AN exhibition at a leading London gallery and an audience with the Queen have made 2013 pretty special for one Dorset artist.

Charles Church, who lives and works in the village of Ibberton near Bulbarrow Hill, has been painting landscapes, hunting scenes and racehorses since he left art school.

His works have been bought by the Sultan of Oman, the Aga Khan and Lady Lloyd Webber, and, last month, his painting of the Queen’s procession at Ascot caught the eye of Her Majesty and he, and the painting, were summoned to Windsor Castle for an audience.

In the event the painting, which shows the Queen with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in a horse-drawn carriage en route to the races at Ascot, was bought by another client but Her Majesty has voiced an interest in commissioning another picture from Charles.

Charles, who has a lifelong interest in racing and hunting, said: “I have done pictures of the Royal Mews before and I contacted the Queen’s Equerry because I thought it would be nice to have a study of the Ascot procession in the exhibition.

“I took pictures of my Mews pieces and sent them to the Equerry who showed them to the Queen who said she thought I should do the Ascot procession.

“In the end she didn’t buy this picture but she liked it very much and would like to commission another picture, perhaps next year.”

In the meantime, he is busy organising an exhibition of his work at Gallery 8 in London’s Duke Street, which will run next week. Many of the 60 pieces on show have already been bought.

“I don’t think you should hold an exhibition until you are absolutely sure of your work, because otherwise you will regret it,” said Charles.

Charles initially trained at art schools in Arundel and Newcastle, but wasn’t deemed ‘wacky’ enough for the fashions of the time. He then tried a course of wildlife illustration at Bournemouth, but lasted just one term.

He said: “The trouble was it was so far removed from what I wanted to do, so I left after a term and wrote to studs and hotels in Newmarket, just so I could be near to horses. I was doing the washing-up in hotels there and eventually had my first exhibition, at the age of 21, and then went to art school in Florence.”

Charles attended the Charles H Cecil Studios where artists are drilled in the finer points of art.

“You work for three hours a day and produce one drawing in five weeks,” Charles explained.

“It’s all about learning the technique. On the first day I did my drawing – and was told I had another five weeks to go.”

The method taught is ‘sight-size’, which was invented by da Vinci and used by Reynolds and Sergeant and is a method of drawing and painting an object exactly as it appears to the artist on a one-to-one scale.

Charles stayed in Florence for two years and then came home and continued to paint horses and portraits. News of his talent spread and he increasingly found his work in demand throughout the racing fraternity.

“The racing world is quite tight-knit, so it’s not that difficult to get known,” Charles said.

“You do a picture for someone like the Aga Khan and someone else hears about it and so it goes.”

Charles’ art can be seen in his exhibition Further Afield at Gallery 8, Duke Street, SW1Y 6BT from November 19 to 23.

Opening hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm.