'She will always be in my heart' - artist's portrait of her late best friend
PUBLISHED: 15:28 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:44 13 September 2019
When a Norfolk artist's best friend, who had just found out she had cancer, asked if she could have a drawing of herself, the artist readily agreed.
And the resulting work by Melodie Cook was a true labour of love, all the more treasured since her best friend, Maria Vajente, lost her battle with cancer shortly after it was completed.
Now Ms Cook, 63, from Great Hockham, between Thetford and Watton, is hoping to sell the portrait to raise funds for a cancer charity.
The member of the Pastel Society said: "When I look at this painting I know that I really did this with love and that makes a huge difference. I absolutely loved Maria to bits and it shows in the drawing.
"I wanted her to come to England because the exhibition was in February but she died in November so she never got to see it in person."
The pair had been friends for nearly 25 years, after first meeting in Italy in 1994, when Ms Cook lived in Bassano del Grappa where she worked as a fashion designer.
Sharing a passion for art and creativity, it would soon become a friendship they would cherish for years to come.
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In 2003 Ms Cook decided to move back to England to follow her dream of becoming an artist, and in 2010 she started at The Art Academy in London.
Still in close contact with each other, it was in 2014 when Ms Vajente first found out about her cancer.
It was the same year that Ms Cook completed her best-known drawing of Nancy, the Giffords Circus performer with a cockerel on her head, and Ms Vejente asked her friend if she would draw her.
Ms Cook said: "She had been ill for about the last four years of her life, but in 2017 I went to see her and she said let's take some photos. She dug out this African turban, put it on, and it looked fantastic. I knew I had to draw it.
"It worked well because her expression in it was when she was waiting for the results of a fourth possible tumour, which did come back as positive and killed her a year later."
Ms Cook was able to show Ms Vajente, who worked in interior design and raised money for cancer charities, a photograph of the finished work.
Now she hopes to sell the portrait for £2,950, and will donate £500 to a cancer charity to honour her best friend's memory.
She said: "Maria is always with me in my heart. I'm glad I could do her the honour of doing that and hopefully I will be able to sell it to the right home."