Plymouth artist and former soldier Kevin Preston – best known for his mural of fellow veteran Mark Ormrod, in Western Park Road – has created a Christmas T-shirt to be sold in aid of Help for Heroes, a charity which, he says, is ‘dear to my heart’.
Kevin, 59, who served in the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, has created a design titled ‘Seasoned Greetings’. It features characters called Squadron Leader Salt, in an RAF uniform; Petty Officer Pepper, wearing Naval apparel; and Major Mustard, an Army officer, and the design is available on a t-shirt, for £25, or mug, for £6.
He explained: “When I was in the Army we’d put on shows and dress up in ridiculous costumes, like a bottle of salt, for example. Those memories have stuck with me. Originally, I just had the salt and pepper but thought ‘I need to make it tri-services’.
“I came up with the names Squadron Leader Salt, Petty Officer Pepper, and Colonel Mustard – but dumped that idea in case of copyright issues. So, we – my wife, Jo, and I – went with Major Mustard to continue the alliterative theme.
“When I was drawing it, I realised I could have HMS Pepper on the sailor’s cap-band. I found myself at dinner one day making a mental note of how many holes was in the salt and pepper cruets. I drew them first and then worked out how to add on the uniforms.”
Kevin has also recently designed an ‘egg banjo’ T-shirt for the Armed Forces charity, celebrating the popular fried-egg sandwich, which dates back to WWI, when the forces were looking for a quick snack to give to the troops.
He added: “It gets its name from the way you clean the dripping yoke off your chest; holding the sandwich held out to the side with one hand while the other wipes at the drips, in the same motion as playing a banjo. It proved popular in the wars, and we were still having them when I was serving.”
This is the third year Kevin has been commissioned by Help for Heroes, which supported him in his recovery, after he struggled with injuries sustained while on active service.
He explained: “Originally, I entered a Christmas card competition with the charity. But then they said they’d prefer to put my work on a t-shirt. And that’s how it all started.
“Art has been central to my recovery. If I didn’t have that I don’t know what I’d be like. It keeps me focused and takes my mind of loads of other stuff. I can sit there for hours painting.
“I love doing the work for Help for Heroes. The charity is dear to my heart. They helped me a lot in the early days, particularly with my art. With them I had an exhibition in the Mall Galleries and three down in Plymouth.”
In addition to his work for Help for Heroes, Kevin is also an ambassador for Outside In, a charity providing a platform for artists who encounter significant barriers in the art world. Along with the charity’s other ambassadors, he was a recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2022.
Will Linford-Tattersall, the buyer for Help for Heroes Trading, said: “It’s wonderful that we’re able to work with creatives like Kevin to produce products that help raise funds to support his fellow veterans.
“Kevin is a talented artist and for him to support us in this way is very generous of him and a gesture for which we are very grateful. We’re sure this year’s T-shirt – and mugs, as we’ll be using the design on them as well – will prove hugely popular in the run-up to Christmas. May we wish you all condiments of the season …”
Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 30,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.
The Charity supports veterans, and their families, from any branch of the UK military – regulars or reserves – irrespective of length or place of service, and locally embedded civilians (and their families) who worked alongside our Armed Forces.