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Callum prepares for national TV series

Created on 28/03/2018 @ 20:09
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A Llanidloes man is preparing to star on a main evening BBC series from this weekend.

Callum Stephen, 23, who was brought up and lived in Llanidloes, is a contestant on BBC One's The Big Painting Challenge this weekend.

He will appear with other contestants from across the UK in a range of art challenges.

Callum, a bricklayer who moved to France with his family last month, is self-taught.

Inspired by US-based Grammy Award-winning and official Disney fine artist Jim Warren, Callum had one of his own Disney paintings on a door shared on Warren’s Facebook page to tens of thousands of followers.

Painting Milky Bar and Skittles packets earned him praise from bosses at Nestle who could not believe his paintings were not photographs - sending him a box of full of chocolates in response after the company’s directors saw his work.

But when it comes to entering arts awards and competitions to gain recognition of his work, Callum is finding a lack of art qualifications has barred him from entering his works.

“I didn’t really enjoy art in school. It wasn’t until I went travelling at 19 in Australia and I saw a man painting and making good money that I thought ‘I’m going to try that’,” said Callum.

“I read a lot of books and watched YouTube and developed my skills.” That was two years ago and today his work on Disney characters and surrealism images are shared on social media not only by friends and family, but by artists such as Warren and others."

“I wanted something I could do to relax after building and I just got into it. Jim Warren was an inspiration and I sent him a photo of my painting on a door which he shared on Facebook, praising it. I had a lot of friend requests after that.”

Callum wakes up most days at 4am to work on his paintings at home where he lives with his parents who have converted part of the house into a studio.

But despite the praise and accolades he’s received so far early in his artistic career, he has attempted to enter some of his work into national competitions only to be told he cannot as he doesn’t have an arts qualification.

“I’d like to be able to enter the paintings into national and other competitions. But when I’ve enquired or tried to enter I’ve been asked what qualifications I have and then they say I cannot enter because I don’t have any - I’m self-taught,” he said.

In fact Warren says Callum should not worry about the “art authorities.” “Fifty years ago I began my career as an artist simply by the inspiration I received from artists of the time such as Dali, Warhol, Norman Rockwell, and many others. That inspiration, along with my dedication to make an impact in this world as an artist, was much more important to me than any training or art credentials by the ‘art authorities’,” he said.

“I was kicked out of art class in high school for not following instructions and choosing to do my own thing instead. I never went to school to study art, rather art became to me what I myself perceived art to be. And that is what I encourage for any aspiring artists. I am honored to be an inspiration to artists such as Callum, who with dedication alone can go as far as they choose to go.”

“I’m hoping I can make it my career. I’m enjoying it and I want to break into other areas such as photorealism art. I work long hours with the bricklaying and get up at 4am each morning to paint as well as when I get home after work. But I love it and cannot imagine doing anything else,” said Callum.

The Big Painting Challenge starts on BBC One at 6pm on Sunday.

Photo: Callum Stephen (Photo ©Owain Betts)

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