AN environmental consultant who refuses to describe himself as an artist has won one of Oxford's top art prizes.

Amateur painter Sam Hampton was crowned Oxford Art Society's young artist of the year on Monday.

The 32-year-old, currently studying for a PhD at Oxford University, painted his work nearly a decade ago from a pixelated digital photo taken by his cousin Martin Adler, a famous journalist who flew out to Iraq in 2003 with US soldiers.

Three years later, Mr Adler was killed reporting on a different conflict in Somalia.

Mr Hampton, who lives with his wife Lucy on Cowley Road, created the painting as a tribute, but also to highlight the absurdities and the tragedies of war.

He said: "It was a massive shock – I was really chuffed just to be selected for the exhibition.

"I did the painting a few years ago and my wife tolerated having on the wall for about six months then said 'that's enough', so it's actually been in a cupboard since then.

"I was chuffed just to have the opportunity to present it in public."

Originally from London, Mr Hampton took up painting to relax soon after he started his geography degree at Keble College, Oxford, in 2005.

A year later the family got the news that Mr Adler had been killed while reporting on a protest in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.

A widely-respected war reporter, his memorial service was attended by industry stalwarts including Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow.

Mr Hampton started looking through archives of his cousin's photography from warzones around the globe, and his attention was caught by one in particular.

He explained: "I was looking through his photographs and that image just hit me: I thought it was amazing so I wanted to paint it to honour him."

The original photo shows soldiers newly-arrived in the country taking pictures of each other in front of their country's 'star-spangled banner'.

Mr Hampton said: "For me, that image was about the absurdity of nationalism, iconography and national flags.

"I find nationalism pretty abhorrent at the best of times, and the fact that was when soldiers landed in Iraq one of the first things they would do it take this photo of them with the US flag, I thought was pretty shocking."

The combination of the badly-pixelated original image and Mr Hampton's self-confessed lack of accomplishment gave the final painting a definite amateurish style.

However, it was just this wonkiness which impressed competition judge Paul Hobson, director of Modern Art Oxford.

Mr Hampton said: "He said to me 'it's not technically brilliant, but there's a tension created by the fact you were struggling, which reflects the subject matter."

Mr Hampton said the prize would not change his environmental career ambitions, but certainly made him want to pursue his hobby even more.