Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Instructor commissions first painting from former learner

A TEENAGE artist has produced her first commissioned work — for her former driving instructor.

A TEENAGE artist has produced her first commissioned work — for her former driving instructor.

Rebecca Bell, 19, was asked by Richard Griffiths, owner of Henley Learners, and his fiancée Zoe Hellman to produce a surrealist view of Henley looking from Remenham Hill.

The circular acrylic painting includes the couple’s favourite pub, the Angel on the Bridge, Henley town hall, St Mary’s Church, the Thames and Henley Bridge as well as their home in Haywards Close and their Welsh terriers, Ivor and Mimi.

The couple, who moved to Henley from Cardiff five years ago after Miss Hellman was offered a job in Maidenhead, say it was the view as they drove into the town that encouraged them to move here.

Miss Hellman, head of public health for Weight Watchers, said: “We were looking around Windsor and Marlow for somewhere to live.

“My brother’s a rower — he’s rowed at Henley a few times — and he’d told me how nice it was but I’d never actually been here. When we came down the hill we just knew we had to live here.”

After moving to Henley, the couple came up with the idea of the painting.

Miss Hellman said: “We had some ideas of what we wanted and we’ve always liked having something unique that is personal to us.

“This is the first home that we have owned in Henley so it means a lot to us and we are a bit dappy with our dogs so we wanted them to be included in the painting.

“We knew Rebecca wanted to paint so we got in touch with her. She did a sketch and came back and talked with us and then she did a draft which was so good I thought it was the actual painting.

“We decided on what size we wanted and within a few months she came back with this. The quality of the whole painting is fantastic and we think it’s absolutely amazing. The detail on the town hall is phenomenal. It’s something we will keep forever because we love it.”

She said the painting encapsulated her view of the town.

“What everybody in Henley shares is that they love the town and I think that’s a really nice thing to have, to love the place you live in,” she said. “I just love that it has got everything you need and it has a lovely vibe about it.”

Mr Griffiths said Rebecca’s driving was as good as her painting. She passed her driving test first time after about 20 hours of lessons in the summer of 2011.

“She was a model pupil and very reliable,” he said. “As she was learning, we talked about her art and we had something in mind and knew we could trust Rebecca.

“We wanted to encourage her to paint. So many young people have talents but a lot of people don’t give them a chance. We could have bought a piece from an established artist but this means more to us because of the personal touches.”

Rebecca, who studied fine art and photography at the Henley College and now works as a healthcare advisor at Boots in Bell Street, hopes to make it as an artist.

“You don’t expect to be an artist in this day and age, it’s not something that happens, so when this opportunity came up I just thought it would be amazing. It has given me a bit more confidence and I now hope to have an exhibition, maybe in Henley.”

She based her painting loosely on photographs of the town which she sketched and then adapted.

“I thought it would be good to make the painting brighter and more vibrant so I took bits and pieces from different artists and styles and put them altogether. It’s more of what you remember as you enter the town rather than the view itself.”

Rebecca said she now missed not having the painting on the wall at her home in Caversham Park Village.

“I used to come downstairs every morning and look at it,” she said. “Once I had a really realistic nightmare that I came downstairs and someone had slashed the painting with a knife and we’d been burgled, which was really frightening.”

For more information about Miss Bell’s art, email her at

More News:

POLL: Have your say