Friday, 15 February 2019

Veteran ‘honoured’ to have portrait on public display

Veteran ‘honoured’ to have portrait on public display

A SECOND World War veteran says he is honoured to have his portrait on display in Watlingon.

Ken Cook, 94, of Orchard Walk, was painted by artist Mark Draisey and is depicted with his medals while collecting for the Poppy Appeal, which he has done for the last 42 years.

The picture is now on show at the Bella Luce lighting shop in High Street.

Mr Cook said: “It’s a great honour and privilege to be painted.

“Mark said, ‘would you mind if I painted a portrait of you?’ and I said ‘no, I wouldn’t mind’. He came to my home and took photographs.

“I think the painting is perfect. I think the face is very, very good.”

Mr Cook, who is registered blind, is well-known in the town and leads its Remembrance Sunday parade but missed last year’s as he was part of the march at the Cenotaph in London.

Mr Draisey, 56, of Couching Street, approached Mr Cook after spotting him collecting for the Royal British Legion’s annual appeal in High Street in November.

The oil on linen painting took him about a month to complete.

Mr Draisey, who worked as an illustrator for more than 30 years and as a caricaturist on Spitting Image, said: “It’s all built up in layers and that’s the thing that takes most time.

“The main problem was the lettering on the box and the attention to detail.

“If you don’t get things like the medals and the cap badge right you’re going to get lots of comments from people who know.”

Mr Draisey, who took up portraiture four years ago, added: “I’m always on the lookout for interesting people and I’ve always wanted to find a military subject because I love doing uniforms, official robes and that kind of thing.

“I saw Ken with all his medals and beret and thought, ‘he has got such an interesting face’.

“He told me that he was going to the Cenotaph for the first time and I thought ‘what a perfect candidate for a portrait’.”

Mr Cook joined the Royal Navy in 1942 and served in the Mediterranean, minesweeping along the coasts of Italy and Greece during the war. He took part in various missions, including the invasion of Anzio in 1944. He left the navy in 1946 and lost his sight in later life due to macular degeneration.

In 1977 he helped save the Watlington branch of the Legion when it was on the verge of closing.

Loraine Daniels, who runs Bella Luce, said: “Ken is just Watlington personified, a gentleman.

“We’re very much part of Watlington and we feel it’s the best place for the portrait to be displayed so the world can see it.

“It’s also a good advertisement for Oxfordshire Artweeks, which runs from May 11 to 19. There will be 42 artists displaying their work at 20 different venues in the town.”

Mr Draisey plans to enter the portrait for the National Photographic Gallery’s open exhibition this summer.

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