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Wednesday 7 January 2015

Bright Old Things - William Forbes-Hamilton

William Forbes-Hamilton

Was: Actor
Is now: Painter

William has had a long acting career, starring in Oliver Twist at the age of 15. As he grew into a looming 6ft figure with dark hair and imposing features, he found a place as a villain in horror films including 'Konga' and 'Doctor Blood's Coffin'. He was also a film stand-in for Sean Connery and was recently an extra in Mr Turner (2014). Read more…William discovered painting in 2010 after later life stints as an entertainer at holiday parks and on cruise liners. Attending his first painting class with no idea of what to do, he followed his tutor's instructions to 'just paint something' and his talent was immediately apparent. Soon the Mall Galleries in London was enquiring about his work for an upcoming exhibition and now William has a new life as a painter.

Were you at all anxious when you first started to paint?
I first went along to a painting class because a friend asked me. He said it was a good place to talk about something different, so I thought 'why not?' The teacher told us just to 'paint something', so I thought about a picture of The Last Supper I'd seen and decided to reimagine it with a dish I think Jesus would have today: fish and chips.

How has your new vocation as a painter and Bright Old Things changed your perceptions of age?
At the age of 82, I thought I was finished with everything - but having received such great interest in my work and now working on this project with Selfridges, I'm amazed. I still can't quite understand it. I originally worked at Selfridges in 1958-1960, demonstrating magic tricks in the Toy department. It feels amazing to be back, and if you'd told me this would be happening five years ago, I would have laughed at you.

How do you pick a subject to paint?
I'm inspired by stories in newspapers - I always have been. As a child I would spend my half crown on buying seven newspapers and would scour their sheets for interesting stories. For example, an article about scientists who claim there could be 45 billion planets just like Earth inspired my most recent work. Show less…

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A selection of William’s paintings are available to buy at Selfridges London, or to discuss an original commission, please contact William here.

Todd Selby's Illustrated Interview

Fun, quirky and thoroughly charming, Todd Selby's illustrated Q&A offers up a unique insight into the mind of our Bright Old Thing.

Interview image