Artist Keiron's rare talent - at just seven
Young Norfolk art sensation Kieron Williamson hit the headlines across the world last year when he held his first exhibition in Holt. Abigail Saltmarsh caught up with the seven year-old and his family as he prepares for his second major showCatch Kieron Williamson out of school and you are likely to find him kicking a ball around in the park or walking out on the marshes with his father Keith.
Young Norfolk art sensation Kieron Williamson hit the headlines across the world last year when he held his first exhibition in Holt. Abigail Saltmarsh caught up with the seven year-old and his family as he prepares for his second major show
Catch Kieron Williamson out of school and you are likely to find him kicking a ball around in the park or walking out on the marshes with his father Keith.
Like any other seven year-old, Kieron is passionate about football and loves a trip to the beach - and like many others he also enjoys spending time painting at the kitchen table.
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Two years ago, however, the little boy from Holt's life began to take a somewhat unusual turn.
After creating the sorts of drawings and paintings you would find stuck to most family fridges in the county, he began to produce pictures that have been likened to those by the great masters.
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'We are used to it now but in many ways it is still hard to believe,' said Keith.
'But Kieron has always been someone who has been a fast learner and had passions about certain things - dinosaurs, cars and tanks, train sets - it was just that this one was completely unexpected.'
The family, who have lived in their current home for eight years, love Norfolk life. Kieron's mother, Michelle, is a nutritional therapist while Keith, a former builder, is now a self-employed art dealer following an accident.
'I do love Norfolk art - Jack Cox's work and Hugh Brandon-Cox - so Kieron has grown up with it,' said Keith.
'We also love the Norfolk landscape and Kieron has always enjoyed being out on the beach and in the mud for hours.'
Michelle added: 'We are the kind of people who do a lot and are always out. But there isn't an artist in the family - nobody else is artistic at all.'
It was in May 2008 that Kieron's journey into the art world really began. The family were on holiday in Cornwall and he asked if he could have a sketch pad.
'He borrowed his sister Billie-Jo's pencils and began drawing the kinds of pictures you would expect any five year-old to draw,' said Keith. 'He then progressed on to watercolours.
'There was a port nearby and Kieron used to ask if we could go there to look at the boats. It was about two miles from the house but he was happy to walk there and back.
'One day we went and the next morning he came in to see us with the picture he had done. It was just mind-blowing. We were totally shocked because it was brilliant.'
The family continued their holiday in Devon, with Kieron rarely without the sketchbook in his hand, and his work just kept improving.
'If Kieron wants to get something just right he will keep working on it until he is happy with it. Recently he's been drawing cows, doing them over and over again until he feels they are right - then they keep appearing everywhere in his pictures!' said Keith.
The family returned to Norfolk and began to show his work to local experts, artists and galleries, to ask for feedback. Everyone was as taken aback as the Williamsons.
'We were told that Kieron had an ability to mix colours and everyone was very encouraging,' said Michelle.
'We started taking him to spend an hour a week with Carol Pennington at The Last Picture Show in Town, who has known him since he was little.'
Adrian Hill at Picturecraft Gallery was also very supportive and local artist Brian Ryder invited Kieron to attend his evening watercolour class for adults. Another local artist Tony Garner offered Kieron help with pastels.
'Kieron did enjoy it. He does not do anything he does not want to do and will only paint or draw if he feels like it,' said Michelle.
In 2009 it was decided that Kieron ought to start exhibiting his work. Carol offered to give him window space during the Holt Festival and then Picturecraft held a major exhibition.
The North Norfolk News broke the story about Kieron and then Anglia Television picked up on it.
'Suddenly everything went crazy. People from around the world were trying to buy Kieron's work - but it was hard to price it - how much do you sell a child's work for?
'Adrian decided the best thing was to offer them through sealed bid,' said Michelle.
All 19 of the paintings - Norfolk scenes - sold and suddenly Kieron was in great demand. Television stations and newspapers from around the world wanted to interview him and film him at work.
Keith and Michelle suddenly found themselves having to keep everyone grounded and to ensure family privacy while also allowing Kieron to enjoy some of the excitement and publicity.
'When you look at his work, you have to remember he is just a little boy,' said Keith. 'We didn't want him to lose his passion for it and we didn't want him to do anything he didn't want to do.
'We also wanted to ensure that Billie-Jo was part of everything. When we travel anywhere or take part in anything then she comes along as well.'
At school, said Michelle, Kieron is treated like any other member of the class. He works hard and enjoys playing football.
'When he makes Mother's Day cards and things like that they look like any other child's,' she said. 'Sometimes they might have one of his drawings inside but otherwise they don't stand out.'
Kieron has continued to remain passionate about his painting. At weekends he urges his parents to take him out so he can look at the scenery and then come home to paint it.
'I like painting pictures of Norfolk - sometimes I do people if it's a street scene but mostly they are landscapes,' said Kieron.
'My dad sometimes take photographs and then I paint from those. I like painting pictures of the countryside and sea.'
As Kieron's reputation grew and his work improved, the Williamsons began to wonder about his future.
'We did consider art school but so many artists have said it killed their passion,' said Keith. 'It maybe that Kieron ends up travelling and working with different artists in the future. He also says he wants to be a footballer - and he could be, he's very good.
'Painting and playing football are things that could work together.'
Michelle admitted they did consider how Kieron ought to be schooled while he was still young as well.
'We did talk about home schooling him but we decided we wanted him to be with children of his own age and to be able to relate to other people,' she said.
After much discussion, it was decided, however, that Kieron would mount another solo exhibition at Picturecraft from Friday, July 30, this summer.
More than 30 of his watercolours, largely scenes from Norfolk again, will be displayed and available for purchase.
'There was no pressure on Kieron to do a certain amount of painting - these are the pictures he has done within the time frame,' said Keith.
'But when I see them framed and hanging on the walls, I still sometimes find it hard to take in.'
With the proceeds of the sale of his paintings, Kieron likes to invest in other artists' work. Among his favourites is famed Norfolk artist Edward Seago.
Keith said: 'It's hard to see how things will work out in the future but even if Kieron changes his mind and decides he doesn't want to pursue his art any more, then at least he will have had this experience.
'If he does continue, he could become a great artist. But whatever happens, the most important thing is that he is enjoying himself.'
*Kieron Williamson's exhibition at Picturecraft, in Holt, opens at 9am on Friday, July 30. For more information call 01263 711040 or visit www.picturecraft.com