“I always had a feeling of being separate. I wasn’t good at school and didn’t cooperate very well, but I always loved art. I was born loving it.”
O’Neil continued to sculpt and paint as he became a working man with a family to support. When he was made redundant he did voluntary work for a stage set rental company and was asked to paint the Mona Lisa and some Gainsborough’s for props for a theatre production. The only criticism from his boss was that they didn’t need to be as detailed as he had painted them!
There was a time, O’Neil says, when there were great, big gaps in his artistic work, where he lost his ability to produce art, though he still felt the need to create. It was as if someone had flicked a switch and turned his ability off. Thankfully, it was switched back on years later and he went on to exhibit paintings and sculptures. Excited that he had art to exhibit he contacted organisations but it was only when the Arts Advisor at RCT Council suggested he visit The Factory in Porth, he met Elise and Ann. He was offered a studio and there was no stopping him! In his words, he finally had direction! He painted and made sculptures which culminated in a bust of Dylan Thomas. O’Neil says that even his family didn’t know of his abilities. “My wife never took much notice of what I was doing until she visited my studio and saw Dylan. That’s when I really became confident in my work!”
O’Neil’s bronze bust of Dylan Thomas was showcased at The Factory’s Dylan Thomas anniversary event and appeared on BBC News with him as he was interviewed about The Tate’s involvement with Valleys Kids.
Dylan was exhibited in the Dylan Thomas Little Theatre in Swansea with O’Neil completing work on a sculpture of Amy Winehouse amongst a number of other projects.