"I think anyone can be a good portrait artist, but I think it takes a lot to show real personality and the soul of a person through their pieces."
A teenager who took up painting during the lockdown is proving to be one to watch out for in the field of fine arts. Fourteen-year-old Makenzy Beard from Swansea, Wales, started painting on canvasses in her garden shed when schools closed in March 2020. "There was an old rolled-up carpet, bits of driftwood, parts of an old boat," the teen told Daily Mail. "It was dark, dusty, no electrics or anything, so when I was working in here in the winter, I'd have to use the light from my mobile phone." However, what came out of the dingy shed was a breathtaking portrait of her neighbor, Gower farmer, John Tucker, which went on display at a prestigious art gallery in London.
Speaking to BBC about how she discovered her hidden talent, Makenzy said: "I had some free time on my hands and my mum used to love to paint so we had paints and canvasses and brushes. I thought 'why not give it a try' and it escalated from there. I've always loved creative things but up until that point that was my first time painting portraits." She started off by attempting to recreate a few photographs she found on Pinterest before moving on to a portrait of her neighbor.
"John has an amazing face. It's very kind, like him, and it has character," Makenzy said. "It was actually my mum's idea I should ask him. She was driving past him in the field one day, and the light was amazing, so we went to ask him if I could take his picture and paint him." The teen estimates it took her about 20 hours to complete the portrait of John during a three-week period. "I was very busy at the time I decided to do this one, so I was taking five minutes before school, an hour after school before sport. It was all broken down, I never spent one long extended period of time on it," she said.
"John is a wonderful person and has a really lovely, kind, and friendly demeanor. I thought, 'he's local and goes about his business every day and he'd be a wonderful person to paint.' I used a photograph because he's far too busy to be sitting down for hours," Makenzy added. So how did Tucker react when he saw his portrait in person? "I didn't expect to see what I did see in the end. It's absolutely brilliant. It's like a photograph," he said. "I was standing on the yard at the time bringing some hay nets down and she just stopped me and asked me if she could take a photograph and that was it. My family says it's exactly like me. For her age, she's a very talented young lady."
A photograph of the portrait went viral on social media after it was posted by her school's Twitter account. "It's a bit overwhelming to be honest because I've never been someone who has had much contact with social media," said Makenzy. "But seeing people from all over the world commenting on it and talking about the light, the tones, and the texture is just really wonderful for me." After Makenzy's art teacher entered her farmer portrait for the Royal Academy's Young Artists' Summer Show, a national competition open to amateur artists aged between five and 19, it was selected for exhibition in July and at the Royal Academy of Arts in August.
Art enthusiasts in the Middle East, the United States, and the UK have since expressed interest in the teen's work. According to Blackwater Gallery in Cardiff Bay, three of Makenzy's pieces have already been sold with one buyer offering £10,000 (approximately $13,785). Speaking to BBC, Director of Blackwater Gallery, Kimberley Lewis, said: "Anyone can be a good portrait artist, but I think it takes a lot to show real personality and the soul of a person through their pieces and I think for someone so young, Makenzy does this brilliantly."
As of now, the Bishopston Comprehensive student says she is keeping all her options open for the future. "I think it's convinced me even more that now I'm doing a bit of everything that I want it to stay that way. I don't think I want to be an artist as a job but I want to have this on the side," Makenzy said. "I think it's quite nice to have a balance between art and academic stuff. I also want to travel and play sport."