DEATH row prisoners who were later found to be innocent will be the focus of a new series of portraits by a Salisbury artist.

James Earley is going to be travelling to the United States of America in June.

He said: “I can’t imagine what these people have been through on death row, knowing that any minute they are going to be killed for a crime they didn’t commit, and then to be found innocent at the very last minute. What they have been through, hopefully I can show that in my portraits.”

He said it is going to a “real challenge” but “it is something I can’t wait to do”.

The project came about after he was in contact with Witness to Innocence, a charity supporting those on death row who have been exonerated.

He has been invited to attend its conference and meet some of the former prisoners to tell their stories through his art.

James added: “I spoke to the charity last year who look after people who have been on death row and have been found innocent, so obviously they have gone through a huge amount of trauma, and their families as well.”

He is aiming to paint six portraits, which he hopes to exhibit in New York and the UK.

James, who sells a lot of his work in the US, said: “It is an amazing opportunity because my art is not decorative art, my art is art that hopefully screams at people. Like when I paint the homeless I want the art to grab hold of people.”

James, who previously worked as a business director, said he has always had an “interest” and “passion” for art but it had taken a “backseat”.

“I didn’t pick up a paintbrush for 15 years,” said James, who rekindled his artistic ways after the premature birth of his daughter who was in hospital for seven months.

“That time I went back to art because it gave me an escape. It allowed me to get away from the stress.

“Luckily she is absolutely fine now and is now 14.

“Since then I have been painting and for the last four years I’ve done it as a full time career.”

Speaking about his art work, he said: “It is really to try and make a difference.

“I want to show people we are all human and really need to look after and care for each other.

“That is really what I want my art to achieve.”