YORKSHIRE portrait artist Michelle Clarke-Stables is to paint Dame Judi Dench after receiving approval from the York actress.

“I’ve been in conversation via her PA, Sue, for the past four months, as well as on and off over the past two years during my last painting project, Familial Gazes,” says Michelle. “We’ve been waiting for Dame Judi to get back from India and to see if there was any way she could fit in a studio visit.

“But after many emails, it just wasn’t possible, or not in the near future anyway, due to her workload as she is again off abroad filming straight away. So we’ve agreed that I’ll work from photographs with communication to make sure Judi is happy with the final outcome before it goes on show as part of my next project.”

Sometime in May, Yorkshire author Joanne Harris will visit Michelle’s studio, near Barnsley, to sit for the project’s first portrait.

“There’s no project name yet but I know I will suddenly stumble on something that suits as it develop,” says Michelle. “So far I’ll be painting Dame Judi, Joanne Harris, comedian Jo Brand, Barnsley author Milly Johnson, TV presenter Michaela Strachan and University of York archaeology visiting profesor and Egyptologist Joann Fletcher.

“I still have many emails to send and letters to write to get further people involved, including male sitters, as this project is not about women this time.”

Michelle is “totally over the moon” about painting Dame Judi. “She’s such a respected, amazingly talented and important woman in the UK and worldwide,” she says. “I’ve just done a commission of the late North Eastern playwright Githa Sowerby for the York Settlement Community Players, the first theatre group Dame Judi was part of in York.

“This was displayed at York Theatre Royal last month during Settlement’s Studio production of Githa’s play The Stepmother, which I told Dame Judi about via her PA, but to actually be given the go-ahead to paint her is mind-blowing and slightly worrying at the same time.

“So I’m hoping to put my arty worrying doubts behind me and produce a portrait she’ll be delighted with after she’s been kind enough to be part of my next project.”

• Examples of Michelle’s work can be found on her website, michelleclarkestables.com/