AN artist with an incredible eye for detail will be among the many exhibitors at Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival this weekend.
Christopher Hope-King, who lives in the town, is one of the country's leading miniature painters, sometimes spending several months working on single intricate piece.
The grandson of a talented artist, and originally an antique dealer by trade, Christopher is self-taught and painted as a hobby until he decided to sell some of his work from his shop in Poole around 25 years ago. The paintings were well received and were soon featuring in London exhibitions.
Tired of struggling around the city with armfuls of large paintings, Christopher struck on the idea of creating something more compact. He already had an interest in Tudor miniatures, and developed his own style incorporating what has become his signature duck portrait.
The move to miniatures won Christopher further acclaim, and he has exhibited in the Mall Galleries, and Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, where he has had 14 paintings accepted, as well as the Royal Miniature Society and The World Exhibition of Miniatures at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. He is a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Engravers, by which he was awarded a Gold Bowl Honourable Mention in 1993 and won the Sheila Fairman Award for Best Subject Miniature in 1995.
Christopher's duck portraits, inspired by an antique decoy that sat on the porch of his cottage, feature a wide range of subjects including Shakespearean characters and historic figures.
Most of Christopher's miniatures are postcard sizes, but he often creates much smaller pieces. His tiniest to date was a painting for a dolls house, which measured up at 1cm by 5mm, including the frame.
Another memorable commission was a gift for Somerset racehorse trainer Paul Nicholls. The painting featured the jockeys of 40 Grand National runners, depicted as ducks, each taking around three days to paint. "It was very hard going and I was pleased to get that one finished, but it looked fantastic in the end. Painting miniatures really isn't making life easy for yourself," he explained.
Unlike watercolour painting, Christopher's miniatures are produced by building up layer upon layer of dots and tiny brushstrokes. He likes a challenge and has even managed to paint a portrait on a cobweb. "It is very much in the tradition of the old painters who used to do strange things to show off," he added.
For an artist who spends several hours of every day painting in fine detail using a tiny brush and magnifying glass, Christopher is incredibly laid back, although he confesses that he has been painting landscapes and trees for "light relief" of late. The new collection, inspired by local trees, will be on show at Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival this weekend, and Christopher will also be taking along his paints to demonstrate his craft.
Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival
The 13th Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival takes place this weekend, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Organisers promise a wide variety of food traders selling some of the region's finest produce, plus craft and charity stalls. For details of the musical entertainment see this week's Scene & Heard on page 32.
For more information on the festival, visit www.cheesefestival.co.uk
Report and pictures by Mathew Manning