The Incredible Story Behind a Blank Canvas

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Andy Leek and his 'painting, that hasn’t been painted yet’
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Andy Leek and his 'painting, that hasn’t been painted yet’

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"


In September 2013, amongst second hand office chairs, designer handbags,
DVDs and cameras, sat a listing that was about to send its 'seller' on an incredible adventure, which would connect two people across the world for a very special cause.  
The internet is, of course, a powerful tool for connecting people, but when Andy Leek advertised ‘A painting, that hasn’t been painted yet’ on eBay, he had no idea quite how far it would take him. 
Andy Leek's eBay listing
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Andy Leek's eBay listing

After a heartbreaking few years, in which Andy not only lost his Mum to cancer but also discovered his sister-in-law had been diagnosed with the potentially life threatening disease, he wanted to find a positive.

A positive that wouldn’t only raise money for his Mum’s favourite charity, Compton Hospice, but that would make a statement. He said, “I wanted to show people that you need to enjoy the good times in life, because you don’t know how long they will last for. And the best way I could think about doing this, was to have an adventure.”
Andy's painting of Prince George
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Andy's painting of Prince George

Andy is no stranger to posting his artwork on eBay. In July 2013, when the nation was celebrating the news that Prince George had been born, Andy was painting him.

“I waited for him to be shown to the media, then immediately started painting, so that I was the first person to paint the portrait of the future King of England.” He goes on to explain “I then put this on eBay, with the hope of a bidding war between a Russian billionaire and a Saudi Oil Sheik. This didn’t happen, as it only sold for £41.”

Although this didn’t go as he planned, it did give him the idea for the blank canvas. “The experiment made me realise the value in putting an idea and a story into a painting. Putting the blank canvas on eBay was the easy part, what happened next was more difficult!” 

Andy, Laurel and Dave in Las Vegas
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Andy, Laurel and Dave in Las Vegas

Andy wasn’t only selling a blank canvas, he was selling it with a promise.

That promise was to paint the portrait of the winner, no matter where they were in the world - which is why he used eBay, “it is set up for items to be shared and bid on all over the world…it provided the least amount of barriers for people to bid.” And from all over the world the bids came, including the winning one, made by Laurel May Bond, from Las Vegas.
 
In discussions that followed her winning bid, Andy was to discover that Laurel was fighting breast cancer herself, which only made him even more determined to get to her. However, fulfilling his promise proved more difficult than he had first thought. That was until he received an incredible message via Facebook.

He explained: “one of Laurels friends, Dave Richardson, gave me his air miles to make the flight affordable for me to get over there. Dave loved the idea - he had lost his mum to cancer at a similar age to me.”
The 'painting, that hasn’t been painted yet’ about to be painted!
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Link to an eBay page
The 'painting, that hasn’t been painted yet’ about to be painted!

Andy describes Laurel winning the canvas as fate, “we were very much kindred spirits that the internet and the idea threw together.” She showed him a side of Vegas that only the locals know and organised a conference at which he would talk about his project.

But when the talking stopped and the painting was due to start, Andy began to worry, “I was nervous about painting Laurel's portrait and messing it up. So she came up with the idea of painting her pets, Manchester the bulldog, and Pixel the parrot.” Which he believed showed her mischievous and creative side far more than her portrait ever could.  

Andy's painting of Manchester the bulldog and Pixel the parrot
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Andy's painting of Manchester the bulldog and Pixel the parrot

Sadly, Laurel lost her battle with breast cancer this summer, but not before helping Andy raise more than £1,100 for the hospice. The painting, which was originally given to Dave as a thank you for the air miles, was later put on display at Laurel's funeral. 
Andy and Laurel with his painting of Manchester
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Andy and Laurel with his painting of Manchester


After experiencing first hand the kindness of strangers, Andy decided to pass on some acts of kindness himself, with his new project: Notes to a Stranger.

“I started this after having to have some time off work due to a mental health issue… I worked far too hard, my commute was long and draining, and I could see in other peoples faces on the tube, that they were finding it tough too.”

He explains how he wanted to make them smile, as well as think. “I loved the idea of hiding positive notes in newspapers and then leaving them on seats for people to discover because it was something easy to do, and would catch people by surprise. It also helped me feel better, it’s amazing how good it makes you feel to do something nice for a stranger!”
Notes to a Stranger
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Notes to a Stranger
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