IT’S not such a big step from building petrol stations to painting masterpieces according to artist Marc Turner.

After being diagnosed with a rare disease two years ago, the 58-year-old’s right wrist was replaced with a titanium implant.

Doctors said he would never work in construction again so he was faced with the challenge of developing a new career.

Marc, who grew up in Bank Quay, began drawing as a child and said he was inspired by the town’s overlooked art history.

And this week, visitors to the museum may have spotted him at work at his easel on a version of Luke Fildes’ Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest, which hangs in the gallery.

Marc explained: “When I was suffering with my wrist and I wasn’t working, I used to come here and walk round a lot and I have always admired this painting. It stuck in my mind, I kept coming in and looking at it.

“Both Henry Woods and Luke Fildes came to the painting school in Warrington and they became best friends and both got scholarships to go to London. The two ladies in the painting are Woods’ sisters, Annie and Fanny.

“Fildes looks like he is serenading Fanny because he was in love with her and they ended up getting married.

“This was on the Thames. Although Henry Woods was from Warrington, he lived most of his life in Venice.”

Fildes and Woods are now remembered as leaders of the neo-Venetian art movement and Fildes was even knighted in 1906, with some of his work now on display in the Tate Britain.

Marc said: “Warrington Painting School was quite an advanced school in its time, it was known in Europe. A lot of very good artists went there. It’s sad for me that we have not still got that reputation.”

The former Bewsey Secondary School pupil said he started painting after seeing drawings by his dad, who was a forklift driver.

“My dad used to draw so I used to copy him – we did pictures of Desperate Dan. My brother used to draw as well. I found that I just wanted to draw all the time and I used to get scraps of paper and draw anything – I still want to draw anything and everything,” he said.

“I used to run home from school and come and walk around the museum. And I would plan where I could hide in the museum so that I could look around when there was no one here. I always got found out.”

After Marc left school he went into the army and spent 10 years in Germany, where he was stationed, and remembers doing his first watercolour painting whilst living there.

When he returned to the UK, he moved to Locking Stumps and set up his own building business. But he was diagnosed with Kienböck’s disease, which affects the small bones in the wrist, and had to give up his career and teach himself to paint with his left hand.

He was also forced to stop travelling to teach a course at Norfolk Painting School.

Marc believes there are great similarities between builders and artists, not only in the materials they use but also the techniques. Marc wanted to use birste, a type of paint made from birch soot, to sketch on his canvases as many artists would have done in the 19th century.

But he said he was unable to buy any so he started making his own at home. The idea captured the imagination of other art schools and he has now launched his own line of paints, selling birste as well as fourteen colours he helped develop.

Marc said he enjoys painting portraits, landscapes and even impressionist pictures as well as copying the masters, with his favourite artist being his namesake JMW Turner.

The great masters is the best thing. Once you’ve done one, you want to do them all,” he said.

“You can learn a lot from them. I think knowledge of art and painting is a great thing.”

Now he enjoys teaching others how to paint anything from abstract to realist pictures, but said people are surprised at how long it can take to complete a canvas. Marc also recently donated an artwork he did of Shakespeare with a mobile phone to be auctioned for charity at the Twitter Art Exhibition.

And he is now looking forward to the birth of his first grandchild in just a few weeks time.

But he remains committed to raising awareness of Warrington’s impressive artistic heritage and hopes that founding the art school will encourage the next generation to pick up their palettes and create a few new pieces for the museum gallery.

He added: “Let’s bring art back to Warrington.”