I CAN EARN UP TO Pounds 10,000 FOR ONE OF MY PAINTINGS, YET SOME SAY I SHOULD GET A PROPER JOB; Two Years Ago He Gave Up a Successful Career as a Model to Become an Artist. Now Terry Bradley's; Works of Art Adorn the Mansions of the Rich and Famous. but There Are Those Who Knock His Rise to Fame

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MODEL turned artist Terry Bradley has rock stars and millionaires bidding for his work.

The handsome 33-year-old counts Boyzone hunk Ronan Keating and his model wife Yvonne Connolly as close friends.

His first major exhibition takes place in Dublin next month and the guest list contains the cream of Irish showbiz circles including Damon Hill and director Jim Sheridan.

He is the favourite artist of U2's Bono and can command up to pounds 10,000 for a painting - not bad going for someone who only started painting full- time two years ago after getting tired of modelling.

His paintings depict the seedy and dark side of Dublin's nightlife - he got his inspiration during his years as a top model - and his work hangs in the homes of some of Ireland's most famous people.

But the working class Belfast lad revealed that he has been at the receiving end of bitchy comments because of his sudden rise to fame.

"I didn't do the art thing the traditional way," he explained. "I didn't go to art college or anything like that. I left school with zero qualifications and worked in a few pubs and clubs before I got involved with modelling.

"The school I went to was pretty bad at that time. I was good at art but the teachers didn't encourage the pupils to concentrate on things that they were good at.

"I was more interested in painting people rather than objects, but my teacher's idea of art was slapping a dead fish down on a table and telling us to draw it.

Talent

"I wasn't given much encouragement so I left school completely disillusioned. I knew I had some kind of talent but I didn't know how to develop it at that stage.

"I've also been given a lot of grief because I haven't got the right artistic background.

"Making the move from modelling to art was pretty scary because I came from a working class background.

"Sometimes I felt like a bit of an impostor because I didn't have the right background.

"Going to art college would probably have helped me in some ways - for example I didn't know I could have group exhibitions so all my shows were solo.

"But there was also this feeling of not really belonging. I still look at the prices on menus before I order food in a restaurant and I sometimes feel the need to defend myself when people talk about their background.

"I've also received some comments in Belfast about my paintings and they have not been nice - in fact I can't remember that last time someone said to me that they were pleased I'd done well.

"That annoys me but I'm getting used to it."

Terry got his break four years ago when his friend, night-club owner John Reynolds, asked him to exhibit some of his paintings in the Chocolate Bar in Dublin.

Drunk

"I was drunk at the time and thought it sounded like a good idea - but when I woke up the next morning I nearly had a heart attack when I realised what I had agreed to," he said.

The show sold out and Terry stopped modelling a year later after another sell-out show at the bar.

"The modelling had gone as far as it could," he said. "I realised that I enjoyed painting more and I knew that it was going to be my future."

Terry received a call from Belfast bar owner Jaz Mooney who commissioned him to do some paintings for his trendy new bar Madison's last year.

"Part of the deal was to do a show there which sold out completely. I met up with Charles Gilmore who runs a gallery in Holywood and I've been showing my work in his gallery ever since - in fact that's the only gallery in Ireland where my work is shown at the moment."

Terry moved to Dublin when he was 22 after falling in love with the city during a visit.

"Once I arrived in Dublin I knew it was the place for me. The people in that city have a totally different attitude to art - if you say you are an artist in Dublin people pat you on the back, but Belfast people ask why you haven't got a proper job. …