AN ARTIST who has painted portraits of the King of Bahrain is now holding an exhibition that is a lot closer to home.

Michelle Pearson Cooper, 63, who lives in Blewbury, has painted pictures of Royals, commissioned for play writers and business moguls, but since lockdown has been focusing on portraits closer to people's hearts: our pets.

The artists exhibition, 'Reigning Cats and Dogs' is to take place in London later this month, and will not only feature paintings of Ms Cooper's own furry friends, lurcher Wizard and labrador Kilo, but portraits of local friends and residents own pets.

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The exhibition also combines Ms Cooper's experiences of living abroad in South Africa with the experience of being locked down in her barn conversion near Blewbury.

The artist explains: "I wanted to combine the big cats from my travels, and living in South Africa, with those who are always there to welcome us when we get home, who sit at our feet.

"We were in South Africa when lockdown started happening, so we were kind of removed from the situation. We got the second-to-last flight out of Cape Town and managed to get back to the UK on March 27th.

"When we were locked down back in Oxfordshire, however, we had this incredible weather, people were looking at the world in a different way, away from their phones and computers, so I had this idea of painting what was going on outside in the garden. "We all became so aware of our environment."

Ms Cooper and her husband Justin Cadbury, of the 'chocolate dynasty', moved near Didcot over 35 years ago.

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When they moved to Oxfordshire, they converted the 400 year old barn into an art studio. This is where the painter spends most of her time drawing cats and dogs, bees and flowers, and anything else she has spotted outside.

The artist spoke about how the local area inspires her pieces. She said: "I get lots of inspiration from what is around us.

"There is a big space where the dogs can walk, and farmland surrounding us.

"There's so many wildflowers and sunflowers this summer. It makes you appreciate the county more and over lockdown I feel, like most people, my priorities were reset.

"I started stopping and looking at important things, instead of life in general taking over."

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Several paintings that feature in the exhibition are of Pearson's family and friends' pets.

The exhibition will take place between October 21st - November 21st at the Osborne Studio Gallery, in Belgravia, London.

Ms Cooper said: "In the exhibition I have big cats, domestic dogs and little cats. Everyone wants a painting of their cat, not just any cat, that's why I painted pictures of domestic cats that my friends and family know."

When asked why Ms Cooper where the theme of animal royalty came from, the painter explained: "One day, in the heart of lockdown, it was quite a dark day and I was feeling a bit low and unsure about the whole thing. It was April 21st, the Queen's birthday, and I was painting a cheetah, but in the background on the hills I painted Windsor Castle. It was a very loose impression of the castle in the background."