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Self-taught artist to auction Maro Itoje painting at flagship rugby event

A portrait of England rugby star Maro Itoje is set to be auctioned at a flagship players’ event later this month – created by a self-taught Bristol artist who took up painting during lockdown.

Martin Palmer’s oil and gold spray paint work will go up for sale at the Rugby Players Association (RPA) Awards Dinner, being held in London next week on Wednesday, 25 May.

Martin, who is director of business development and marketing at Clarke Willmott has had no formal training and only took up painting during the first COVID lockdown in 2020.

Since then the avid Liverpool FC fan has completed portraits of several current stars including Mohamed Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and Sadio Mane, along with club legend Kenny Dalglish. He has also diversified into landscapes, painting scenes from the Bristol area and The Wirral on Merseyside, where he grew up.

“The first lockdown was quite challenging and intense, with a lot of long working days spent enabling 600 plus people to successfully work from home,” says Martin. “I have never thought of myself as a creative person and have had no training whatsoever, and I just started initially as a means of relaxing and switching off . I completed a self-portrait and then my partner and my friends encouraged me to continue. I exhibited at the West Bristol Arts Trail last year and was amazed to receive a lot of good feedback as well as several commissions.”

The RPA is a client of Martin’s employer Clarke Willmott. At an RPA event earlier this year, his study of England rugby star Marcus Smith also fetched £600 at auction.

Martin says: “I was asked if I would paint another player for the RPA dinner this year and chose Maro Itoje because he is such an iconic, dynamic figure who inspires a lot of emotion. It is a pleasure to be able to support such a great cause. I’ve fallen in love with painting over the past two years and it’s become an important part of my life. The whole experience has made me reflect more and to be more inclined to ignore people’s preconceptions and to just give things a go – these are valuable lessons which I am trying to encourage my colleagues to apply in our business.”

Oil and gold spray paint work of England rugby star Maro Itoje
Martin Palmer’s oil and gold spray paint work of England rugby star Maro Itoje is set to be auctioned at a flagship players’ event


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