A TALENTED portrait artist who Prince Charles helped on the road to success almost 20 years ago has returned to South Tyneside to inspire a new generation of artists and business entrepreneurs.
A scholarship supported by the heir to the throne enabled Jonny Riggs to leave his hometown of South Shields as a ten-year-old.
He spent the next eight years as a border at the exclusive King Edward’s School in Witley, located in a beautiful rural setting in Surrey.
It was a tough decision for his parents, Susan Riggs and Matthew Ord, who still live in the town, to allow their son to fly the nest at such a young age.
Yet any reservations they had were put aside in the knowledge that the school would provide him with an unrivalled education.
After leaving Surrey, Jonny won a bursary to study fine arts at Sunderland University.
But to achieve his ultimate ambition of launching his own portraiture firm he knew he needed to acquire business acumen.
That led him to take up a business development post with T-mobile, where he learned the ropes over what was needed to forge ahead with a successful venture.
Now he’s set up JR Portraits, working out of his home at Albany Street East, South Shields, and providing bespoke pencil portraits of family members, weddings, pets and celebrities.
As well as individual clients he works for the Tavistock restaurant bar chain and has a growing reputation in the US, a market for which he specialises in portraits of superheroes.
Jonny is also aiming to provide a catalyst to help promote and grow other regional companies.
To that end, he’s organising an Easter business ‘eggstravaganza’ at the Hedworth Hall in South Shields, on Saturday, March 21, to be attended by 30 North East firms.
It’s all intended to give something back to a region he left at such a young age.
The 29-year-old said: “Even before the scholarship I’d been noticed locally after being named Young Broadcaster of the Year for creating school security designs for Blue Peter, following the Dunblane tragedy. I did miss my family when I went to Surrey but I enjoyed school so much.
“I came back because I wanted to start my business in South Shields and to help others in the area with their business development in these tough economic times. The Easter event will help other companies to network and grow.”
To find out more about Jonny’s work, log on to https://www.facebook.com/jrportrait