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Caretaker has brush with a new art career

PUBLISHED: 16:06 31 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:43 07 September 2010

A SELF taught artist who missed out on school after he was hospitalised as an infant is set to unveil his first exhibition

Tan Parsons

A SELF taught artist who missed out on school after he was hospitalised as an infant is set to unveil his first exhibition.

Dennis McNulty, who lives at the New End primary school in Hampstead where he is the caretaker, was badly assaulted as a toddler and was told by doctors he would never walk again.

But he made an astounding recovery and now, at the age of 48, he has discovered a love of painting and will soon exhibit in nearby Burgh House.

"I only got into it because I used to go around the school brightening the place up - painting characters like Tigger and Donald Duck on the walls in the playground," he said.

"I was painting some scenery for the school and one of the parents told me I should become a painter. I just thought 'Yes, I might be a painter', and I haven't looked back.

"I bought myself a canvas and some oil paints and one day I just got up and started painting."

Mr McNulty was born in Derbyshire, but when he was a toddler he was viciously attacked by an older boy. His hip was smashed and he spent four years in a wheelchair after the incident followed by time in leg braces.

His father, who was in the army, took the crippled boy with him around the world looking for a hospital that might be able to help restore his son's mobility.

Eventually, at the age of 10, the young Mr McNulty was transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where Dr Lloyd Roberts promised to help him walk again.

Mr McNulty said: "He was true to his word and I started walking on my 11th birthday. It was fantastic, but in all that time I only had occasional tutoring and it was quite disruptive, so when I went to school I found out I was about 11 years behind everybody else. It was hard."

To help cope with his lack of formal education, Mr McNulty taught himself as much as possible on his own and he modestly says the same process is true of his art.

He said: "It's self tuition again for me - I've had no formal artistic training and I'm having to learn as I go - watching what the paint's doing.

"Some people say my art is fantastic but I beg to differ. I'm still a beginner, really.

"The way it's all started happening has really gobsmacked me - I never expected to be doing anything like this.

"I've got three kids - my boys Ross and Connor and my daughter Michelle. They are a big inspiration in deciding what to paint. The whole issue of global warming is very important to me - it's going to affect the world my children grow up in. I did a painting of a lone polar bear on an iceberg and that was their idea."

Mr McNulty's exhibition is set to be unveiled at Burgh House in New End Square on February 20. For more information visit www.burghhouse.org.uk

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk

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