THE man who painted the ’talking portraits’ in the Harry Potter movies has revealed that more than £100,000 of his work was destroyed by a fire that tore through his West Oxfordshire studio.

Film industry veteran Steve Mitchell has had a studio at Cotswold Camping in Charlbury for almost 10 years, and works there when he is not working on a movie.

The 66-year-old, who has worked on films including the Harry Potter, Star Wars and James Bond franchises, was away when flames ripped through the building on September 10.

He said: “I was working in London and got a call telling me what was happening.

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“I had no idea whether it would be minor damage.

“My wife took some photos and it didn’t look too bad, but there was smoke and water damage, and the paint had blistered and cooked, changing the colours.

“Just about everything was lost, all my paintings from the last nine years, with 18 pictures in total completely destroyed.

“A couple that were on the floor on easels managed to get rescued by the fire brigade.

Oxford Mail:

"However, everything on the mezzanine floor was completely destroyed.”

The Shipton-under-Wychwood-based artist, who has 40 years of experience in the film industry, added: “It’s a minimum of £100,000 worth of damage, in terms of the gallery prices.

“It’s all a complete write-off. I had no insurance, as it was difficult to get, as it’s such an isolated spot.

“Plus, the insurance was so expensive and fire never even crossed my mind, but it’s devastating when it happens.”

Oxford Mail:

Keith Dighton, the owner of Cotswold Camping, said he had seen a recent rise in incidents at the site.

He said: “We’ve had loads of problems at the park this year: we’ve had the camping for 35 years and had no problems at all throughout those years.

“This year, however, people haven’t been behaving. There have been things like chucking barbecues in bins.

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“It’s a great shame what happened. His work was second to none.

“It would be a greater shame if his art was destroyed due to stupid, negligent campers.”

All the paintings lost were Mr Mitchell’s own personal work.

The artist estimates he has worked on about 140 films, creating backdrops and views out of windows.

Oxford Mail:

“Most of my work is the backdrops for big Hollywood movies and forged paintings for films – large 8ft to 10ft oil paintings,” he said.

“A lot of the time, people think these are made in Hollywood but more often than not, they’ve come from London.”

Mr Mitchell’s portfolio of work includes the talking portraits in the Harry Potter films, as well as paintings for the Star Wars and James Bond films.

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He praised the fire and rescue service team for its work, after the fire had started in a bin.

He said: “Fire and rescue did a great job in salvaging what they could, including two big American easels and tools.”

Firefighters from Witney, Chipping Norton and Kidlington were called to the blaze.

Crews arrived at the scene just before 3.30pm, but the fire had already spread to one side of the building and affected the internal structure of the workshop.