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New Forest artist Melanie Sanderson spends eight years painting 101 portraits of Princess Diana
11:00am Sunday 25th August 2013 in News
She was described as the world’s most photographed person, and adored by millions. Now, a New Forest artist has paid tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, by devoting eight years of her life to painting her – 101 times.
Melanie Sanderson was inspired to paint portraits of Princess Diana as she felt she could relate to her.
“Diana was a fascinating person who changed the royal family, and she was a very good mother,” says Melanie.
“I enjoyed watching her blossom and grow. In the portraits I’ve tried to reflect all her different looks.”
Princess Diana, known as the people’s princess, tragically died in a car accident trying to escape the paparazzi in August 1997.
She was never far from the headlines for her charity work, fashion style and rocky relationship with Prince Charles.
Diana separated from Charles in 1992, when their sons Prince William and Prince Harry were young.
Her death saw an outbreak of public mourning as people gathered in London to lay flowers and attend her funeral.
Melanie Sanderson remembers the public mood vividly.
“London was eerily quiet for days,” she says.
“All sorts of people from every place you could imagine gathered quietly to grieve and remember. The vast sea of flowers outside Kensington Palace became a shrine.”
But it was in 2005, eight years after Diana’s death, that Melanie first painted the princess in the portrait Mystic Diana, which is still her favourite painting.
But she did not stop at just one painting – she continued her Diana-inspired art, spending about a week on each portrait.
At first, Melanie considered the target of 101 portraits, suggested by her husband Roy, impossible.
However, the artist has now completed the project, and is very pleased with her achievement. Although the portraits were originally created for her own enjoyment, Melanie is now looking to publish the paintings of Diana in a book, and will donate some of the earnings to charity.
She also hopes to exhibit the art to the public. But she does not plan on selling the original portraits, because she says the collection “wouldn’t be the same if it was split up”.
Roy, Melanie’s husband of 36 years, has had a large involvement in the project, from cutting the different-sized wooden boards for the portraits, to encouraging Melanie.
“I couldn’t have done the project without him,” says Melanie.
The mother-of-two currently keeps the paintings, ranging in size from 5 by 5 inches to 14 by 11 inches, packed in boxes in her studio.
All the portraits have carefully chosen frames, which Melanie bought from charity shops.
Melanie describes her painting style as similar to her personality, because it is often impulsive and unplanned.
She loves using bright colours, and enjoys seeing how a painting will change and develop.
She is inspired by Fabian Perez, an Argentinian artist.
She first began painting 10 years ago, when she moved to Hampshire.
After leaving school at 15, the artist has had more than 60 jobs, including dental nursing, childminding and working in factories and shops.
When she retired, Melanie found she had more time to enjoy painting. Although she has no professional training, she set up a studio in her home and began painting portraits of celebrities, including Mick Jagger, Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig.
The artist has also painted portraits of many members of the royal family, and hopes to add the new royal arrival to her collection soon.
“What I enjoy about painting is that I lose myself completely, and forget about my worries,” she says.
“It’s like a therapy.
“Also, I’m always intrigued and curious to see how the finished painting will look. Painting is a lovely relaxation, and I will continue it for as long as I enjoy it.”
Melanie takes portrait commissions on her website melaniesanderson.com.
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