement is a very important part of Britain in Bloom and we’re lucky to have people jumping at the chance to be involved. We’ve also got a lot of sporting talent in the borough which is always good to celebrate.”

The results of Heart of England in Bloom will be announced on 13 September. Richard tells theRecord: “I’m excited to hear about the results. I also entered last year and was pleasantly surprised. I entered a 16 foot painting called Gloom to Bloom back then – which celebrated communities coming together. I won £30 vouchers for art materials. And Gloom to Bloom is still on display in Newcastle-Under-Lyme today – happy days!”

To commission or order original artwork by artist Richard Queen contact rmqueen@hotmail.co.uk or call 07901 255 469.

Taken from Issue 15

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