South Shields artist secures deal with international company

Artist Jonny Riggs is being supported by leading stationery and arts company Pentel.
Artist Jonny Riggs is being supported by leading stationery and arts company Pentel.

A talented South Tyneside portrait artist says he is “living the dream” as his business goes from strength to strength.

Jonny Riggs has only been trading for just over a year, but already has won an award for his entrepreneurial skills.

It all really started as students and parents of young people were asking advice on the best products to use.

Jonny Riggs

However, it is a recent contract with a company, Pentel – which sells products worldwide – which he says is one of the highlights of his year.

The 30-year-old, who owns JR Portraits, has also secured a deal with Geek Retreat, in Grainger Street, Newcastle, with his drawings being shown and sold in the company’s cafes.

Mr Riggs, from Albany Street East, South Shields, said: “Everything has been really positive and I am now living the dream.

“Ever since I was 10 this is what I’ve wanted to do, and it was such a surprise when Pental agreed to work with me.

“It all really started as students and parents of young people were asking advice on the best products to use – it is such an amazing opportunity for me. My first year has been so successful.”

Mr Riggs, who lectures at both South Tyneside and Newcastle Colleges, secured the contract with Pentel after writing to them when he took up reviewing their products online in a bid to help other aspiring artists looking for art equipment.

Pentel produces some of the world’s best-known writing instruments including pens, pencils, markers and art materials.

After brokering a deal with the company, he now officially reviews their products.

In his first year of trading he has also been able to offer students four-month paid work placements to help them on their chosen career path – something he hopes to be able to continue.

He said: “When I was at college, they never really spoke to you about how you could create a business from your work, or how to approach galleries in order to have your artwork displayed.

“I have worked really hard learning business development, so hopefully using my experiences, I can inspire others to follow their dreams.

“There is a lack of jobs out there and if you have a talent then why not use that talent to create a business?

“This year, I lost one of my biggest fans – my mam – and it was my dream for her to see me doing well with my artwork and my business. This is my driving force.”

As a youngster Mr Riggs won a scholarship supported by Prince Charles to the exclusive King Edward’s School in Witley, Surrey.

After leaving Surrey, he won a bursary to study fine arts at Sunderland University.

He went on to secure a business development post with T-mobile, where he learned the ropes over what was needed to forge ahead with a successful venture.

JR Portraits provides bespoke pencil portraits of family members, weddings, pets and celebrities.

As well as individual clients he has a growing reputation
in the US, a market for which he specialises in portraits of superheroes.

To find out more about Jonny’s work, log on to https://www.facebook.com/jrportrait
To contact Jonny, email jrportrait@gamil.com

For information on the products, visit http://www.pentel.co.uk/