A WELL-known Gwent artist has created a special portrait of a Welsh rugby legend to celebrate Pride 2020.

Nathan Wyburn, from Ebbw Vale, has used red paint and fingerprints to create a portrait of Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas in celebration of Pride. The piece was commissioned by the arts team at the Cardiff & Vale Health Charity.

Mr Wyburn, who has appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, specialises in creating celebrity portraits and pop culture images with non-traditional mediums including food.

Pride is a cause close to Mr Wyburn’s heart as he, like his subject Mr Thomas, is a proud, gay man who is passionate about supporting and championing LGBTQIA+ rights, breaking down barriers and promoting equality.

He is also a patron of the Cardiff & Vale Health Charity and a keen supporter of the NHS, with a previous portrait of a nurse - created from pictures of nurses - being displayed across many hospitals in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Wyburn said: “I’m thrilled to have this piece of work on show at Cardiff Royal Infirmary. I’m passionate, as is Gareth, about erasing the stigma around HIV, and I think this piece will help that.

"The paint is meant to simulate blood (which also has negative connotations which I’d like to erase) and the fingerprints represent identity. Creating work that has a powerful meaning is always for filling, and I’m thrilled with this piece.

"Gareth is not just a good friend, but a huge inspiration to me, this is an honour.”

Mr Thomas represented Wales in rugby union and rugby league, with 100 test matches until his retirement from rugby union in October 2011.

Just two years earlier, in December, 2009, Mr Thomas came out as gay and in 2010, he was voted as the most influential gay person in the UK according to The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List, and was also given Stonewall's Hero of the Year award.


At the time of his coming out, he was the first openly gay professional rugby union player. In 2015, his autobiography titled ‘Proud’, which was written with Michael Calvin, won the Sports Book of the Year.

In 2018, he was the victim of a homophobic attack and requested that the police dealt with his attackers using restorative justice rather than punish - continuing his crusade to raise awareness, break down barriers and fight the prejudice faced by many members of the LGBTQIA+ communities.

Mr Thomas revealed in September 2019 that he was HIV positive but with undetectable status - which means he is not infectious - and the following day, he competed in the Ironman Wales event in Tenby and came 413th out of 2,039.

He also filmed a documentary with Prince Harry and the Terrence Higgins Trust for national HIV testing week, and a documentary aired on the BBC about his life with HIV just days later.

He was also honoured in the St David’s Awards 2020 for his work in raising awareness of the stigma around HIV. The First Minister said: “He has been open and honest about his sexuality and his HIV status and his story has been inspiring.”

Mr Thomas currently receives regular treatment and counselling from the department of sexual health at Cardiff’s Royal Infirmary. He credits its staff's care and compassion as having helped him through a difficult period in his life.

Rachel Drayton, clinical director for the department of sexual health said: “It’s great to see Gareth doing so well. He’s such as great role model to many, using his professional status as a platform to champion issues close to him, such as LGBTQ+ equality, mental health and raising awareness about HIV.

"We hope displaying this artwork inspires others to go forward with strength and hope for the future.”