F1 ace Ayrton Senna’s niece gives backing to St Albans portrait
- Credit: Original Canvas
A colour-blind painter has been “humbled” after a niece of Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna made a detour to his St Albans studio, to see his portrait of her famous relation.
Bianca Senna’s visit was particularly poignant as Ben Askem completed the painting of her uncle following the “devastating” loss of his beloved mother, who died of cancer last year.
Ben attracted Bianca’s attention with a heartfelt blog on his inspiration to finish the painting – the last one his mum, Stephanie, saw him start before her death from bowel cancer.
The 37 year old said that after her death, “the thought of painting was so far down my list it was almost insignificant”.
While he “somehow managed” to finish commissioned work, his Ayrton Senna canvas remained untouched, “staring down at me from the wall”.
Ben explained he associated his Senna painting with his personal loss, and “couldn’t touch it [as] Mum had seen me start it, but she wouldn’t see it finished. But she had said ‘you have to finish it’.
“I knew there was no way I could paint it without thinking of her for pretty much the entire process.”
- 1 Seven men arrested on suspicion of St Albans burglary
- 2 10 filming locations of new Netflix series Stay Close
- 3 Primary school rated 'Good' in latest Ofsted report
- 4 Video shows thief stealing parcel from St Albans home doorstep
- 5 This is Harpenden: faces of town's residents feature in new exhibition
- 6 St Albans Local Plan delayed to autumn 2025
- 7 The latest court results for the St Albans area
- 8 St Albans' Rachel Andrews stars alongside James Nesbitt and Eddie Izzard in new Netflix series Stay Close
- 9 After another near miss, crossing desperately needed outside St Albans school
- 10 Honest truths spilled in Saints dressing room after humbling FA Trophy defeat to Cheshunt
But he “turned a corner” and with the 20th anniversary of the death of the driver, who won three world titles, approaching on May 1, Ben was prompted to put the canvas back on an easel.
Shortly after its completion Ben, who cannot see the colours red and green properly, publicised the finished Senna painting online.
And he was stunned to suddenly receive an email from Bianca who suggested dropping by his gallery, Original Canvases, High Street, to see it.
That was despite Ben admitting on his blog that he had not originally been a fan of the mercurial Brazilian “or any other driver that wasn’t a Brit”.
However he had converted to becoming a Senna fan after realising what a force he was when behind the wheel.
Ben said: “Bianca had seen the painting on social media and thought it was amazing. As she was visiting the UK to raise awareness for the Instituto Ayrton Senna, she wanted to come to St Albans.
“I was fairly bowled over, very humbled and honoured that someone that close to Senna took time to come out here, and give her approval. Bianca asked if it would be sold, and I said I couldn’t decide yet.
“She said I had really captured his eyes.
“It’s been a real journey painting this piece.”