Holiday island's answer to Banksy is former Burnley man whose artwork has been spotted around the world

A chance find of an eye catching painted rock prompted a former Burnley man to get involved in a craze that is sweeping the nation.

Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 12:01 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 12:38 pm
Artist Andy Stewart, who has painted thousands of rocks,with her his pet Westie Laggan.

Andy Stewart thought the rock was a discarded piece of a schoolboy's homework when he spotted it while on a bike ride in Ramsbottom, but when a passerby told him the rock had been placed there on purpose for someone to find he was intrigued.

Andy said: "It was like a piece of art but I honestly thought it had been discarded by a pupil who had done it at school and couldn'r be bothered taking it home."

And when he discovered there were several groups devoted to the art of painting and hiding rocks, including one in Anglesey, where he and his wife have a holiday home, Andy (54) couldn't resist having a go himself.

Andy's versions of some of the latest pieces of street art by Banksy.

The idea behind the scheme is to post pictures of any rocks you find, saying where you found it and either keep it or re-hide in anywhere in the world.

Using his trusty little pet Westie Laggan as his model, Andy, who signs himself as 'Lagsy' painted a couple of rocks and decided to hide them around Anglesey.

And the response was overwhelming with several people posting requests on Anglesey Rocks for Andy to paint rocks with specific themes or for different occasions and events.

Discovering an artistic talent that he never realised he had, Andy has been more than happy to respond to these requests in the past three years. The most recent one was from a mother who wanted to raise awareness of the rare disease her child suffers from.

Laggan the Westie with some of the Christmas rocks painted by his master

And among the thousands of rocks he has painted are his own versions of some of the images created by Banksy, the anonymous street artist.

And, as his signature, images of Laggan almost always appear in Andy's paintings. His rocks have now been hidden and found at destinations across the globe including Mount Everest, the Caribbean and New Zealand.

Andy, who grew up in the Pike Hill area of Burnley and attended the former St Theodore's RC High School, said: "I still paint around 25 to 30 rocks a week.

"It's fun and relaxing and I enjoy coming up with different ideas for them. And it is fantastic that painting rocks gets children out and about adventuring and looking for them.

Just some of the rocks from the massive collection Andy has painted in the last three years

"Because Anglesey is a holiday destination and a beautiful place there is never a shortage of visitors exploring the island."

Never short of a supply of rocks from his beloved Anglesey, Andy, who works for the NHS in Bury, also receives regular donations of rocks to paint from well wishers from around the country.

Andy is also a passionate supporter of the fundraising Anglesey Rocks does for a number of different charities including the RNLI. In December several of Andy's featured in the Rockaway Beach event where lines of painted rocks were on display and people were invited along to add their own and at the end of the day allowed to take one away with them to either keep or re-hide.

Andy said: "It was an amazing event and it really captured the imagination of the children with many of them standing by the rocks they wanted to keep so when the time came they could grab them."

Andy Stewart with his beloved pet dog Laggan.

The event will take place again in May and raise more funds for the RNLI with a charity collection and raffle.

Andy, whose parents still live in Harle Syke, Burnley, said: "Anglesey Rocks is made up of some great people who are doing something positive and wonderful and also helping good causes.

"I feel very proud to be part of it, I have made some good friends."

Andy's versions of Banksy's art
A selection of some of Andy's fabulous painted rocks