Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Welcome to 2012! After a relaxing holiday season, I am ready to get back into the studio and put in some serious hours, I feel refreshed and ready for it.

I've written plenty about my experience at the BP Portrait Award 2010, but this latest story puts the icing on the whole thing. Shortly after my painting was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, I received a letter from a little girl named Holly. She lives in England, and loved my painting so much, that she wanted to send me her pocket money in hopes that she could acquire some of my art work.

Her father also emailed me, explaining that the family had lost mostly all of their belongings in a house fire, that they were staying with family and things were pretty grim. If I would only send a scribble, Holly would be overjoyed. I was touched by Holly's letter and her family's situation, so decided to draw a portrait of Holly, using the photo she sent me of herself as reference.

I thought the letter was so damn cute, I couldn't help but post it on facebook for my friends to see. The exhibition had a huge impact on my confidence and career, and the letter from Holly was yet another fantastic thing that came of it.

I was very surprised by the reaction. People were dismissive of the letter, trying to warn me that it might be a scam, that I was stupid to think that it was authentic. I hadn't even considered that it was a scam, and felt slightly crushed by the negative reaction from some close friends and family. I saw the letter as a beam of pure joy, that some little girl across the pond would be so moved by my work, that I may have an opportunity to give some of that happiness that I felt about it back to her.

My gut told me to ignore the negativity. I was going to create the portrait and send it to her. If it was a scam, then fine, but my intentions were true, and I was ready to take the chance. How often do we get an opportunity to truly touch someone with our work? Would someone actually fabricate a story like this? Maybe. In the age of email scams and identity theft, everyone is on high alert. But the chance at bringing happiness to Holly at a trying time in her life, far outweighed the slight chance that someone was trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

So I shipped it, asking that she wait for Christmas morning to open it. On December 29th I received an email from Holly's father, along with pictures of Holly opening the package!

Hello Shaun

what can I say! Holly opened your parcel on Christmas morning, she was so excited and couldn't believe you had done a portrait of her, and to tell the truth I was choked. She has been hawking the picture around showing anyone and everyone who she has seen.
Holly also wants to produce something to send to you, it is still in the planning stage at the moment!

As promised I took some photographs and have attached them.

Thanks again and if there's anything we can do for you just let us know.

Best wishes for the New Year, Tim.

I felt a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when I received these photos, a kinda "In your face!" moment to all who doubted. I feel extremely lucky in my life to be able to make a living as an artist, and like any profession, sometimes it can be tough. But with people like Holly on my side, I feel invincible. Cheers to Holly, and to all of those who told me to follow my instincts on this one. Happy New Year indeed!


  1. Wonderful, Shaun...thanks so much for posting. It's encouragement to everyone to take a chance and reach out if the opportunity presents. Best wishes in the year ahead.

  2. A bit "choked" myself. :)
    Great job!

  3. What a beautiful story, I'm speechless...
    I am also impressed by the amazing portrait, we can feel Holly's genuine openness and radiance.
    Thanks for sharing, this is truly inspiring.

  4. I must confess, I was thinking the same thing, we do get so jaded. I'm so glad that you thought the best of people. What a great story. Hope to hear more of what you are up to!

  5. just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all...

    Cheap Portrait Paintings – Gfmpainting

  6. Goodness that makes me cry...I such a sap for stories like this...wonderful...thanks for sharing...JRB