A catering assistant at a care home has been hailed a budding Picasso after creating a “fantastic” portrait of his late grandad who was one of their much loved residents.
Jack Skinner’s captivating artworks have touched the hearts of residents and staff at Pendine Park’s Hillbury Care Home in Wrexham who say they’re blown away by his incredible artistic talent.
His skill was unknown to co-workers until Jack set to work on the portrait of his beloved grandfather, Frank Thomas, who died, aged 78, on December 22.
The stunning result surprised and inspired them and he’s now been dubbed the “Pendine Picasso”.
Jack, 24, wanted to create the lasting memento after his beloved grandad’s health started to seriously deteriorate.
He said: “I realised he may not have long left with us and I wanted to do a portrait of him for my grandmother so she would always have it near her.”
The resulting pastel likeness of her husband now occupies pride of place on the wall in the home of Jack’s grandmother, Anne Thomas, of Wrexham.
After some years’ service in the Army, Frank worked at JCB and Firestone factories in Wrexham before retirement. In later life he was diagnosed with dementia.
Hillbury manager Cindy Clutton said the home now has a set of coasters with Jack’s portrait of Frank on one side and on the other side there is a photograph of Frank in younger years.
She said: “When you look at the photo of Frank as a young man it is just amazing. Jack is the spitting image of him. They are like peas in a pod.”
Cindy was so impressed with Jack’s art that she asked him if he could draw an image of an adored family pet which had recently passed away.
The gentle border collie called Meg belonged to Cindy’s brother, Simon Harden.
She said: “We all loved Meg, she was a beautiful dog, part of the family. Simon had her for 12 years and sorely misses her. I thought if Jack could do a drawing of her it would be a beautiful way for Simon to treasure her memory.
“I emailed Jack a favourite photograph of Meg to work from. I knew he was a good artist but I never imagined how fantastic the resulting artwork would be. Jack has absolutely captured Meg’s character and facial expression. It’s brilliant. It brought tears to our eyes.”
When he was asked to do the picture of Meg, it was the first time Jack had been asked to tackle any dog as his artistic subject matter let alone such a cherished pet. But he is always keen to stretch his creative talents and experiment with new media.
He said: “It was quite a challenge and I wanted to get it right, to do Meg justice. It evoked mixed feelings for me really. I relished the new challenge but I’m a bit of a perfectionist and wasn’t happy with some of my early drawings. I particularly wanted to get the affection in her eyes right. Then the more I focused it sort of came together. I was so relieved that Simon and the family are pleased with the result and it’s satisfying to have the study of Meg in my portfolio.”
It took Jack about eight hours each to complete the portraits of his grandfather and of Meg. But some works take longer, and stretch over several days, depending on which medium he is using.
Over the years he has worked with a large range from pens and pastels to acrylics, mixed media and digital media.
Jack grew up in Bangor-on-Dee and has always loved art. He is the first in his family to study it seriously though he said his mum, Debra, dabbled a bit in her younger years.
He said: “I think I might have inherited some of my creativity from her.”
After attending The Maelor School, Penley, Wrexham, he went on to the University of West England at Bristol where he graduated in illustration.
He returned home to Wrexham after university and was grateful to be recruited as a catering assistant at Hillbury.
He said: “I feel quite at home here, especially because it was where grandad was living. It’s nice to be around people who knew and loved him. I enjoy the work and it is only five minutes away from my flat in Wrexham. It’s great to have a steady job while I am finding my feet and considering future options in the world of art.”
His future career dream is to become a professional illustrator.
He said: “I’d love to one day be based in a city entrenched in art like Edinburgh or Liverpool, and to illustrate books, posters or maybe retail products. It would be great to have one of my designs on a best-selling product.”
When not working at Hillbury Jack keeps himself busy extending his art portfolio in the hope of producing enough works to eventually exhibit.
His more unusual works include a skateboard handprinted with a pop art style design. He has also produced dancing figures and abstract interpretations some of which are created in a magical mix of so many different media that he cannot remember how they started.
He said: “I just love experimentation when it comes to art. I like to try different subjects and varied techniques. It is a constant learning curve for me.”
Last autumn he joined in the annual Inktober challenge on Instagram in which people are encouraged to improve their inking skills and develop positive drawing habits by creating a different image on each day of the month.
He completed the challenge on a spiral bound sketch book with a new image on each page.
He said: “It was a book of tan coloured paper and so each drawing had an autumnal coloured background which seemed to work well. It inspired me to develop the idea further and so when I did grandad’s portrait I did it on paper of the same tan colour, which I think has given the portrait extra depth.”
Jack has set up a virtual exhibition where images of many of his artworks are posted for public viewing and including a link for people to buy copies of his art or to inquire about commissions.
It can be accessed via his dedicated instagram account @currently_jack.
Cindy said: “We’re thrilled Jack’s working with us. He’s a lovely personality and a huge talent with a great future ahead of him. We all wish him well in achieving his artistic goals.”