Former Scotland defender Kevin McNaughton is considering becoming an artist when he retires from football.
McNaughton has come under the wing of esteemed artist Darren Baker – who has painted The Queen, Pope John Paul II, Sir Alex Ferguson and Lewis Hamilton among others – to develop a talent which first flourished at school.
The 34-year-old put away the brushes to focus on a football career which has seen him make more than 500 appearances at Aberdeen, Cardiff, Bolton, Wigan and Inverness.
But McNaughton’s passion for art has resurfaced over the last few years to such an extent that he could now make a living from it when he finally hangs up his boots.
“I did a bit of painting at Cardiff, but it was when I was stuck in a hotel at Bolton for three months (while on loan in 2013) that I thought I was going to get into it a lot more,” McNaughton said.
“I went on YouTube and picked up bits and pieces from tutorials, started sketching and it snowballed from there.
“People liked it and asked me to do some paintings and said ‘Why don’t you give it a go?’
“I’ve started taking it more seriously in the last year or so, and I will do it whether I make a living out of it or not.”
Baker has himself painted a portrait of McNaughton being chaired off the pitch by jubilant supporters as Cardiff celebrated promotion to the Premier League in 2013.
And Huddersfield-born Baker has no doubt that McNaughton – who won four caps for Scotland between 2002 and 2008 – has a promising future in the art world.
“I’ve been blown away with Kevin’s drawing ability and painting, we’ve got Damien Hirst in my gallery in London and they’re not a patch on some of these,” said Baker, who has become one of Britain’s most collectable artists.
“His draftsmanship of the portraits is there to see and he’s got a very good vision of playing out the composition.
“There’s no reason why he can’t do it professionally and make a good career out of it if that’s something he wants to do.”
McNaughton has already painted portraits of some former colleagues, including the Blackburn and Scotland winger Craig Conway, and describes the reaction of players as “positive”.
He also plans to paint his old Cardiff team-mate Robbie Fowler during a testimonial year in south Wales which will be held in partnership with the Ty Hafan children’s hospice.
Former Liverpool and England striker Fowler has agreed to play in McNaughton’s testimonial game in March to mark the Scot’s nine-year stay at Cardiff.
“Football’s a schoolboy environment and I took bit of stick when I first started doing it,” McNaughton said of his painting.
“But to be honest I expected a worse reaction and the feedback has been positive.
“I’m doing my coaching badges at the moment and I’ve done some work with the Inverness Under-21s.
“I’ve played in cup finals and other big games, and I think I’ve been lucky.
“I like passing on that knowledge to youngsters, but we’ll see what happens.
“Painting can be quite tough and demanding, but it’s good to lock yourself into a room and have that quiet time.”