Special guest heads to Kelso – can you tell who it is yet?

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AUSSIE artist Rolf Harris celebrates his 81st birthday next Wednesday – but claims he is painting more than ever.

The telly star visits the Art House Gallery in Kelso this Sunday to promote his latest collection of works.

And the veteran entertainer – who made his British TV debut 58 years ago – has no intention of retiring his paint brush.

From his London painting studio, Rolf told TheSouthern this week: “I am speeding up rather than slowing down.

“I am up at 6am every morning and will be painting half an hour later.

“I don’t think I have changed over the years – I like painting streets with people in them or from huge photographs of Australia.

“But I will paint anything that is aesthetically pleasing. I paint anything and everything, either from a photograph I have taken or I will buy one from someone else.”

Like his love of art, the public’s interest in Rolf does not seem to have waned either, judging by his latest appearance.

He added: “At the last show I did we had 700 people queuing in drizzly rain to see me.

“For people still to be interested in me and my paintings after 60 years is wonderful.

“People feel they know me personally from the TV and I cannot wait to meet them because I am a people person.

“For the last show the organisers had to tell me off because I speak to each person for too long. They said there were still 400 waiting to come in and see me!”

Rolf’s only previous visit to the region was to film a TV series on the life and career of Manchester artist LS Lowry in Berwick-Upon-Tweed four years ago.

During his time on the coast, he spoke to art students at Berwick High and painted scenes Lowry admired on his many visits in the 1930s.

He added: “I painted from someone’s house along the cliffs and it was lovely. Lowry used to holiday at Berwick and he loved it.

“I have not been to the Borders before, but I am looking forward to taking photographs to paint from later on.”

As for his painting style, Rolf maintains it has never changed – because he has never had one.

“I do not think I have a recognisable style,” said Rolf. “Some of them are more precise, others are slap and dash, or have big brush strokes. Every one of my paintings is different.

“I find paintings in an exhibition that are all the same style untenably boring.”

The Art House was opened by artist John Huggins-Haig and wife Yvonne, who opened the gallery in 2004 in Kelso Square, but moved to their current b-listed Georgian-style building on Bridge Street in 2009.

Rolf said: “It is a great gallery and I am really looking forward to going there.

“It was through my agent that the exhibition was set up, which includes my limited edition paintings, which have been selling fantastically well.”

Rolf Harris’ visit starts at noon until 2pm. Numbers are limited and by invitation only – contact the gallery on 01573 228666.