Scottish artist Frank To teaching Sir Patrick Stewart

  • Published
Sir Patrick Stewart with Frank ToImage source, Malcolm Cochrane
Image caption,
Sir Patrick first met Frank To at the University of Huddersfield

Sir Patrick Stewart has revealed he has been taking art lessons from a Scottish artist.

Frank To first met the actor, who plays Professor Xavier in the X-Men films, while studying at university in Huddersfield in 2000.

Sir Patrick, who was born in West Yorkshire, became vice chancellor of the university three years later.

When Frank, who comes from Glasgow, staged his degree show, Sir Patrick came along.

"He actually had a sneak preview because he couldn't come on the day of the show," Frank said.

"I couldn't believe it when he walked in. He didn't buy anything but he had a good look round, spoke to me for about half an hour and took one of my invitation cards away.

"A year later, I got an email from him. I thought it was a joke at first but I realised it was genuinely him, asking how I was, and our friendship took off from there."

Image source, Frank To
Image caption,
Sir Patrick said he admired Frank To's work for being "bold, adventurous, unusual and distinctive"

Frank went on to Dundee to study for a Masters degree at Duncan of Jordanstone but continued to keep in touch, and it was at that point that Sir Patrick bought some of his work.

"He asked me to bring two paintings to his home in London - one from my masters' show and one from the earlier degree show," he said. "He bought both of them on the spot."

'Became my mentor'

Despite the difference in age, and careers, the two have much in common.

"When we first met, Patrick had just had a heart operation and I had gone from degree, to masters to unemployment," Frank said. "It was a strange and confusing time for us both but we discovered we had so much in common.

"He became my patron, but he also became my mentor. Things haven't always gone smoothly but he's always been there for me.

"Thanks to him, I'm a lot more mellow. Perhaps he saw his younger self in me, all that passion and energy and wanting to take on the world."

Sir Patrick has purchased several of Frank's works over the years.

"I think he has the bookmarks of my career so far," Frank said.

But last summer the actor asked Frank to give him art lessons after his wife Sunny bought him a box of watercolours.

Frank, who now lectures in art at Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands, has since given Sir Patrick a number of lessons.

'Great grasp of colour'

"I have taught him all the things I've learned, sketching, use of colour and so on.

"He's got a great grasp of colour. So much so, that I think he may have had a say in the new Logan movie because I recognise the colour scheme in scenes, and even in what he's wearing.

"It feels like he's already incorporating what he's learned into his workplace."

Sir Patrick admitted he was taking lessons in art in a recent interview with The Australian in which he said of Frank: "I spotted him early on when I was chancellor of the University of Huddersfield and saw this young man's work in his final degree show.

"His career is really beginning to take off; his work is very bold, adventurous, unusual and distinctive.

"I'm now actually taking painting lessons from him myself, and enjoying myself immensely."

Although Frank has two exhibitions coming up - at Gallery Q in Dundee and the Glasgow Art Club - he doesn't think Sir Patrick intends to stage a public exhibition of his work.

"It's too early to tell, really. He doesn't see it as work, it's more a way to help him relax. But if he did stage anything, he says he'd like it to be at the University of Huddersfield."

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