Mini Monet Millionaire


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Mini Monet Millionaire

Following 14-year-old artist Kieron Williamson as he prepares for his latest exhibition.


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-MUM ON VIDEO:

-Oh, dear!

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You can skate more...

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He's a Leo. He's king of his own castle.

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Even from a toddler, he'd arrive at the side of the bed

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and you would know by what he was wearing, you know, as to what

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your day was going to be like, because he'd either be

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in football kit and have a ball tucked under his arm,

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and you'd then have to get up and get him out for air and exercise,

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or, you know, it would be something else.

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This is three-year-old Kieron Williamson, already determined and

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on the verge of becoming a world-famous child prodigy

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That's brilliant, sweetheart.

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Come have a look at it.

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The dinosaurs are going to love being in there, aren't they?

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Can I have a look, please?

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Painting is his life.

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At just six years old, he was thrust into the media spotlight,

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with buyers worldwide prepared to pay thousands for his work.

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At 14, he's already worth around £2 million.

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His success is no accident.

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Behind this talent is an extraordinary family.

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Where's the caviar, Mother?

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Don't we normally have champagne?

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LAUGHTER

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Meet team Williamson, at their home in North Norfolk.

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This is where it all happens.

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I'm Kieron. I'm an artist.

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I play football and I am a proud supporter of Leeds United.

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I'm Billie-Jo. I'm 12 years old and I'm Kieron's sister

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and I love making jewellery.

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I'm Keith.

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Husband to Michelle and father to Kieron and Billie-Jo.

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My main jobs within the company are to get Kieron up and out painting

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in the morning and sherpa-ing his stuff around.

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And also to buy and sell artwork.

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I'm Michelle. I'm mum to Kieron and Billie-Jo and I help

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to run the family business.

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14-year-old Kieron is preparing for his biggest event of the year -

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his annual exhibition at the Picturecraft Gallery

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in Holt, Norfolk.

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In five weeks, he'll be exhibiting new landscape paintings

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and a brand-new venture, large studio portraits.

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The whole family is involved.

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We're such a tight network, aren't we, as a four?

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When you think that we're all at home pretty much all day, every day,

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erm, we get on really well.

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And you have to, because all of our stress comes all at the same time,

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for everybody.

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There isn't an anchor during this time, to be honest.

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Michelle and Keith have no business experience.

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They've had to learn everything from scratch.

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It was 2010 that was the year it all

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got stressful for us, because Kieron had reached the VAT threshold,

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so we were forced to put a business structure in place.

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And so we sought legal and financial advice.

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Neither of us particularly wanted to be in a position where we were

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running a limited company.

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We didn't know anything about it. We didn't want to be directors, did we?

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The whole implications of, you know,

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was Kieron going to be allowed to be a director?

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No, he couldn't, because he wasn't legally old enough.

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And who do you get in to run a business like this?

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You know, who do you trust?

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So, we realised that, you know,

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we would probably be the best guardians for the business

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and for Kieron.

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It's all year round, really.

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I mean, there's Keith getting up at three or four o'clock in the morning

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to take Kieron on location.

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But pre-exhibition is...

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-A busy time. A stressful time.

-Yeah, it is a busy, stressful time,

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because there's just so much to remember.

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Is this going to be his tenth exhibition with Picturecraft?

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It is becoming easier.

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You know, we feel as if we're growing into it.

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Keith and I haven't trained to do this.

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It's not our expertise at all,

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so you do feel as if you're...

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..swimming upriver.

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With Mum and Dad running his financial affairs,

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Kieron is free to paint most days.

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It's early June.

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Today, he's on the North Norfolk coast starting a new painting

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which might feature in his exhibition.

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I reckon it needs to be about here.

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Not a lot further left.

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No.

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I think it's...cos you want to get this big vessel in on the...

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That boat, there.

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-..cos that's the foreground feature, which could take a figure, couldn't it?

-It could, yeah.

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And then the whole thing winding, er, lining through to the church.

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It's a classic North Norfolk estuary shot this, isn't it?

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-I mean, I don't think you could get more classic than that, really.

-No.

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Kieron's had no formal training, but artist David Curtis

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often accompanies him on his painting trips.

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He's become a friend and mentor.

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It's just the buzz of it.

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Getting up in the morning and finding inspiration still.

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I don't think I'll ever run out of inspiration.

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You just see things all the time, and you think,

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"That will make a nice picture."

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And it's the constant inspiration,

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I think, that keeps me going.

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You do lose yourself in periods of painting.

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You're so engrossed in the picture and focusing on what you're doing,

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making sure everything you're doing is right.

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So I don't, I hardly ever think about where it's going to go or

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where it's going to sell or anything like that.

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It's sort of all about the moment in time.

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He's chosen Morston Quay on the North Norfolk coast.

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On a grey day...

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..it's still nice.

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It's got enough content in it, in the landscape,

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to make a painting.

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But, equally, it's lovely on a bright, sunny day.

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The light on the mud, it just has everything you want as an artist.

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It has the estuary,

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the boats, the sky.

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It's got everything.

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The distinction between the...

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..the estuary bank and the actual...

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-..shaping is very subtle, isn't it?

-Mm-hm.

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Some art critics have said that he already paints like an Old Master.

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David, who has had a similar journey from a young painter to a

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well-respected artist, is well placed to help Kieron

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through this critical period.

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Kieron's probably one or two of a generation.

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There'll be a few in each generation.

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And there probably are many people who have got the aptitude,

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but whether they grasp the nettle and actually do anything about it

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is another issue.

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Now, he has.

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He's seen the light very early in his years and suddenly realised,

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"I can do this and I'm going to develop it."

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Probably subconsciously.

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The mini Monet, the little kid,

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is now bordering on an adult,

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so he's going to have to mix with his peers,

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and so his work won't be seen quite as unique.

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I mean, you could call it the bubble bursting.

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But because he's got all his foundations so well in place,

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and his technique is so assured, as he moves forward into adulthood,

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his painting will take on a maturity.

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And it won't be big leaps of progress, it'll be steady away and,

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eventually, he'll reach his plateau, where, intellectually, he may change

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his ideas, but let's wait and see.

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-Hey.

-Nice to meet you.

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I'm Thomas from Berlin, hello.

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Hello, there, nice to see you.

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Thomas from Berlin.

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I must tell you something.

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Last year, in September, I was the first time in Great Britain.

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My son lives in Norwich and I saw the dragons in the forest.

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-Oh, yeah, yeah?

-And I said - yours.

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And I said, "Wow!"

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Thank you.

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I cannot believe this!

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Until now, when I came back...

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Kieron's been spotted by a tourist from Germany who has seen his work.

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And I wish you good luck and always good hands and wonderful eyes...

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Thank you very much.

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-..to see this art.

-Thank you.

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It's better to love what you do.

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Yeah. Nice to meet you. Thank you very much.

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Bye-bye.

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Kieron takes all the attention in his stride.

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That's lovely.

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When Kieron first hit the headlines, you didn't know when it was

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ever going to start, stop, finish or anything.

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And when someone phoned up to say, "Can we film with Kieron?",

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you just used to say yeah, cos you just wanted to get him out

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on film, cos that's part of his history.

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But we thought it was a one-minute wonder, so...

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Yeah, so we done everything we asked.

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..we'd think we were just saying yes to one project, but...

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And now, obviously, I mean, we're getting loads of requests,

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but 90% of them, we just haven't got the time to do it, anyway.

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It's nice to work with people you know and friendly faces, isn't it?

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-That's what we like.

-Yeah.

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But, bizarrely, Samsung have wanted Kieron to stand on top of a mountain

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in Spain to hold one of their gizmos for an advert.

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GAP clothing wanted him to travel to Los Angeles to model their clothing.

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Scientists have wanted to place electrodes on his head

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when he's been painting, so that they can assess his brain activity

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when he's been drawing and painting.

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They've wanted to study him drawing still life...

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..things to see how he's different from other artists.

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Astrologers have been in touch with us, wanting to know the exact time

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of his birth so that they can work out what the planets

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were doing at the time.

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Erm, just to understand where he gets it from,

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because, clearly, he doesn't get it from us!

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-INTERVIEWER: Did you say, yes to any of that?

-No, we didn't.

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-No, we didn't.

-But, Samsung and that, that's really nice of them

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and, like, I think it was Nintendo and that, just to consider him...

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I mean, because, at the end of the day there's thousands of people

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out there who they could choose.

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Oh, yeah, that end bit is quite misty, isn't it?

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After I've finished one picture or while I'm painting a picture,

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there'll be something else I'll see, and I'll want to paint that.

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The inspiration and the drive of getting better,

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and hopefully improving my work.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, sounds like it.

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In less than four hours, Kieron's finished.

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You happy with it?

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The image? Yeah, yeah.

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Yeah, not bad.

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The next step will probably be sort of taking it home to the studio,

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tidying up a couple of areas,

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and including a figure.

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And then I'll probably do...

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Scale it up, so, do it on a bigger one,

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and either store it upstairs or

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it'll be included in the next exhibition.

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To date, the top price paid for one of his landscapes is £55,000.

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So, tell me what you then finding out about the Celts, then.

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Erm, well, sort of, the Celtic calendar months and

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-their names and the meanings.

-OK.

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Kieron is home-schooled with his sister,

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a decision the family didn't take lightly.

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I think it's a difficult decision for any parent to make,

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what options their child is going to have for high school.

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And we did go through all our options available to us at the time.

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I think having seen how Kieron and Billie-Jo have both flourished

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as a result of that freedom and that process,

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we feel that, even now, it's the still right decision to have made.

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The information...

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They're taught by his retired primary school teacher, Beryl Knowles.

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He used to get up at some unearthly hour of the morning and do lots of

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painting, and then not exactly be dragged, kicking and screaming,

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to school, but he would come with some reluctance,

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I think it's fair to say.

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Whereas, now, if that's what he wants to do...

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I mean, he told me the other morning he'd been up really early

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to paint the fog...

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OK. Erm, well, that's fine, go and paint the fog,

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cos that's when it's there, and when you come home and have your

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breakfast and a shower, you might feel a doing a bit of schoolwork.

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That wouldn't happen if he had to go to school.

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The family home is full of art.

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Everywhere you turn, there is a Seago or a Walter Langley.

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I like how he's painted, you know, like, the pillow,

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and got light and shade on the pillow,

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and how well he's painted the hands.

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They say you can tell how good the painter is

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by how well he's painted the hands.

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You can tell there how good he was.

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I think painting's in my blood, whether I like it or not.

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I don't think I'll ever stop painting.

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It's just like my best friend.

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These are great artists who inspire Kieron to be even better.

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All he can see is the Newlyn School, your Edward Seagos

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and your Mannings,

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and he wants to get to where they were - or above where they were.

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That's his driven factor.

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I mean, I just hope he continues, really, to do what he wants to do.

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Yeah.

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I'd still like him to be a footballer.

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-No, you wouldn't.

-I would!

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I'd like him to play for Leeds United and hold that Premiership Cup

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as captain - that would do me.

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As he leaves childhood behind, his work is changing.

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He's beginning to experiment more with figurative paintings.

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I'm just drawing it out at the moment,

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erm, just to give me an idea of the composition,

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and then I'll start to paint it.

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-MUM:

-Hello!

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-CURATOR:

-Hello, how are you?

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-All right. How are you?

-Nice to see you.

-Nice to see you.

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-Hello, young man. How are you?

-It's that time of year again, isn't it?

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It is indeed.

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In the last year, Kieron has produced just under 100 paintings.

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Oils, pastels, two watercolours.

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Whittling them down to just over 40 pieces for the exhibition

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can be difficult.

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So the family take advice from Adrian Hill,

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who runs the gallery where Kieron's work will be sold.

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25 paintings will also be available to buy from a mailing list

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three weeks before the exhibition opens.

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The online sale came about from very hectic opening days,

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where, literally, I had people travelling from all over the world

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and camping in the car park,

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you know, on the weeks leading up to the exhibition.

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And, you know, we opened the doors and it was literally, you know,

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it was almost like the first-day of a Harrods sale.

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There was sort of a...not quite fights breaking out,

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but it wasn't far off.

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So, we had to manage that process,

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and also we had to find a way of selling paintings fairly.

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These are the ones that will go out to the mailing list, all right?

0:17:270:17:30

So, again, there's a nice portfolio of your work,

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four different sizes as well, so you have four different price points.

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You've got an element of Cornwall there,

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lovely painting of Norfolk, too, and then Suffolk, as well.

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So, that's absolutely super.

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Typically, the smaller paintings sell for £2,000.

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Larger pieces, around £30,000.

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-Are they shells that you got from holiday?

-Yep.

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Picked up at the beach?

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Yeah, the weird thing is they were white pearls, and then put them

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all in on the angelina fibre and they turned that colour.

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When she's not helping out with preparations for the exhibition,

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sister Billie-Jo is working on her own commercial project,

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making jewellery.

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When we come over here for the exhibition,

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I tend to like spend my time in Lucy's shop and like,

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we just bounce off ideas and dip in and out of here and Picturecraft.

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So, I'll help package Kieron's cards, then come over here again.

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I don't really get jealous, because I get just as much attention

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and I just, like, enjoy what I'm doing and I just think his, like,

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thing that he does is, like, amazing.

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So, yeah, I'm not jealous at all, no.

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Everyone's agreed on the final selection of paintings.

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But, so far, Kieron's commercial success has hinged on him

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being a child artist.

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I think probably going forward, you know, commercially, for Kieron,

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you know, changing from a child to an adult is probably only comparable

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to that of the great Pablo Picasso, because he was only nine years old

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when he had his first exhibition,

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and we all know what an incredibly successful career that he forged.

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And I think, commercially, Kieron will probably find that, you know,

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as an adult, he will maybe continue, continue to paint.

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I mean, who knows, who knows of the future?

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But I think he'll probably evolve his style somewhat and I think

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he will probably take his collectors along, you know, with him.

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So far, Kieron's not had to think about the commercial side.

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Keith and Michelle act as his agent, manage his money,

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which is held in trust,

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and even help choose the paintings for the exhibition.

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Mum and Dad have been really good for taking that pressure off me,

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saying what you've got is what will go in.

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We always get one or two popular ones every year.

0:19:460:19:49

But, I don't feel that I have to paint, you know,

0:19:500:19:56

seven or eight of them cos that's what'll sell,

0:19:560:19:58

cos I don't sort of sell my soul.

0:19:580:20:00

I paint what sort of fires me up,

0:20:000:20:03

and there'll be certain scenes that I will paint two or three times.

0:20:030:20:06

Just cos I love painting them.

0:20:080:20:09

But I never...if my heart isn't in it, I don't do it.

0:20:090:20:14

I think you're driven because it's something that you're interested in,

0:20:140:20:17

but it's the other commercial side that we don't feel comfortable with,

0:20:170:20:20

because we're a naturally private family and, you know,

0:20:200:20:24

the being in front of the cameras doesn't...you know, it's not

0:20:240:20:27

comfortable, it doesn't come easy necessarily,

0:20:270:20:30

but it's something that, you know, has... It's part of the package.

0:20:300:20:35

And Kieron's happy to do it, isn't he? We're getting used to it.

0:20:350:20:38

Well, you seem happy in front of the camera, don't you, though?

0:20:380:20:41

Can't get her off.

0:20:410:20:42

Cut!

0:20:420:20:43

It's Thursday, the 9th of June.

0:20:460:20:49

The day the online sale begins.

0:20:490:20:51

In a few minutes, 11,500 people on their mailing lists

0:20:510:20:56

will be the first to see Kieron's 2016 works.

0:20:560:21:00

It's unique, because most buyers prefer to view a painting in person.

0:21:000:21:05

Kieron's popularity means his fans will buy online.

0:21:050:21:08

On that particular e-mail is all of the prices,

0:21:110:21:16

images that are available for sale.

0:21:160:21:18

If I look here, we've had somebody open one in Armenia.

0:21:180:21:21

There, we've got Germany and France and Spain, Switzerland.

0:21:220:21:26

Obviously, in the UK as well, cos we're, you know,

0:21:270:21:30

we've got most of Kieron's clients, you know, are still UK-based,

0:21:300:21:34

but we've got them being opened in the States,

0:21:340:21:37

in a number of different states.

0:21:370:21:38

North Carolina, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania...

0:21:380:21:42

In Dallas, Oklahoma, so, er...

0:21:420:21:45

South Africa has just had one opened.

0:21:450:21:49

Australia.

0:21:500:21:51

So, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia.

0:21:510:21:53

While Adrian manages the online sale,

0:21:560:21:59

team Williamson are busy finishing the framing.

0:21:590:22:02

He didn't sign that. Did you want him to sign it?

0:22:040:22:07

Kieron!

0:22:070:22:09

-Yeah?

-You need to sign it, please.

0:22:090:22:10

It needs signing, mate.

0:22:120:22:14

OK.

0:22:140:22:15

Do you want to do it in here or...?

0:22:150:22:17

-Yeah, I'll just go and get my stuff.

-All right.

-All right.

0:22:170:22:19

I think we decided to do most of the framing ourselves, didn't we?

0:22:230:22:26

To minimise the risk of accidents happening.

0:22:260:22:31

If it happens in-house, we then haven't got to worry about insurance

0:22:310:22:35

and accident reports and blame and stuff.

0:22:350:22:39

-And also...

-We like to see them framed up, don't we?

0:22:390:22:41

Yeah, it's our way of...

0:22:410:22:43

..detaching from it and making sure that it gets sent out

0:22:440:22:47

in the best possible condition.

0:22:470:22:49

We know that the framers will do a good job, but we would worry more

0:22:490:22:52

if the pictures were off-site than we would knowing that they're all

0:22:520:22:56

here and, erm...

0:22:560:22:57

-Yeah, it's our way of saying goodbye, isn't it?

-Mm.

0:22:580:23:01

We have had to learn how to do it from scratch.

0:23:010:23:04

It's not something that we knew how to do.

0:23:040:23:06

But, thankfully, Michael Hill at the framer's...

0:23:060:23:10

-Erm, well, he gave you some sessions didn't he?

-Yeah.

0:23:100:23:14

When Kieron first sold his paintings,

0:23:140:23:16

there were several that were unsigned, so we had to strip them

0:23:160:23:19

back out and he came gave me a crash-course on how to frame.

0:23:190:23:22

And then, if we ever get stuck, we just phone him up and

0:23:240:23:28

he's there with his wisdom of knowledge.

0:23:280:23:30

There we are.

0:23:320:23:34

-Is it the right way up?

-Yup.

0:23:340:23:35

-Yay!

-Finished job.

0:23:350:23:36

It's the day before the exhibition opens.

0:23:420:23:45

Online sales are going well, with some buyers purchasing a

0:23:450:23:49

Kieron Williamson painting as an investment.

0:23:490:23:51

But he also has a hard-core following of loyal fans,

0:23:510:23:55

like Kimberley Walker, who treasure their painting.

0:23:550:23:58

At his first exhibition, people were phoning up for specific paintings

0:24:000:24:05

which weren't available and then asking to have any of the paintings,

0:24:050:24:09

regardless of which ones they were.

0:24:090:24:12

So, I think maybe those people are buying the paintings as some sort of

0:24:120:24:16

investment for the future,

0:24:160:24:17

and so they've got a different approach to doing that.

0:24:170:24:20

I, personally, would want to choose a painting because I love it,

0:24:200:24:24

but everyone's different and they've different reasons for buying them.

0:24:240:24:28

From the family point of view,

0:24:280:24:29

it's a lovely keepsake to pass through the family.

0:24:290:24:33

Kieron is no longer a child,

0:24:330:24:35

but, so far, the interest in him shows no sign of stopping.

0:24:350:24:38

Today, a French TV company has come to film him.

0:24:390:24:43

In France, we have a lot, a lot, a lot of artists.

0:24:440:24:47

That's a country of artists,

0:24:470:24:49

but we don't have our Kieron.

0:24:490:24:52

We don't have a prodigy like him,

0:24:520:24:55

so that's why it was really important to witness

0:24:550:24:59

and to show him to France.

0:24:590:25:02

Kieron will stay in the memories, I think.

0:25:030:25:06

Maybe we'll see him in history books, because it's so...

0:25:060:25:12

You don't see that everyday.

0:25:120:25:14

You know, this talent, at this age?

0:25:140:25:17

It's the first day of the tenth exhibition.

0:25:200:25:23

Today, buyers will decide what they are willing to pay

0:25:230:25:26

for Kieron's work.

0:25:260:25:27

-Hello!

-Come on in, come on in.

-Thank you very much.

0:25:290:25:33

-Pretty excited.

-Yes, yes.

0:25:330:25:35

-DAD:

-Good morning.

-Good morning.

0:25:350:25:37

Before they open, I'm sort of really excited.

0:25:370:25:39

Especially the night before, it's just...

0:25:400:25:43

Excited and can't wait to get here.

0:25:430:25:45

And then, sort of, as we get here, the nerves will start to kick in

0:25:450:25:48

and, sort of, worried, yeah.

0:25:480:25:50

Worried that, sort of, the public reaction won't be very good.

0:25:500:25:53

But I think that's sort of normal,

0:25:550:25:57

just because, this year, especially with sort of doing more portraiture

0:25:570:26:02

and people, not sure how that...

0:26:020:26:04

How well that'll be received.

0:26:040:26:06

It's the first year I've ever seen Kieron excited

0:26:090:26:11

to come to his own exhibition.

0:26:110:26:12

You know, I think he's waiting for the feedback on his portraiture

0:26:120:26:16

and he's worked really hard in the studio and, you know, a year's work,

0:26:160:26:21

or longer than a year really, some of it,

0:26:210:26:24

and he's just really buzzing today.

0:26:240:26:26

Me and Dad sort of say sometimes,

0:26:280:26:30

"God, I wonder what I'd be doing now, or we'd be doing now

0:26:300:26:33

"if I hadn't sort of found painting."

0:26:330:26:35

It's pretty hard to imagine life without it.

0:26:350:26:38

I'm sort of really, really happy that it has happened, you know.

0:26:410:26:45

Yeah, I can't imagine myself without painting anymore.

0:26:470:26:50

Michelle and Keith are already planning for the next stage

0:26:540:26:56

in Kieron's career.

0:26:560:26:59

Next year, they're releasing a new book,

0:26:590:27:01

charting his work and influences.

0:27:010:27:03

When Kieron's reaches 18,

0:27:040:27:06

he will take financial control of his own business,

0:27:060:27:08

with his parents carrying on as directors.

0:27:080:27:10

But, for now, his focus is painting.

0:27:120:27:14

I never, sort of, think what I would do with the money.

0:27:160:27:19

I'm, sort of, more happy to just get back into my studio

0:27:190:27:22

and get cracking down painting.

0:27:220:27:24

Sort of working towards the exhibition next year.

0:27:240:27:27

We always thought, with an exhibition, this is definitely,

0:27:320:27:36

this'll be the last one, cos he's got to bound to give it up.

0:27:360:27:39

Because he was a young boy growing up...

0:27:390:27:41

I mean, Kieron changed his mind so many times with toys,

0:27:410:27:44

with everything really. He's always had this fad for so many weeks,

0:27:440:27:47

then he moves on. So, you...every exhibition we've done we thought,

0:27:470:27:50

"This'll be the last one. Let's really make, make it a nice one."

0:27:500:27:54

-And, he's just continued.

-He's proved us wrong, hasn't he?

0:27:540:27:57

Yeah, he has proved us wrong.

0:27:570:27:58

I think I'll always carry on painting for the love of it,

0:28:140:28:16

cos I know, in myself, that I've got the drive to carry on painting.

0:28:160:28:22

So, it might've been difficult for Mum and Dad.

0:28:220:28:24

They might not know if I'll carry on painting, but I know,

0:28:240:28:27

in myself, I will carry on painting.

0:28:270:28:29

BBC One's Our Lives strand tells the story of child painter Kieron Williamson, nicknamed Mini Monet, who held his first exhibition at the age of six. He is already worth £2 million at the age 14, and buyers from around the world queue up to pay thousands for his paintings. While blue-chip companies want him to endorse their products, scientists have sought permission to wire up his brain. But there's a lot more to Kieron Williamson's success than just talent. This is a family affair. With exclusive access to the Williamson household, the film follows preparations for Kieron's latest exhibition. It reveals how his career is skilfully managed by his family. Newcomers to both business and the art world, they have had to learn everything - from keeping Kieron on the level to looking after his public affairs and growing fortune, at this critical moment in his career as the 14-year-old begins the transition from child prodigy to adult artist.