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Banbridge artist Michelle Wilson is animal painter to the A-listers including Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox

Clients who have had their dogs drawn include Friends stars Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox

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Michelle Wilson thought someone was 'pulling her leg' when she was first asked to work for Friends star Jennifer Aniston

Michelle Wilson thought someone was 'pulling her leg' when she was first asked to work for Friends star Jennifer Aniston

A portrait of Jennifer Aniston's dog Sophie

A portrait of Jennifer Aniston's dog Sophie

The work in progress for Alex Best

The work in progress for Alex Best

Michelle now has her own business working as a wildlife painter

Michelle now has her own business working as a wildlife painter

A-list fan Jennifer Aniston

A-list fan Jennifer Aniston

Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox

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Michelle Wilson thought someone was 'pulling her leg' when she was first asked to work for Friends star Jennifer Aniston

Meet the woman who went from doodling at her desk to painting animal portraits for stars such as Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox.

Michelle Wilson (42) has also painted animals for a former president of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and Alex Best, former wife of late Northern Ireland football legend George.

Speaking to Sunday Life after her first ever art exhibition in Belfast on Thursday, Ms Wilson revealed how she ended up working for Jennifer Aniston, AKA Rachel from the TV show Friends.

She said: “I’ve actually painted all three of her dogs now. It all started when I saw a picture of her little dog Clyde wearing a bow tie online and I just thought it was super cute and decided to draw it.

“I thought it would be cool if she saw it and then wondered about getting it in her hands, so I did a bit of research and, after a bit of back-and-forth with some of her representatives, I managed to make it happen, which was great.

“Next thing my phone just started going nuts, after she shared it on her Instagram. I then got an email from her and there were a few messages back and forth.

“She mentioned her other dogs and sent pictures of them for me to do as well.

“I’ve also painted Courteney Cox’s dog, which Jen then gave to her as a Christmas gift, which Courteney got mounted and framed.

“Jen was lovely to deal with, very friendly, no airs and graces, from what I could tell via email. As a former Friends fan it was a little strange.

“It’s fantastic, but also a bit weird. I remember when I got the initial email, I had to check it wasn’t someone pulling my leg.

“I’m also working on a commission for Alex Best, which is great. I’m still waiting on David Beckham to knock on the door. He has two lovely spaniels.”

Ms Wilson, from Banbridge, Co Down, was working as a civil servant when she took a notion to doodle on her break one day instead of going for a walk or getting a bite to eat.

Her decision changed her life and career and was also the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

“I was sitting at my desk in work and just didn’t want to read my book or go for a walk on my lunch break, so I took a page out of the printer and lifted a Biro and got to it,” she said.

“Someone saw my doodles and people started asking if I could draw things for them, or draw their dog or horse.

“I sketched my mother-in-law’s dog and she put it on Facebook and it had a really good response, which spurred me on to start my own Facebook business page.

“Things just went from there. More and more people kept asking about commissions, so something that started as a part-time hobby has now become a full-time job, luckily for me.

“As a little girl I loved art and would have got art stuff for Christmas. When I was asked what I wanted to be, I always said ‘artist’, never actually thinking it was going to happen.

“I’m very happy that things have panned out this way and I’ve ended up doing something I love.

“I took the voluntary exit scheme from the Civil Service and took a punt on this career path and I’ve been lucky it’s worked.”

On Thursday, Michelle hosted her first ever exhibition of her work at First Avenue Coffee Company on Belfast’s Ormeau Road.

She added: “It was so exciting to have my first exhibition — a bit nerve-racking as well, but mostly exciting.

“It’s been a goal for a long time and I just decided this was going to be the year to make it happen.

“I hope people enjoyed it and that we maybe get a few sales out of it; also get my name out there a bit more and maybe get a few more commissions.

“I mostly paint animals in a realist style. I’ve been told my work around the eyes and the colour in the fur is good, so I do a lot of that, but I do have a new collection of sky works called When Irish Skies Are Smiling.

“I’m hoping to have that up and running next year. It’s mostly sea and sky and things I’ve pictured when I’m out swimming.”


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