7 August 2019

An ex-homeless man who paints rough sleepers on the streets has started selling his portraits, and using the proceeds to fund the soup kitchen he runs.

Andrew Mcleay found himself on the street in March 2008 after arriving from Australia.

Just over a decade later, he now organises the Ealing Soup Kitchen, and uses his love of painting to help fund his endeavours.

So far he has sold three of his portraits, getting £80-130 for each.

That might not sound like a huge amount, but all up it pays for about a month’s worth of supplies for the kitchen.

You can see Andrew's amazing portraits right here: VIEW GALLERY

Each portrait has been bought by members of the public, and Andrew said using the money for anything other than supporting the homeless would feel wrong.

He said: “I wouldn’t want to benefit from anyone’s dire situation, so I think it’s important that any proceeds I get from the paintings go back into the soup kitchen. 

“The homeless are great because they’re generally happy to have their photos taken, and I just paint from that.

“As a painter generally it’s about trying to capture something that people don’t always see. It’s like trying to tell a story without any words.

“It’s about the expressions and the brush strokes.

“Because a lot of homeless people already look like they have a story it’s about trying to etch that out.”

“To me it looks like they already want to tell a story.”

Despite arriving from Australia with savings, a lack of available accommodation saw him spending £900 a month on a flat, and before long he was destitute.

Andrew said his own experience taught him just how easily anyone can slip into homelessness in the capital.

The soup kitchen has been run by Andrew since 2014, with three sessions a week at St John’s Church on Mattock Lane, on Friday at midday, and on Saturday and Sunday from 3pm-5pm.

There is also a fourth soup kitchen held on Monday evenings from 7-9pm at Salvation Army Hall on Leeland Road.

Andrew first began painting in 2012 because he couldn’t afford to buy prints of his favourite artworks.

He soon found he had a natural talent for it, despite having no formal training.

He is currently working on three portraits, and with nine more coming up.

When he paints the homeless, he chooses to work on smaller canvases.

That way, if the subject likes the photo, he can give it to them, and they can carry it easily.

Often, because the subject has nowhere to keep the photo, Andrew will send it to a family member.

The diversity of the homeless community, Andrew says, also serves as inspiration.

He said: “Years and years ago having your picture done was almost a sign of nobility.

Source: MyLondon