WHEN not behind the microphone you’ll find BBC radio presenter Richard Lewis behind the easel creating original works of art.

Known locally for his work on BBC Bristol and BBC Somerset, the long-time broadcaster, television producer and scriptwriter is less known for his artistic side. But that’s all about to change.

The Wickwar based presenter has now launched a new website showcasing his original artworks.

Richard, 60, predominantly works in oils, creating atmospheric beach scenes, landscapes and portraits.

“I’m a West Country boy, born in Chipping Sodbury and grew up in Coalpit Heath,” said Richard.

“Art has been a passion since I was a kid.”

In a 20-year TV career as a producer he discovered impressionist Jon Culshaw, worked with Bake-Off star Sandi Toksvig, chat show king Michael Parkinson, Noel Edmonds and dozens of others.

Though he writes for television and films and is a sought-after radio broadcaster, Richard has always found art a precious form of escapism and relaxation.

“I love to paint, I can get lost in a painting for hours,” he said.

“I always have a pen or a pencil in my hand.

"Drawing led to watercolours and then acrylics, but because I had no formal training I was scared of oil paint.

"Then one day I was talking to Jack Russell, the artist and former England wicket keeper, who said I should just go for it.

"He was right – and now I rarely paint in anything but oils.”

Richard’s work covers landscapes, portraits and more abstract work but many of his current paintings are seascapes and beach scenes.

“There’s something about the shore; I’m fascinated by skies and water, ship wrecks, figures and dogs picking their way through sand and pebbles.

"I don’t know if it’s because we’re an island nation but people seem drawn to paintings of the coast”.

While painting has always been a passion, it was another gift which first enticed Richard away from home and into the world of entertainment and broadcasting.

“I always wanted to entertain,” said Richard.

“I had been doing stand-up routines around clubs since I was 14.

"I would do my acts and my impersonations, and they’d give me money. I thought ‘Wow, this is alright – this seems like a career I could do’.”

This led him to leave home at the age of 19 to become a Butlin’s Redcoat.

“Butlins was great because although we weren’t paid a great deal, I had a microphone in my hand nearly all of the time, so I learned how to talk to an audience,” he said.

“In those days, Butlins had enormous theatres on their campsites. The one at Minehead could seat nearly 2,000 people and had a stage nearly the size of The Bristol Hippodrome. While I was there, I got to write and produce shows, which I loved.”

It was during his time at Butlins that Richard began to write and submit work for a Radio 2 show called The News Huddlines and Radio 4’s Week Ending.

“That was in the late 70s/early 80s, and that’s how I got involved in radio,” he said.

Richard put a tape together – “a bit like a Goon show with a record or two” – and sent it off to the BBC in Bristol. He met a producer who saw something in the eager young man.

Richard started working on a Saturday morning show and when his season at Butlins came to an end, he found himself part of the team at BBC Radio Bristol.

Then in 1986, Richard received a phone call which would change the direction of his career.

“I had a call asking if I wanted to work on a television show with Noel Edmonds called Telly Addicts – and of course I said yes. From there, I ended up being a producer in the BBC’s General Programmes Unit, which then became the Entertainment Department, and I worked my way up to becoming the head of the department.

“I also brought Call My Bluff back to television. It had been a rather erudite thing on BBC 2 with Robert Robinson, and we brought it back with Sandy Toksvig, Alan Coren and put Bob Holness in as chairman.

“We did lots of panel and chat shows with such people as Noel Edmonds, Sandi Toksvig, Michael Parkinson and Jeremy Clarkson. I saw John Culshaw doing a show in Edinburgh and we put him on a daytime TV series and the rest is history.

“He’s still a great buddy and ironically it was Jon who presented me with the Gold Award for Best Local Radio Programme Presenter in 2016.”

Today, Richard continues to write for television and broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Somerset but his love of putting oil on canvas competes for his time.

“There’s nothing quite like the joy of painting," he said.

Richard's artworks can be viewed at his new online gallery amberleyart.com