Sheffield artist Trevor's brush with Ferraris and famous customers including Michael Barrymore and Gary Neville

Fast cars, showbiz stars and a brush with death aged two. This is Trevor Neal, a Sheffield artist who has exhibited in America and France but always returns to the steel city.

Saturday, 29th January 2022, 7:00 am

A master of many styles, he is also a photographer, sculptor, art restorer and antique lover. The 74-year-old self-taught artist uses these skills to inform his work.

Born in York, he moved to Elsecar, Barnsley, at the age of two after his mother returned to her parents’ home.

His story almost ended there. He caught himself on an Anderson air raid shelter at the bottom of the garden, fell over and almost bled to death.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Romance in Durango pictures Salvador Dali with Bob Dylan

“I burst a kidney and could have died,” says Trevor, who now lives in Nether Edge.

“The kidney had to be taken out at the Children’s Hospital. Fortunately, 13 weeks later I was back at home.”

Trevor went to Elsecar Church of England School and Hoyland Kirk Balk secondary modern. “There was nothing distinguished except art, technical drawing, woodwork and metalwork. The academic subjects were at the bottom of my list,” he says.

Trevor left school at 15 and went into the cloth trade, working for H Booth and Sons in Hoyland Common. He kept his interest in art, doing his first oil painting at 17 and what he considers his first proper work at 20.

Artist Trevor Neal with his painting of Kidane Mariam

“I used to go to Barnsley Art School and then to the Esquire club in Sheffield where we saw everybody who was anybody.

“My first work was called Justified Hypochondriac. After that, I never titled anything. I’m currently on work number 638.”

After 10 years in the cloth trade, he applied for a job at Dormer Tools in Sheffield as a graphic designer.

He had been designing advertising for Booths and was approached to sell it for Dormer Tools as a publishing manager. All the time, his art continued in the background, including commissions, but Trevor was never convinced it could become a full-time job.

Oil on canvas, number 631, E type Jaguar in fornt of the Salvation Army Citadel

That was until he was made redundant after 10 years with Dormer Tools. “It was the best thing that could have happened. I was given a good redundancy package and having it gave me the opportunity to try what had been a hobby into a profession.”

He covered his options by learning how to restore paintings and antiques. He put an advert in Yellow Pages and since then has restored more than 2,000 works.

“It meant I had to perfect the designs of different artists and what I learnt I incorporated into my paintings. People have said they look like six different artists and I can turn my hand to a number of different things.”

This includes photography and sculpting - variety is important. His background in graphic design also helped as he learnt how to gain publicity and showing his work in Sheffield proved useful.

Artist Trevor Neal

“The Great Sheffield Art Show and Art in the Gardens, I’ve been involved with both. You have good years and bad. Sometimes all you do is watch others wrap up their painting for customers which is no fun. Other times you sell lots. It can make you want to give up but you don’t.”

His most recent commission was from Anthony Hinchcliffe, chief executive officer of city firm Ant Marketing. The oil painting shows an E Type Jaguar parked in front of the Salvation Army citadel in the city centre. The now defunct John Lewis store is in the background.

“I gave him three choices of location - Paradise Square, Kelham Island and The Citadel, which is one of the most architecturally interesting buildings as is the state it's in. I’m interested in abandoned buildings and he went for it.”

Trevor won’t say how much it cost but will talk about other commissions, many of which are for classic cars in unusual situations. One shows a Ferrari Spider on a gondola in Venice.

“I’ve been to Italy three times for various clients. I buy diecast models of the car they want, take pictures in locations and come back to discuss those with the customer.

“Ferrari have launched models in Venice so the cars will have got there by boat.”

Artist Trevor Neal at work

His favourite work is always his most current, he says. “Every picture tells a story. The Jaguar in Sheffield makes a critical reference to Sheffield city centre.

“The state of it is a little depressing. There are some massive developments, but there are a hell of a lot of empty shops.

“Parking is virtually impossible and getting in and out of town is not easy. The bus lane plans on Ecclesall Road and Abbeydale Road are insanity. And with no John Lewis or Debenhams we have fallen behind Leeds and Manchester.”

There is hope though. Trevor is a snooker fan and loves the fact the world championship is played at the Crucible.

“I consider Sheffield home,” he adds. “I’m not going to uproot, there are plenty of coffee shops and hardly a day goes by when I’m not in one.”

He’s married to Sharon, has a daughter Charlotte and two grandchildren. He’s also writing a book which started in lockdown and is about a painting he sold to Michael Barrymore.

This one does have a name - Romance in Durango, which Barrymore saw it in Manchester in 1987 at the height of his Tv fame.

He didn’t buy it despite showing much interest but this resurfaced in 1990, meaning the painting was shipped from America back to England.

Trevor had been showing the work in St Petersburg, Florida, and Barrymore paid $10,000. He was fronting Strike It Lucky and told Trevor: “I’m set for life unless I do something daft.”

He did, had to file for bankruptcy and the painting disappeared. Now Trevor is looking for it.

“I’ve found it,” he says, casually. “It’s in Turkey.” The painting was one of three Barrymore commissioned but which went to his wife Cheryl in a divorce settlement after he told the world he was gay.

Cheryl died of cancer and the painting went to her minder who has a holiday home in Turkey. Now Trevor is waiting for a picture of it to complete a book he is writing on the story of the work.

“I met Barrymore three times,” he says. “He tried a comeback but it never happened.”

Other famous clients include England and Manchester United footballer Gary Neville who bought four portraits, one of John Lennon, one of George Harrison and one of two faces morphed into one which are Noel and Liam Gallagher of Oasis.

“I didn’t know who Gary Neville was because I’m not a football fan. The fourth painting was of his best man, David Beckham.”

Trevor is friends with fellow artist Joe Scarbrough and admires the success of Pete McKee, especially in a city where art can be a struggle. “We haven’t got the cache of Leeds or Manchester because we never quite had that high finance. Art goes hand in hand with that and there is not the proportion of benefactors others have had.”

But art is a labour of love for Trevor. “I’ll carry on for as long as I can. I’m relatively healthy and I’ve been told I haven’t peaked yet.”

So what is his message to others? “Learn about social media. If you’re good at it and use it, it can get you the biggest audience in the world.”

To contact Trevor visit his website https://www.trevorneal.co.uk/

Artist Trevor Neal
Artist Trevor Neal
Artist Trevor Neal
Trevor with Michael Barrymore and the Romance in Durango painting