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Ramsgate child prodigy, seven, nicknamed Vincent Van Gogh for his incredible artwork


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Max Coker is your typical seven-year-old boy - a bundle of energy who doesn't sit still for long.

The chatty youngster from Ramsgate loves nothing more than dancing to the music of his idol Michael Jackson and dreams of being a vet or sea diver when he's a grown up.

Max with his self portrait
Max with his self portrait

But his cheeky nature belies an extraordinary artistic talent - one which requires a lot of concentration - in which he draws and paints at a standard well beyond his years, something that has earned him the nickname Vincent Van Gogh by his teachers at Newington Community Primary School.

The child prodigy's work is at such a level he has had a commission from a woman in Moscow and currently has orders for 30 sunset animal paintings, the proceeds of which he is donating to a fundraiser for Margate boy Ashton Andrews, who has recently been diagnosed with rare genetic condition Usher Syndrome.

Max's mum Kerry admits she had no idea how talented he was until a nursery worker asked if Max could sign a picture he had drawn "just in case". He was aged just three at the time.

"It was then I realised he was pretty good," she laughs.

"I'd just thought that was what an average child of his age was drawing, that they could all draw like that.

Max Coker with his pictures he is selling for charity
Max Coker with his pictures he is selling for charity

"He's always loved it. Even on holiday he would sit by the pool drawing.

"He's always sketched and drawn - wherever we take him as long as he's got a pencil, he's happy.

"At school, once he's done his work he's allowed to draw. He wishes for wet play so he can stay in and do that instead."

Kerry says when she booked him into football camp one half term she arrived at school to pick him up only to find he'd done no football at all, just produced pictures.

Sitting in Kent Talents Art Studio in Broadstairs, where he started classes in August, the youngster admits he hates football.

"My teachers think it's incredible, they go 'wow' when I show them..."

"It's hard to explain, but I started drawing when I was about three and I always loved it," he said.

"At the start I was drawing aliens and dinosaurs because I used to love dinosaurs.

"Now I like it all, drawing and painting."

He says the reaction he gets from people is brilliant.

"My teachers think it's incredible, they go 'wow' when I show them," he said.

Kerry Coker with son Max and art tutor Lana Arkhi
Kerry Coker with son Max and art tutor Lana Arkhi

"They call me Vincent Van Gogh."

Before he started at the studio in Broadstairs, run by artist Lana Arkhi, he hadn't ever picked up a paintbrush, having only drawn before.

He has since produced exceptional pieces including a self-portrait and he is currently working on a landscape painting of Botany Bay, which his head teacher Cliff Stokes has his eye on.

His mum admits, however, that he doesn't sit still for long so Lana gets him to paint standing up.

The art teacher says he's particularly good at following instructions and where other children might lose interest, he completes his pictures.

"He's very good," she said.

"I am a professional artist so I have a lot of friends who commission things and one saw Max's picture of a dog on my Facebook page and she commissioned him to do a portrait of her dog."

Max is now using his talent to help seven-year-old Ashton, who was born profoundly deaf and at the age of two had bilateral cochlear implants at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH).

He has recently been diagnosed with the rare genetic condition Usher Syndrome which causes progressive sight loss.

A fundraiser has been started by his mum Frankie Purchla to raise funds for GOSH and charity Cure Usher.

Max is painting an image of Botany Bay which he will sell to raise money for charity
Max is painting an image of Botany Bay which he will sell to raise money for charity

Max, who was under the care of GOSH due to his large port wine stain on his leg and leg length discrepancy as a baby, wants to do something to help.

Kerry said: "We used to have to trek up to GOSH quite a bit so it feels good for him to now be discharged.

"He really wants to give something back.

"He wanted to put a stall outside our house and sell paintings but I told him it doesn't really work like that.

"So I said why doesn't he do some paintings at home and sell them for the charity.

"He's put them up for £12 each or two for £20 - he'll keep £2 for his canvas and paints and then the rest goes to charity. The money will be shared between GOSH and Usher."

Max has already completed three and has orders for 30 more.

"These paintings are something that he can do quickly so he can do in bulk which is why he's chosen these," she added.

"I was reading Facebook comments to Max and he said 'stop reading them, you're making me cry..."

Kerry admits she is exceptionally proud of her son, but says even with his obvious talent he doesn't always feel confident.

"We put the self portrait on Facebook and that had over 500 comments and 1,600 likes," she said.

"I was reading the comments to Max and he said 'stop reading them, you're making me cry'.

"It's a real confidence boost because sometimes he says 'I can't do it' particularly when he gets to the eyes on anything, which he finds hard.

"It does make you proud."

To buy the paintings contact Kerry on Facebook or message through Max's Instagram page.

To donate directly to the fundraiser visit https://bit.ly/2url7EJ

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