Scot goes from making £100 a week to selling £100k painting

Alexander Millar with the painting. Picture: Contributed

Alexander Millar with the painting. Picture: Contributed

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A SCOTS artist, who less than ten years ago was making £100 a week as a window cleaner has just sold one of his paintings for £100,000.

Considered to be one of the top contemporary artists in the UK, Alexander Millar had posted the artwork on his site, alongside other several other pieces, but hadn’t not expecting to ever sell it

The Wonder Of It All. Picture: contributed

The Wonder Of It All. Picture: contributed

The painting, which he named The Wonder Of It All, attracted the interest of an unnamed Scots hotelier who asked the artist to name his price.

“I had the painting, of an old guy with his arms outstretched looking up at the stars, on my website and I put POA (price on application), I didn’t really want to sell it as it meant so much to me,” recalled Alex who now lives in Newcastle.

“This buyer contacted me and said he’d seen this painting on my website.

“I told him I wouldn’t sell it for less than £100,000 in the hope that it would put him off, and offered him a print for £500, but he wanted the original and asked for my bank details.”

“When I checked and the money was there, it was a lovely surprise but it felt almost bittersweet, as I’d had the painting for six or seven years and it meant a lot to me so I didn’t really want to sell it.”

He is now reportedly, one of only five Scottish artists to have sold a piece of work for over £100,000 in the last 10 years.

The Scot, who grew up in Springside, a village near Kilmarnock, moved to Newcastle in the 1980s where he now has three children and two grandchildren.

Now a successful artist, Alex was signed up by publishers Washington Green and now regularly sells his ‘Gadgie’ artwork, which can now command up to £35,000 for an original oil, to fans across the world including celebrities like former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.

Life wasn’t always so rosy, before he found fame with his art, Alex was working as a window cleaner earning £100 a week when the death of his father caused him to have a major breakdown, leading to him separation from his wife and sleeping rough in his car.

“Over the years, you build up your personality, putting the pieces together and when my dad died I felt as though everything had just been knocked down.

“I went through a divorce, I lived in my car for a while and I was pretty much a bum. I even contemplated suicide because life at that point was so painful.”

Alexander, who speaks openly about his breakdown, stated that he is glad more people are opening up on mental health issues and that he used art as his own form of therapy, he said: “Painting was a product of going through that trauma, I was left with a deeper appreciation of life and that painting in particular, every time I looked at it, was how I felt, it was quite a spiritual affair.

“Painting it was cathartic and emotive for me and everybody that has seen it felt that it resonated with them.”

Alex decided to deliver the painting personally, as he wanted to make sure it got there in perfect condition and also to meet the buyer.

“It was almost like saying goodbye to an old friend, I wanted to deliver it safely as it really was like seeing a relative or an old friend off, I wanted to make sure it arrived safely and that nothing happened to it.

“I’m so glad for the guy who bought it, obviously the painting resonated with him and now he’s got it to enjoy and anyone who sees it will feel the same.

“It was hard to let go and I will still miss it, even on my death bed I will still miss that painting.”

“The first thing I said to him was I’ll let you have it as long as I can visit it from time to time to which he replied ‘of course, anytime’.”

The Newcastle-based artist is glad to have another excuse to visit Scotland, admitting that he still loves to visit his home village and the country of his birth, citing both as a massive influence on his art work.

“When I lived in Springside I loved catching the minutiae of life, I captured these things in my art with the old men.

“The wonderful thing about these old guys is that everyone used to look like that, for me the old working man and woman in my art are the old folk I remember from my youth and my time in Springside.

“I loved the stoicism of people back then, and my art is my tribute to the childhood I had and the kin I grew up with in Springside, the bunnets I paint are Kilmarnock bunnets.

“Gadgies are universal, which is a wonderful thing. To me these paintings of these old men and old ladies are my thanks to them, I don’t want them to be forgotten, because we’ve learned so much from them.”

Alexander’s current exhibition A Slice of Life runs until Saturday, January 21 at the Globe Gallery, on Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street,

One of Alex’s paintings, Lollipops and 99s, is top prize in an auction on January 25 at Chaophraya in Grey’s Quarter (at intu Eldon Square) in aid of the Bubble Foundation at the Great North Children’s Hospital and the Globe Gallery’s Blossom Tree project related to mental health.

Anyone interested in bidding should contact the Globe Gallery.

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