John Wynne Hopkins was born in Dafen in Llanelli in 1954. At five weeks old he was taken to Rhodesia where he spent most of his childhood. He was sent back to Britain in 1967 when the sanctions against Rhodesia came into place. He attended Llandovery College where he took a keen interest in art.
Speaking about his time in Africa john said: “I see myself as a Welsh Rhodesian. I loved my time in Africa but the political situation got tough there. It was amazing on the eye. It was a great time in my life. I always called it God’s own country and it was just beautiful. Fabulous wildlife and beautiful scenery. I love Wales too and I have maintained both in my heart.”
John told us a little about his educational history. He said: “I did my O levels and A levels concentrating on my art. I went in to Cardiff Art College and then took up teaching. I went to Trinity College Carmarthen and came out as an art and geography teacher.”
John went on to teach at Penybryn School for Autistic children. We asked John how he approached teaching children to paint. He said: “There are plenty of things you can do to instil creativity in children. When I started teaching I always said to them as long as you try your hardest I will find things you can paint and draw. I would set up scenes or tell them a story. I always said as long as they tried I would be happy with their work.”
John’s paintings contain plenty of references to his time in Africa but since his return he has painted plenty of Welsh landscapes. He also has an interest in the military having served in the Rhodesian Army having done a commissioning course and ended up as an officer in the Rhodesian African Rifles.
John told us about the blue plaque project he was involved in for many years. He said: “We formed Llanelli Community Heritage back in 2004 with a view to save important buildings in Llanelli and create a trail. A lot of good work has gone on in Llanelli placing blue plaques commemorating people and places. I think we have the biggest blue plaque trail in Wales. The group is now led by Lyn John a well know historian. We try to incorporate technology on the plaques. People can use their phones and get information from some technology within the plaque.”
John loves Llanelli and the many historic building, which have thankfully survived the developers wrecking ball. He told us: “We don’t realise how beautiful the buildings are in Llanelli. I think I have painted most of them and they appear on the Christmas cards we sell to raise money for the heritage fund. I love painting in the outdoors too and getting out into the fresh air.”
John’s work is in a lot of online galleries. His Facebook page can be found at