Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, encaustic artist Brian Nelson has battled years of adversity to marvel the masses with his beautiful, intricate artwork, sure to leave your brain fuzzy and your eyes in disbelief.
As we sit and stare in awe at the comical, heart-warming gentleman rubbing pieces of wax on what looks like a victorian-style iron, we start to wonder how on earth this is going to communicate into the stunning pieces of artwork we are surrounded by in his Elsecar studio.
But a little less than 15 minutes later, we are stunned to witness the beautiful production of a fairytale landscape. With a quick flick of the wrist to gracefully direct the iron across the paper, our first encaustic art piece is finished.
However, it is not just this end product that astounds us. The rocky road Brian has ridden to amazing artistry is a story only the funny-man himself can tell.
For most of us, childhood memories are filled with laughter, endless hour of playtime, and a few tellings off from disgruntled parents whose hearts quickly melt at our big puppy dog eyes.
However for Brian, his childhood memories are file with cold, clinical walls of the hospital and years of agony and despair.
Aged four, he was diagnosed with psoriasis, a skin condition that affects around 2% of the population in different strenghts.
As I take notes, Brian laughs as he says I’m one of the few people he’s met who know how to spell it properly. I tell him I suffer from it myself; I have to put up with a few crusty, scaly patches on my scalp, elbows and knees through the winter. But for Brian it was much more severe.
“I kid you not, from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, my skin was literally falling off.” he says.
As a result of his debilitating skin condition, Brian also developed Psoriatic Arthritis. When he finally was diagnosed aged seven, Brian says he could hardly walk and he was almost half leant over due to his joints being so inflamed.
Lengthy spells in hospital meant his education suffered badly, leaving school with no GCSE’s and in their place a qualification he laughs “is not even worth the piece of paper it is written on”, Brian took the rough with the smooth and went on to study at college.
After completing a Floristry NVQ, Brian took a leap of faith and opened his own florist shop in Bolton upon Dearne with the help of the Prince’s Trust.
Due to the hard-work and dedication, and I imagine his undeniably infectious personality, Brian tells us he won the Prince’s Trust Celebrate Success Enterprise award back in 2004.
“Well I actually came second, but I should have won. Prince Charles shook my hand and even said so. The company who won were seeing something like a £1 million dollar turnover, where I was making about £20,000 a year.”
Rubbing shoulders with Royalty, Brian has in fact met Prince Charles six times, and in 2005 he was even invited to their Christmas reception in the company of Her Majesty.
“I went down to Buckingham Palace and I was talking to Philip for about 40 minutes . It was such a pleasure to get the Royal Seal of Aproval” he says.
However, his world came crashing down the following year after a serious car accident. The accident resulted in a 16 week stay in hospital for Brian, leading to the demise of his beloved business.
However, in March 2009 after bi-lateral hip replacements, Brian opened Encaustic Art Plus down at Elesecar Heritage Centre.
After teaching himself the ancient art form, Brian realised he too could teach others.
Having just got his PTTLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector) qualification, this means Brian can now teach anybody and everybody. From going into schools and colleges, to hosting encaustic workshops in his studio; Brian hopes to make his lessons as accessible as possible.
With his workshops learner-driven, get lost in the magic of his talent and treasured nature whilst you pick up a few hints and tips along the way.