MARSDEN-based artist Dez Wilson has returned from a three-month tour of the Far East during which he stroked tigers and completed a drawing of the famous Bridge over the River Kwai where hundreds died during the Second World War.
After flying to Bangkok, the 74-year-old visited the coastal town of Huahin – where the king has a villa – and did a lot of drawings.
“I like people watching and sketching,” he told me “A big Dutchman met me and took me to his house. He had a painting he thought was a Rembrandt and there was a big crack in it. I painted it in for him – the eyes and forehead. I hope he took it seriously – he was giggling all the time. The house was full of objets d’art.”
A regular visitor to Thailand, Dez visited Kanchama Buri and paid a further visit to the tigers there. “Last time they were very lively – on short chains in the canyon. They had been brought up in the Temple and you can stroke them, but this time I felt they had been drugged a bit. They were very tame.”
The artist sketched the tigers which have enclosed grounds where they can roam free.
At Phitsanulok, Dez found a lovely original-style temple, an arcade and gardens by the river. “They have lots of lotus in pink and blue – illuminated – and they are beautiful,” he said.
Taking the local yellow bus, he visited the elephant camp at Changmai and then went on to the Doisuthep Temple overlooking Changmai. “While I was drawing it, there was a rustle in the bushes,’’ he said. “I thought of tigers and moved on quickly.”
He flew up to Luanga Prabang by the Mekong River and took a boat trip across in a small boat. He did not enjoy the experience, so returned on a larger one where the fare was just 50p.
From the Friendship Bridge which separates Thailand and Laos, he went on to Nongkhai and after a couple of days there caught the night train to Bangkok where the fare was £26 for a trip about as far as London to Scotland.
“I go away in the winter because I don’t like the cold,” Dez explains. He came back from 35C in Bangkok to 7C in Marsden. “I didn’t go out for a couple of days,” he said.
When the weather warms up, he can be seen painting watercolours in the Colne Valley. The globe-trotting artist visits friends in North Dakota every five years or so. He also visits Rye, his home town in east Sussex, where he paints in the street.