A SELF-PORTRAIT by one of the Pitman Painters has been faithfully recreated on the gable end of a colliery building in a former pit village.

Lewis Durham, who did the project in his spare time free-of-charge, said the tribute to the world-famous work by County Durham artist Norman Cornish took around 20 hours.

It is 35 years since the colliery closed in Sacriston, but the former miner’s face now adorns the old pit building now used by a scrap metal dealer.

Mr Durham, 26, said: “I went to the scrap yard and said I would tidy the walls up and paint something nice.

“I said: ‘It won’t cost you anything, but it might stop the graffiti on the walls’.

“They thought I was a bit of an idiot, but just said: ‘Aye do what you want kid’

“The owner of the buildings has just called me and said he is a huge Norman Cornish fan. He is absolutely ecstatic.

“They are old pit buildings, but I did not know that at the time.

“I just wanted to paint Norman Cornish because I like the picture.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Durham used emulsion bucket paint for most of the wall, but also used spray paint in cans to add more detail.

On another wall at the building Mr Durham has painted a giant pigeon and the gable end of a row of terraced housing on nearby Witton Road has been transformed with a giant tiger.

Mr Durham, a care worker who trained as a graphic designer, started out by painting a robin on a metal storage unit at his grandmother’s allotment.

He then honed his skills further by painting a rooster at the Illumination Wall Art shop in Bishop Auckland, which is run by his friend Dan Walls.

The Cornish piece has earned him widespread praise, but Mr Durham said he is not very good at drawing.

He said: “For me, it is really weird because I did not expect to be good at it.

“But it just feels natural and normal to be doing huge paintings. I don’t have to think about it. I just start painting and it happens.

“I am actually not very good at drawing.

“I'm naturally creative, but I am not naturally artistic.”

Norman Cornish, who died in 2014, aged 94, worked as a miner for over 30 years before he took up painting full time in 1966.

Mr Cornish’s son-in-law Mike Thornton said the family were impressed with Mr Durham’s work and would visit Sacriston to see it for themselves.

He said: “Someone got in touch with us and asked if we had seen it.

“We saw pictures and obviously it is a self-portrait of Norman, but we had no idea who had done it.

“It is a very nice gesture and it is a very good version of that self-portrait.

“Norman did not have a particular association with Sacriston, but it is another pit village, his work is synonymous with pit villages right across the North-East.

“It is very interesting and good luck to him.”

The Northern Echo:

Now Mr Durham is hoping to do other projects on bigger walls around the region.

He said: “I was just doing it as a hobby, but I have had so many people ask me to do stuff now, beyond even what I thought was possible.

“I don’t really want to do kids’ bedrooms though. I want to do big murals for the community.

“Stuff that is really going to brighten up the area. I need some good links with businesses, and people who have big walls.

“I want to do something shockingly huge.”

People can contact the artist through Durham Spray Paints on Facebook.