ALEX Williams won his place at art college with a painting of Godmanchester.

The art course at St Martin's College in London was to give the Huntingdon-raised painter a career in the art world that has now spanned five decades - a career that will be celebrated in a biography that is due to be published next month.

His life as an artist has been documented by his former girlfriend Liz Hodgkinson in Alex Williams: The Survival of an Artist.

They met in 1961 in the Huntingdon Musical Arts Society while Alex was at St Martin's and St Neots-born Liz was studying at Huntingdon Grammar School.

They split the following year when Liz went to university in Newcastle and had no contact until a chance meeting at a party in Godmanchester 47 years later.

Liz, 68, who now lives in Oxford, said: "After a few meetings Alex asked me if I could help him with a book to catalogue an exhibition he's holding to celebrate his 70th birthday, but after speaking to him I discovered that he had a fascinating tale to tell.

"Alex's father had wanted him to get a job as he didn't think being a painter was a career. He was unhappy when Alex secured his place at St Martin's with a painting of Godmanchester.

"Alex's dad had been a pilot for the RAF based at RAF Wyton and found it hard to get a job after he left. He didn't want the same for Alex, which is why he opposed him being an artist."

Alex, 69, who now lives in Cheltenham, said his break came when he moved to Wales. He met Richard Booth, famed for trying to make Hay-on-Wye independent from Great Britain in the 80s, who was importing and exporting antiquarian books to America.

"At the time there was a market in America for 'farmyard chic' paintings so I had a lot of work through that link," Alex said. "I moved to Los Angeles for three years and exhibited there, and I have also held exhibitions in Australia."

As well as securing his college place, Alex's paintings of Godmanchester have featured throughout his career.

"I always think of Godmanchester as an idyllic place. I used to work at one of the boating yards on the river and it has stuck with me ever since."

INFORMATION: Alex Williams: The Survival of an Artist is launched on May 2. It costs £35, features lots of his work and will be available from Waterstones in St Neots.