A YOUNG boy with learning difficulties is to hold his first art exhibition - just one year after he taught himself how to paint.
Thomas Hawley, 12, was watching an art programme on the television when he asked his parents for some paints and brushes so he could have a go for himself.
Despite never having picked up a paintbrush before, Thomas began producing some stunning watercolour paintings, which soon attracted interest from as far afield as Japan, the US and Germany.
His parents, Andrea and Chris, co-run the family business, Senlac Storage in Mitre Way, Battle, and are busy turning part of the building into an art gallery to show Thomas’ work.
Andrea said they decided to create their own gallery after Thomas was turned away from other galleries because of his age.
Speaking about her son’s talent, Andrea said: “He saw a programme on television one day and he said he really liked it.
“He asked if he could have a paintbrush and paints and just started doing it and got better and better.”
Thomas’ favourite subjects to paint are landscapes and doorways.
But he has also produced some work featuring “fat ladies” straight from a traditional seaside postcard, and was recently commissioned to paint a scene from the Battle of Trafalgar for £100.
He has already painted Bodiam Castle and would like to paint Battle Abbey and the Rye countryside in the future.
As well as struggling with learning difficulties, Thomas has Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes heart defects and effects on facial appearance, amongst other things.
He has short term memory problems, has had numerous operations on his feet and is having therapy to overcome his speech and language difficulties.
Thomas also has Raynaud’s Syndrome, which affects blood flow to the fingers and toes.
Andrea said: “I wanted him to have something that would take him away from it all.
“He sits down, he goes into his zone and does it from start to finish.
“I want him to be financially secure and if it can make him financially secure, that’s brilliant.
“All the money he makes goes into his bank account.”
Thomas, who attends Frewen College in Northiam, also has the support of big brother Matthew, aged 16.
The family, who live in Broad Oak, Brede, are hoping the gallery will be up and running by the end of November, with around 20 pieces of Thomas’ work to go on display.
A couple of other artists have also expressed an interest in displaying their work in the gallery, which has been provisionally named the Tommy Art Gallery.
Thomas said he was “quite excited” about the new gallery.
To view more of Thomas’ work, or to purchase prints, visit www.tommyart.co.uk
To keep up to date with news from the gallery, logon to Twitter and follow @HawleyHawleyt