A RENOWNED Wirral artist with an extraordinary story has passed away after a two-year battle with cancer.
Tommy McHugh died on Wednesday, September 19, aged 62.
His younger years included stints in prison and as a drug addict, but his life was transformed after he suffered a stroke.
Tommy grew up in Birkenhead with eight brothers and three sisters. He left school at 14 and was in and out of borstals and prisons between the ages of 15 and 21.
After a DIY business failed, he became addicted to heroin for four years in the 1980s.
But in 2001, he suffered a stroke caused by bleeds on both sides of his brain, known as subarachnoid haemorrhages, which he survived – but it changed his life.
The stroke is said to have unlocked the former builder’s creative side – a extremely rare phenomenon known as “sudden artistic output”. His story was featured in Channel 4’s Mindshock in 2006.
At the time he said: “I’m glad it happened. It opened up another part of my brain that, for some reason, never came out when I was a child.”
The twice-divorced father-of-two and grandfather-of-two lived and worked at his home-cum-studio in Birkenhead.
Tommy had cancer of the liver and had a transplant in December last year, which was successful – but the cancer had spread.
His work has been displayed throughout the North West and his legacy will continue as his solo exhibition, Mind Essence, has been extended until the end of the month for people to visit.
It is on show at the Waterfront Arts Project in Southport.
Frances Passman, his partner of eight years, said: “Tommy was preparing for the show right up to the days before he had to be admitted to hospital.
“He did not get to his opening night but his son, daughter and grandchildren did attend and had a wonderful evening.
“He never gave up and continued with his art. It was his passion.
“His brain condition was unique in the world. Suddenly from an ordinary builder he became obsessed with art with a massive surge to create.
“He was very positive and loved painting. He painted quite fast and was never precious about it.
“He also made sculptures out of anything he could get or was given to him – wood, stone – to carve.
“During his 11 years as an artist and a recovering stroke patient he made many friends. His work is admired by many.”