Mark Kellett has always been a big Pompey supporter.
But when he was growing up in the Landport area of Portsmouth, his family couldn’t really afford to take him to see any of the matches.
So a teenage Mark would inform his parents he was heading out to ride his bike around the block. In fact, he would race down to Fratton Park and try to look over a fence or sneak in to get a glimpse of the last 15 minutes.
Never in his wildest dreams did he think that when he was older he might be involved with the club. But, now 32 and living in Fareham, Mark is Pompey’s official artist.
He says: ‘It’s amazing, and I’m over the moon about it really.’
The lecturer at South Downs College had always painted for family and friends.
But it wasn’t until he held an exhibition of Portsmouth players’ portraits at Old Portsmouth’s Round Tower last year that he met Jake Payne, a Portsmouth historian who’s the chairman of the Portsmouth Hall of Fame.
Mark explains: ‘I put on the exhibition to raise some money for the club because it was looking in a bad way.
‘I thought one day I might have a son and he might not have a club to go to like I did.
‘Then Jake asked me to do some paintings for The Boys of ’87 night. It involved painting a lot more and on the night the players signed them and people bought them.
‘I ended up sitting next to Kevin Dillon, which was quite something.’
He adds: ‘I used to paint all sorts of things for families such as dogs, fish, cats and my friend asked me to paint a bowler hat and a suit on a dog once. My work with Pompey is very different.’
His paintings depict Pompey legends from the past, such as Jimmy Dickinson, Alan Knight and Mick Quinn to more recent stars such as Johnny Ertl.
Since meeting Jake, Mark’s association with the club has taken off. He’s done various commissions and some of his art is hung in various lounges and the foyer at Fratton Park.
See The News today for a chance to win a set of three of Mark’s Pompey prints
He explains: ‘It’s just gone on from there. I met Micah Hall and I’ve now got prints and T-shirts too. It’s all happened so quickly over the past year.
‘I want to get some of my paintings out where the fans can see them more. It’s difficult because the space the fans normally visit isn’t an easy place to put any.’
Having studied at the Winchester School of Art, it was in Mark’s early 20s that he stopped painting and worked as a self-employed builder for six years.
He says: ‘I met someone once when I was working as a builder on a house and he said “you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life” and I thought “no, I’m not”.
‘I’ve never thought where I might like to go with it, but it turns out it’s something I really want to do.’
Mark went on to study at evening classes for his teacher training. Not that he regrets taking a break from painting, and he still uses the tools he discovered while working as a labourer.
He explains: ‘I tend to use building paint that you would use on something like fences outside and I use household gloss paint because it makes sense to use the materials around me and it doesn’t take that long to do.
‘I’ve come up with my own techniques of using it and it means I can do a painting every couple of days.’
And that’s exactly what he’s been doing – Mark estimates he’s done about 50 paintings in the past year alone.
He gets to blend his two passions – painting and football.
‘It’s amazing that I’m painting now for the club, it’s such a brilliant feeling that I can have my passions together for work. It just makes so much sense to me.
‘It’s been brilliant to meet all the fans too and you get feedback on things like Twitter which always help.’
Mark laughs: ‘I tend to lock myself away in my studio to work. I listen to the radio when the away games are on because, of course, I’m there for the home games now.’
Not that he doesn’t still love teaching.
But working with the club is more than he could have hoped for (and last year he was given his first-ever season ticket by a grateful club).
Selling his paintings means money is going back into the club and back to Mark so he has the materials to keep on doing it.
He says: ‘It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been offered so many different commissions from it.
‘I’ve just really got into it. I’m not saying I don’t love teaching, because I do, but I also love painting.’
Mark hopes the future will mean branching out into other clubs too.
But he plans to work with Pompey for as long as he possibly can.
He says: ‘I want to explore the history of the club through my work, especially now it’s community-owned. Micah Hall wants the iconic history of the club to be recognised.
‘I’m also going to be there on Fans’ Day on July 20, where part of the money raised from selling my paintings will go back into the club.’
Mark adds: ‘Everyone seems so surprised that I used to be a builder, but I have that aspect of who I am, and now I’m a painter.
‘I’m trying to go against the grain a little and in the past two years it seems like everything has clicked into place.’
For more information, go to markkellett.co.uk.