Weymouth painter’s tribute to Olympic sailing stars

THANKS: Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie with artist John Lee

THANKS: Olympic gold medalist Ben Ainslie with artist John Lee

First published in News by

PROLIFIC painting pensioner John Lee has now ‘amazed’ a total of seven British Olympic and Paralympic sailors by capturing action pictures of them on canvas.

The 83-year-old from Wyke Regis was inspired by Weymouth and Portland ’s role as host borough for the London 2012 sailing events to create oil paintings of Ben Ainslie , Bryony Shaw , Nick Dempsey , Paul Goodison and the Portland Sonar team of John Robertson , Hannah Stodel and Steve Thomas .

He also created a painting of Ben’s Dutch girlfriend Marit Bouwmeester, who claimed silver in the Laser Radial class on Weymouth’s waters.

All the paintings have now been passed on to their subjects, via the Dorset Echo and the British sailing team.

Weymouth’s double Olympic medallist Nick Dempsey visited the Swan pub in St Thomas Street to collect his painting, which had been displayed there.

The 32-year-old windsurfer said: “This is a really nice painting. It’s very nice someone has taken the time to do something like that. He’s obviously pretty talented – it’s amazing.

“It’s nice to see that people really did get involved and watch the Games.”

The Sonar keelboat Paralympic sailors were surprised and delighted by their painting and crewman Steve Thomas said they would be sending a thank you card.

Mr Lee said: “I’ve really enjoyed doing it. I’ve enjoyed the whole business really.

“All the reports on the Olympics and Paralympics have been very revealing and interesting as well.

“I’m glad the sailors liked their paintings, that’s all I really wanted.

“It shows some appreciation.

“I think they’re all pretty wonderful.”

Retired guesthouse owner Mr Lee, who was a commissioned artist for the lifeboat charity for several years, used to specialise in painting boat scenes and large flower pictures before being inspired to try an Olympic theme by Swan landlady Kim Newstead.

Mr Lee displays his work at the Swan pub and gives some of his proceeds to the Weymouth and Portland Friends of Chernobyl Children charity. The artist spent several weeks creating each of the Olympic and Paralympic-themed masterpieces, the first of which he presented to Ben Ainslie in Weymouth and was surprised to receive a signed T-shirt in return.

Mr Lee wore the Ainslie GBR 3 Collection T-shirt throughout the Olympics until his hero secured a fourth historic gold and joked that he was ‘relieved’ to finally be able to wash it.

Mr Lee added: “I wanted to show the sailors that people were interested in what’s happening in Weymouth and Portland and to show how local people have been rooting for them.

“To have the sailing competition here has been so wonderful for the country.”

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