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Jeff Rowland's final artwork to take pride at Elmer's Great North Parade

Beacause elephants never forget

A North East artist’s final masterpiece – completed just days before he died - will take pride of place at a major event this summer.

Jeff Rowland – whose paintings sold around the world – had just finished decorating one of the 70 statues which will form Elmer’s Great North Parade, when he succumbed to leukemia, in November, aged just 54.

Now, his family has given their permission for his statue – which he named after his beloved niece, Amy - to join the rest of the herd for the free public art trail.

North Shields-based Jeff, whose oil paintings earned him international acclaim and a legion of fans worldwide, painted the Snowdog, ‘Arthur’ and was one of the first artists to offer to decorate an Elmer statue.

On seeing the Elmer sculpture for the first time since his father’s death, his son Chris said:

"It was very emotional. It was the last piece my father worked on and it must have taken every ounce of energy he had to finish it - so seeing it makes me very proud indeed.”

In accordance with his wishes, Jeff’s Elmer statue has been named after his 17-year-old niece, Amy O’Keeffe, to whom he was like a second father.

The Hospice now hopes other artists will let their imaginations run riot in creating designs of their own to join Jeff’s statue on the trail.

Those whose designs are chosen will not only receive an artist fee of £800, but their work will be seen and enjoyed by the estimated 700,000 visitors to Elmer’s Great North Parade.

Project art curator, Victoria Maddison, said: “Jeff was a great supporter of the work of St Oswald’s Hospice and we are very grateful to Chris and to Amy for agreeing to let his statue join the herd. It is a wonderful tribute to a lovely man and an exceptionally talented artist.”

Submissions must be made via an online form at www.greatnorthelmer.co.uk/artists and the closing date for entries is 14 February.

Artworks will be presented to the sculpture sponsors in May and the artists whose designs are chosen will need to transfer their designs on to the full-sized Elmer sculpture between June and July.