Ed Sheeran and Rihanna show support for young Irish artist
An emerging Irish artist has shot up in popularity online thanks to acknowledgment from Rihanna, Jesse J and Ed Sheeran.
Mike Gibson(21), from Laois, has seen massive growth in his online following over the last six months thanks to endorsements from Rihanna and Ed Sheeran.
Gibson started posting his pictures on Facebook and Instagram when he finished secondary school just over three years ago, because he wanted to turn art into his profession.
Last summer, he took a chance and posted a portrait to 2Fm's Rick O'Shea and his life changed.
"I posted Rick one of my pictures and he invited me... to one of Ed Sheeran's private gigs at 2FM... to give it Ed".
"He called me up on stage to shake his hand and give him the picture".
Gibson says interest in his portraits has skyrocketed since Rihanna retweeted one of his Instagram links. "My followers went up by 10,000 after she retweeted me".
He claims that both Rihanna and Jesse J followed him and sent him private messages last summer, around the time his Instagram was taking off. "(Rihanna) sent me a picture of her I'd done and said 'I love this'".
Gibson told Independent.ie that he's seen his online presence translate into paid work.
"My most popular thing is, if someone passed away and (a friend) never got a photo with the person, I'll draw them together with their arms around each other".
"They became quite popular and made my online profile bigger".
Gibson is currently creating a series of "thought-provoking" images designed to get people "thinking and talking about (issues)".
His latest piece shows two parents "hurting a child with their words".
He says that without the internet, "I wouldn't have the opportunities I have now" and that "it would have been harder" to make his art into a career.
"The online platform I have has changed my life - it gave me business opportunities and exposure I wouldn't have had".
He said that he hopes one day his artwork can be associated with charities. "I'd love to have something attached to charities... something visually that people can understand straight away".
"I'd love to tackle social issues with artwork".
You can follow Mike at @MikeGibsonArtwork on Instagram.