ARTWORK by a council handyman is adorning the walls of one of the region’s top hotels after its owner spotted his talent in an exhibition.

When John Adamson, of the four star-rated Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham City, saw an exhibition of John Smith’s work he was instantly impressed.

Mr Adamson and sister Helen Roseberry, who run the family-owned hotel and golf club, chose their favourite pieces by the 39-year-old to feature in the multi-million pound redevelopment of the venue.

Mr Smith, who works for Spennymoor Town Council, said: “It’s hard getting established as an artist so this is fantastic, it is like having my own personal art gallery which people from all over the world visit.

“It is a great opportunity to have my work seen, hopefully enjoyed and maybe people will want to buy or commission pieces.”

Mr Smith, a father-of-one from Tudhoe, County Durham, paints in two styles but always gives his work a regional vibe.

Many of his pictures such as mining scenes are nostalgic and around eight years ago he created the alter ego Smudge to represent himself in naive pictures about life and emotions.

One of the reasons Mr Adamson was drawn to Mr Smith’s art was the resemblance to that of acclaimed Spennymoor pitman painter Norman Cornish, whose work he collects.

Mr Adamson said: “I came across John Smiths’ work whilst visiting an art exhibition at Spennymoor Town Hall.

“Since, we have hung approximately 150 prints of John’s work in our new bedrooms and corridors, as well as Norman Cornish originals in the recently renamed Norman Cornish Lounge.

“I like the idea that our hotel guests- from far and wide, nationally and internationally- can view paintings and prints showing North East life from a bygone era, and that will probably never be repeated.”

Though Mr Smith shies away from the comparison to the late Mr Cornish, he was undeniably influenced by a generation of colliery artists which also included Tom McGuiness and Tom Lamb.

He recalls that as a boy his father took him to an exhibition and he could not wait to tell art teacher Ann Thornton, at Tudhoe Grange School, how blown away he was by Mr Cornish’s paintings- only to then discover she was his daughter.

He said: “I was rubbish at school but always passionate about art, all these artists that were around when I was growing up influenced me and I used to study famous pictures by Edward Hopper and Van Gogh and practise drawing them.

“But I also want to be my own artist and people to like what I do.”