A butcher who taught himself to paint using a beginner’s paint-by-numbers set has become one of the world’s leading marine artists – selling work for £40,000 a piece.
Gifted Richard Firth, 40, started work at a butchers aged 16 but was inspired to pick up a paintbrush after delivering a consignment of meat to an artist.
He started with basic paint-by-numbers kits but soon began selling his own work and was able to quit his day job.
Richard’s stunning seascapes are now sold in some of the most prestigious auction houses across the world, including Christies in New York.
He said today: ”I sometimes have to pinch myself that I’m no longer a butcher but a full-time artist.
”I’d start in the butcher’s shop at 7.30am every morning and after work I’d paint until two or three in the morning creating paintings that were good enough to sell.
”I enjoyed art at school but I ignored any talent I had and went to work as a butcher.
”But when I took up painting by numbers and then eventually sold my first original painting I knew I wanted to be an artist.
”Being a full-time artist has given me freedom so I can take time off to go sailing, which helps improve my paintings of boats.
”I feel very privileged but it’s been a hard slog to get to this point.”
Richard, a father-of-three from Hull, started as a Saturday boy in a butcher’s shop aged 13 and went full time when he left school at 16.
Then 15 years ago he delivered a package of meat to the studio of a customer who was a marine artist – and decided to have a go.
He bought a painting-by-numbers set of an angler fishing in a lake to see if he could create a watercolour.
The start-up kits present the black and white outline of a colourless painting, split into different numbered sections.
Each number corresponds to a colour of paint and the artist can fill in each section to bring the picture to life.
Richard discovered he had a real talent as an artist and began to create original paintings – which he sold to customers in the butcher’s shop for around £70.
After ten years creating paintings based on photographs of early 20th century yacht races, his pictures were in demand by art galleries all over the world.
He quit his life as a butcher and went to concentrate full time on his art.
Two years ago a painting of billionaires’ super yachts Vigilant and Valkyrie II racing off Newport Rhode Island in 1893 sold at Christies New York auction house for $18,750.
Now his paintings of sailing boats and racing yachts now sell for up to £40,000 a time and there is a waiting list for his stunning canvasses.
James Starkey, an agent in marine art, said: ”Richard’s is an amazing story.
”He has a real talent and is now among the world’s top two or three artists in his field.”
When he started painting yachts and boats, Richard had never been sailing but he has since taken up the sport to help him get accurate details of yachts under full sail.
On September 10 he will sail from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Cape Town, South Africa, in the Clipper Round the World race.
The 3,700-mile journey, as a member of a ten-man crew on the 60-foot yacht Gold Coast, will take around three weeks to cross the South Atlantic.