Kieron Williamson: Art prodigy poses 'ethical nightmare' for parentsContinue reading the main story
Art prodigy Kieron Williamson, aged 10, has made an estimated £1.5m from his paintings over the past five years and been dubbed a "mini-Monet".
But Kieron Williamson's mother says bringing him up poses an "ethical nightmare" for the family.
Kieron, from Ludham, Norfolk, was catapulted into the media spotlight in 2010 when, aged seven, his first exhibition sold out within minutes for £150,000.
His landscapes - which first appeared in 2008 after he asked his parents for a drawing pad while on a family holiday to the Cornish coast - are highly prized by collectors.
He has now spent half his life producing images which can sell for more than £45,000, with requests from people around the world to paint for them, including high-profile celebrities.No 'exploitation'
"As a family we try to hold on to normality as much as we can but it's a nightmare to be honest, a big ethical and legal nightmare," said Michelle Williamson.
"We do the best we can to keep family life on an even keel. People looking at his success only ever see the money and think it's all fun - they don't think about the balance we have to create in his life.
"We have to ensure Kieron is protected from exploitation and the legal system has to ensure we, as parents, are doing the right thing for him."
The Williamson family regularly meet with solicitors to ensure Kieron's affairs are being handled properly.
End Quote Michelle Williamson Kieron's mother
To be in the media's eye for literally half your childhood is a difficult place to be”
"There have been cases where children have sued their parents for investing money on their behalf, which you think you're doing the right thing at the time, but your children can then challenge at a later date," said Mrs Williamson.
Kieron has been invited to exhibit his work around the world and companies have offered to fly him around the globe to promote their products.
He has also been offered the chance to do television interviews as part of the US celebrity circuit, but his parents are determined he should enjoy a normal life.
"We have to be very conscious not to let him be exploited in that way. If we were different parents we might enjoy the celebrity status he could bring," she said.
"Kieron has his own team of solicitors that specialise in trust legislation so even the decisions we make as parents in regard to his investments are overseen by the people who can best advise and protect us and Kieron for the future.
Fine art v abstract
Preferring to work in oil paints because they are "more forgiving" than watercolours, Kieron's landscapes often reflect his Norfolk home and Cornish holidays.
"I prefer painting in Norfolk as there is more of a variety than in Cornwall. Down there you get all the nice harbours, but up here you've got more countryside and barns," he said.
"What I like about fine art is that you can actually see the picture. I don't think doing an abstract, a blob on a piece of canvas, is art.
"You get all the art critics saying 'Oooh, I can see them brush strokes and that'.
I like seeing the picture and how it stands in the landscape."
"He's a very lucky boy, but as parents we just have to say no to a lot of things to give him a normal life. The most important thing is that he can relate to his peers and not be seen as any different."
Mrs Williamson said the total figure netted from sales was "approaching" £1.5m, although she was unsure of the precise amount.
"I haven't actually had the time to count it up exactly," she said. "It's not the sort of thing you do really, is it?"'Rough old diamond'
An exhibition of 24 of the young painter's works sold from a north Norfolk gallery last year for £250,000. At eight years old, Kieron had enough money to buy his parents' countryside home.
Over the past 12 months, he has been balancing schooling and painting, with his parents about to "give home schooling a punt" to give him "an opportunity to explore his career path at this moment in time".
Work has been completed on a new collection of pictures for an exhibition in Holt this month. It includes a surprise portrait of his 68-year-old grandfather which reduced the "rough old diamond" to tears.
Kieron said of his granddad: "He holds lots of secrets, he's quite mysterious. He started to cry when he saw the picture.
"I painted it from a photograph Mum took. I was looking through, trying to find something to paint and I found that and was inspired. Mum didn't even know I was painting it."
His grandad, Jeff Warrick-Jefferies, said: "I'm a rough old diamond but this brought a tear to my eye."
Mrs Williamson, 40, said her son had "chosen a difficult path" as an artist but was confident the "work speaks for itself in terms of the maturity it shows".
She added: "The people who have critiqued his work have been incredibly complimentary and my job as a parent is not to shield him from it - he's got to know what's going on - but it's about explaining it to him in the best terms you can.
"So far he's just been very lucky to have incredible positive comments and he's proved himself over the last five years.
"To be in the media's eye for literally half your childhood is a difficult place to be."
Kieron Williamson's new work will be exhibited at the Picturecraft Gallery, Holt, from Friday until 31 July.