About the Artist
Kevin’s interest in motor racing began when he was just a young boy. As he grew older he became fascinated in not only the racing aspect of the sport, but increasingly about the cars, how they were designed, built, developed and then raced.
As Kevin was limited to following motorsport by only being able to watch it on TV, or read about it in magazines, he became frustrated by this and wanted to find a way to get closer to the action, to see where the cars were made and to meet the people involved. However this was never going to be easy to achieve as motorsport, especially Formula 1 (F1), is highly technical and the teams taking part are extremely secretive and guarded about their work. This makes it highly unlikely or impossible even, for normal fans like Kevin to be entrusted with access to their domains.
However undeterred, Kevin had an idea. He enjoyed painting and had inherited some talent for it from his Father. So the idea was for him to paint a picture of an F1 car, and offer the painting in exchange for a visit to one of the F1 Headquarters. Team Lotus was Kevin’s favourite team, so he sent a photograph of his first F1 car painting to Frank Dernie, who was the Technical Director, with the exchange offer. To Kevin’s amazement Frank accepted and Kevin went by train to Norfolk and spent a full and thoroughly enjoyable day with Frank at the Team Lotus Headquarters, seeing all aspects of the team’s work.
In light of his success with Team Lotus, Kevin’s next project was a painting of Alain Prost, driving a McLaren. He followed the same method, sending a photo of the painting to Ron Dennis, who was the CEO at McLaren. Once again, to Kevin’s astonishment, his offer was accepted and McLaren arranged for him to be flown down to London Heathrow Airport, where he was picked up and taken to their facility in Woking. After meeting Ron Dennis and presenting him with the painting, Kevin spent the day with Peter Stayner, their Marketing Director. Ayrton Senna, one of Kevin’s heroes, had been at the factory on the morning of Kevin’s visit, however unfortunately Kevin missed meeting him by 5 minutes, as Ayrton had left to go testing at Silverstone. Later that year Kevin was a guest of McLaren at the British Grand Prix.
Kevin’s next project was a painting for Nigel Mansell. After becoming F1 World Champion in 1992, driving for the Williams team (owned by Sir Frank Williams), Nigel had decided to leave F1 to participate in CART Indycar racing in the USA. Although the painting was finished, Kevin was in discussions with Nigel’s PA about getting the painting to him, but this was proving difficult, as Nigel was in the process of moving to the States.
At the time Kevin was working at Newcastle Airport and he got a call at home one day from a colleague to say that Frank Williams (Nigel’s ex-boss) had arrived at the airport. This was not as unusual as it sounds, as Frank was born in the north east in South Shields and his mother still lived there, so Frank would fly to Newcastle in his private jet to visit. Kevin therefore decided to take the Mansell painting into work the next day to ask the Captain of Frank’s aircraft if the painting could be transported back with them to Oxford, the home of the Williams team, where Kevin could then arrange for Nigel’s PA to pick it up.
The Captain apologised and said that he didn’t have the authority to make that decision, however as they were due to depart at 1.00pm the next day, if Kevin came back then, he could ask Frank himself. Kevin duly turned up with the painting to meet Frank and make the request, to which Frank replied by asking if he could have a look at it. On seeing it Frank said that he would be prepared to take the painting to Oxford, on condition that Kevin did a painting for him. Kevin was delighted with this agreement.
It took around 12 months for Frank’s painting to be finished, which was of Nigel Mansell driving the World Championship winning Williams FW14B and was entitled “Thunder Bird 5”.
Kevin was flown to Oxford in a private aircraft and presented Frank with his painting. Frank asked Kevin how much the painting cost, but Kevin said he had not thought about putting a price on it, he was happy enough to be rewarded with the factory visit. Frank asked Kevin to come back and see him at the end of the day with a price in mind. After another brilliant day, it was time to go home, so Kevin went to say goodbye to Frank. At this point Frank asked again if Kevin had made up his mind about a price for the painting. Kevin apologised and said he had forgotten all about that.
Three days later Kevin received a rather large cheque in the post from Frank, along with a photograph of Kevin’s painting, which had been hung in the Williams F1 Team boardroom.