Sharp images with a concealed Blade

Alan Knowles by William Buttrick
Alan Knowles by William Buttrick
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IT’S enough to make a Wednesday fan turn blue with exasperation.

Allan Knowles’ dream-like paintings of a bygone Sheffield feature many aspects of old city life from trams and trains to streets and long gone lanes. But they all have one thing in common: there is always, he says, a United-ite hiding in them somewhere.

Ole In The Road by Allan Knowles - but can you spot the Sheffield United fan somewhere in his work?

Ole In The Road by Allan Knowles - but can you spot the Sheffield United fan somewhere in his work?

“It’s a bit like Where’s Wally,” he notes. “Every painting I ever do, I make sure there’s one person in there wearing a red and white hat or scarf. It’s just a little game. Spot the Blade.”

He thinks a moment.

“I probably shouldn’t have said that, should I? I’ve just alienated half the city.”

Perhaps so. But whatever your team and your colour, few could fail to be impressed by Allan’s nostalgic pictures - released as a first series of six this week.

He’s a Sheffielder born and bread - he was raised in Bawtry Road, Tinsley, in the Fifties and Sixties - and his subjects show the city’s past as he remembers it from his childhood. Here are blue and cream corporation buses, cinemas on every corner and (but of course) the Hole In The Road. There’s one featuring The Star and Telegraph building, in High Street, too.

“I’ve loved painting all my life,” says the 57-year-old who now lives in Norfolk Park. “I was a sign writer for several years before computers brought about the demise of the industry and then I had a couple of tattoo businesses - including a parlour called Primal Ink in Woodseats - but the recession ended those at the end of 2012.”

So he swapped his needles for paintbrushes and started crafting his pictures of Sheffield past.

“I’d been playing with the idea for 10 years,” he says. “And suddenly being out of work gave me the impetus to go ahead, do it and see if people liked them. I wanted to recreate the city I remembered.”

His website went live this week and a handful of shops across the city - including Inframe in Woodseats - have started stocking them. He says he’s sold 30 already.

“The reaction so far has been really positive - I’m already planning another six pictures,” he explains. “I had a Wednesday fan buy one even after I told him there was a hidden Blade. I think that’s as big a compliment as I could have had.”