They say it’s never too late to follow your dreams, and for Innerleithen man Douglas 'Dougie' Russell, that dream came true when he picked up a brush a few months ago and discovered a remarkable talent for painting. Reporter Hilary Scott met with the man whose passion for the arts both on and off stage has led him on a journey of self-discovery.

Creativity seems to be in Dougie's blood.

The curtain opened and the spotlight shone on a new era of Dougie's life when he joined Innerleithen & District Amateur Operatic Society in 1999 – just before he hit his forties.

Over the years, he has brought many characters to life, including Oklahoma’s kooky cowboy Will Parker; Reb Tevye, the poor pious milkman in Fiddler on the Roof; and the man that teaches homeless boys how to pick a pocket as Fagan in Oliver .

These days he works behind the scenes, directing young thespians in the Kids Innerleithen Youth Theatre.

And Dougie is up with the lark every morning to pursue his new passion of watercolour painting before setting off to work at Rathburn Chemicals in Walkerburn.

His love for art didn’t begin with a paint brush. It started as a young boy who loved drawing cartoons at school. That young boy soon became a young father, and a short-lived hobby in stained glass art came crashing down as he admits broken glass and children don’t mix.

But his artistic ambitions didn’t end there, and his new passion for painting began five months ago.

“Having spent a few years as a strength-conditioning coach with Peebles Rugby Club, I’ve always been interested in things about positive motivation,” explained Dougie.

“I only recently discovered the world of positive mind-set podcasts and shortly after discovered my love/hate relationship with painting. I merely realised that if you want to do something that’s always been your passion, you have to go with your gut feeling and take action.”

So that’s just what he did. And, at the age of 56, Dougie has painted an array of expressionist watercolour art. With a sense of whimsy, his work captures his larger than life personality.

“I love big paintings, probably my small man syndrome,” he explains. "I feel it gives me the chance to make big statements. My style comes from my personality. It’s probably why I like painting animal heads as I try to give them all an individual character.

“I’m not sure what phase of life 56 is, but for a guy who says life should be fun they all look rather serious.”

Curious to discover why his clear talent for art only came to fruition a matter of months ago, I learn it all started with Fred Flintstone.

“My love of art came along at the ripe old age of 12. I remember drawing pictures of Fred for the girls in 1st year as a reward for doing my homework.”

With dreams of being a cartoonist, Dougie left school with O Level Art. “I wanted to draw cartoons, this is probably noticeable in my paintings today, and my love of playing character parts in the opera. Life should be fun. I sometimes feel it’s too serious.”

Dougie tells me he was inspired by the success of various people who start their daily routines at 4am.

“I decided the way forward for me was to get up at 4.30pm – I like a long lie! Apparently it is when you’re in your most creative mind state, and another positive to getting up at this time is I’ve extended my life by three hours a day!”

As well as animals, Dougie has also painted abstract landscapes with one on display at Tweed Art Gallery.

So what does the future hold for the self-taught man of the arts? Dougie replied: “I’d love to hear from anyone who may look at this and could suggest an art course I could join. My goal is to keep on learning and hopefully become more accomplished. At 56 years old I’ve still got years ahead of me and god willing I will still be enjoying learning when I’m 86 years old.

“I’d love to create original paintings for people on a commission basis as this keeps the paintings more personal and bespoke. I’ve looked into creating prints as well. But this is just the start of my journey and I’m happy if people simply like my work.”

They say that life begins at 40 and perhaps it does, as Dougie was approaching this age when he hit the stage. Or could it be 50, when words of inspiration whisper in your ear that it’s never too late to follow your childhood passion. Or just maybe it’s at any age when one day you decide you dare to live and follow your dreams.

I do wonder what is next for Dougie as he approaches the next era in his life. “My dream would be to retire one day and continue to paint into my old age in a nice wee studio, with my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all running around with my paint brushes causing all kinds of mischief.”

Now that is a pretty picture.