Some truly inspiring stories have come out of the coronavirus pandemic, none more so than Captain Tom Moore, a British Army veteran who completed 100 laps of his garden for his 100th birthday, raising over £30 million for the NHS. We sat down with artist Adam Salisbury, who painted this portrait of Captain Tom, to find out about his inspiration, process, and the reaction he’s received.
Firstly, tell us about your background
I’m from Blackpool. Blackpool born and bred. I’m 31 and have two sons, who are the inspiration for my artwork and the whole reason I got back into art again. I’ve always loved drawing and painting but having to write a 1000 word essay about my work didn’t click – I dropped out of art college and didn’t pick up a paintbrush or a pencil for five years. I’d been told I’d never achieve anything, that I was wasting my time, so I went into retail and became a supermarket manager. One day I painted my son’s room with dinosaurs and it got a couple of thousand shares on Facebook – people came up to me at work saying ‘I didn’t know you could draw!?’. I enjoyed taking people on a journey so I started taking videos, time lapses and things like that, and I’m now known around Blackpool for my murals. Then I landed on Tiktok and started getting my artwork all across the world. It’s not just the artwork that’s amazing, it’s the fact that it touches people’s hearts, the fact that I can bring the person along with my videos. I want to be an inspiration and a motivation to others – I come from a little seaside town and if I can turn my life around anybody can do it.
When we went into lockdown and I was having a bit of a bad time with anxiety, I saw Captain Tom on TV. Just like painting my son’s room, it sparked something and I thought, ‘I’m going to paint that’.
How did the portrait come about?
We went into lockdown, and I suffer with anxiety so it’s been a tough old time. Last year was the best year of my life, I did artwork for Disney and Sony Pictures and was featured in leading art magazines, Vice Magazine as well. I’d decided a tattoo apprenticeship in January and had been doing canvases on the side. I haven’t done a big canvas since I was in college really, but when we went into lockdown and I was having a bit of a bad time with anxiety, I saw Captain Tom on TV. Just like painting my son’s room, it sparked something and I thought, ‘I’m going to paint that’. I had a canvas left over, so I stayed up all night, spent two days on it just trying to get it down, a day to edit the video, then released it.
What has the reaction been like?
Pride of Britain shared it, that got about 1 million views, then Captain Tom messaged me and said he’d seen it and thought it was fantastic. Then it got on BBC Breakfast news and people kept messaging me. I put the video up on Friday night and woke up on Saturday with my mum screaming up the stairs that I was on BBC news! People are wanting to turn it into bank stamps and jigsaw puzzles. For about a week it was just non-stop, constant, the commissions were flying in. One of my goals for this year is to get a portrait in a Gallery somewhere, because I believe in myself with my artwork. It’s probably the only thing I believe in myself in.
What materials and techniques did you use?
Spray paint is the background. I’ve previously done a painting for a community centre in Blackpool, using a colour palette of ten colours to do with Blackpool. So you’ve got ballroom red, ghost train purple, that sort of thing. I had some blue left over, coastal blue I think it’s called, and that’s Captain Tom’s jacket. And then Posca pens. And it was in my unique style – I like big bold lines. I see bold lines around most things anyway, if I look at a table or a chair. I like realism but then going borderline abstract and a little bit cartoonish, but at the end of it, when I look at my paintings, when you stand back you can’t even notice the back lines.
When you look at the work, what emotion do you feel?
I grin with pride. There’s a part of me that can’t believe I can do this. I’m getting emotional now – I’ve done murals in hospitals and stuff, that’s sort of how I got my name in Blackpool, because I painted the hospital here. It’s a Blackpool scene and I dedicated it to my granddad. When I go down to see it, I’m proud of myself that I can do something like this. And that I can touch so many people’s hearts and make them feel good. The best feeling in the world is when someone says, ‘Your painting inspired me. I felt motivated’.
What is your next project?
Haha, my next is another Captain Tom! I’m halfway through at the moment, it’s about the same size, but without the writing in the corner.
What artists inspire you?
Leonardo da Vinci. Michelangelo. I like the faces and the sketches. When I was at art college I absolutely loved expressionism, abstract art, Jackson Pollock. I love putting emotion into my artwork. I’m a very emotional person, and with abstract art, I can infuse my feelings of anger, upset, excitement, into my paintings. With every dab or splash of paint, I can infuse my emotions, ever since I started drawing aged two. When Captain Tom was in the world becoming a bit of an inspiration and bringing a little bit of hope during the time of coronavirus, I saw emotion in a painting before I’d done it. I wanted to bring some hope and light to people’s lives.
Adam Salisbury can be found on Instagram @adam_salisburyart