TRIBUTES have been paid to a talented artist who has died after battling pneumonia.

Colleagues and friends have been paying tribute to Paul Karslake, 61, from Leigh.

Friends have confirmed he was battling pneumonia but it is unclear whether he had contracted coronavirus.

He worked on many projects including the current Hares About Town charity trail for Havens Hospices.

Paul and his sister, Jo Wood, former wife of Rolling Stone star Ronnie Wood, grew up in Benfleet.

Paul’s portrait of Keith Richards, Rolling Stones founder, dressed as a pirate was the inspiration for Johnny Depp’s portrayal of film pirate Jack Sparrow, the Echo understands.

Staff at Kiwi Productions worked with Paul on the charity event for the hospice charity. A firm spokesman said: “We are devastated to hear this tragic news.  

“We have worked closely with Paul for a number of years- in particular with his wonderful creation of Leporum Fisher – the Hares About Town launch hare.

“Nothing was ever too much to ask Paul – he went above and beyond and took such pride in his work. 

“He was a fantastically talented artist, and such a wonderful and funny man. We have lost a dear friend. Our thoughts and best wishes are to his wife Sandra and all of his family.”

Head of Philanthropy at Havens Hospices Louise Gloyne, worked with Paul over many years. She said he was an incredibly generous supporter of the charity.

She said: “Not only did he attend our events, but donated artwork to be auctioned which raised thousands of pounds for the charity.

“Most recently, Paul was working on our Hares About Town project and was the first artist to create a bespoke hare for the launch.

“We were also in discussions with Paul about a sculpture for the front of the new Fair Havens, which he had always taken a personal interest in as he knew how important the hospice was for Southend.”