Picton Castle artist's 'privilege' at painting Welsh war veteran

Western Telegraph: GREAT BRITONS: Nicky Phillips with the unfinished portrait of Simon Weston in her studio in London.
PICTURE: Julian Calder. (5097946) GREAT BRITONS: Nicky Phillips with the unfinished portrait of Simon Weston in her studio in London. PICTURE: Julian Calder. (5097946)

AN ARTIST with close links to Pembrokeshire has said she feels privileged to have been commissioned to paint Falklands war veteran Simon Weston.

Forty-nine-year-old Nicky Philipps was chosen to paint the Welsh icon as part of a project by the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and the BBC.

The portrait, which now hangs in the gallery, will also feature in a BBC documentary about Mr Weston’s life, due to be aired this Sunday (April 13).

Mr Weston, who joined the Welsh Guards at the age of 16, suffered 46 per cent burns to his body and face when the Sir Galahad came under fire during the Falklands War in 1982.

Nicky, who has previously painted Her Majesty The Queen and Princes William and Harry, will also feature in the show.

She said she was initially reluctant to be filmed painting.

“I felt as if big brother was watching me initially, but I quickly forgot about it. Simon helped me with that, because of course he is used to it,” she said.

The pair shared seven ‘sittings’ and the artist also joined Mr Weston and his family for a weekend.

Talking about the process of painting, Nicky said: “Simon’s such an interesting guy.”

“He has a lot to say, he never stops talking, he made it very easy.

“If you get someone who sits there like a lemon it doesn’t work,” she said.

She said working with Mr Weston made her appreciate what a ‘relentlessly optimistic and very driven’ man he is.

“He discovered after going to hell and back – he went through physical and mental hell - that he was in a position to do things,” she said, adding that his charity work was “phenomenal”.

“He has literally grabbed every opportunity; he really doesn’t rest on his laurels.”

Despite living in south Kent, Nicky spends much of the summer at her familial home of Picton Castle, where she is now a trustee.

She said the rolling hills, beautiful beaches and clear of air of Pembrokeshire make it a dream location for painters.

“It’s an absolutely endless source of inspiration,” she said.

The People’s Portrait, presented by Fiona Bruce, will air at 5.35pm on Sunday, April 13, on BBC1.

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