The life, inspiration and work of artist Ellen Riley - who died last week at the age of 24 - will be celebrated tomorrow at St Peter's Church, Stonyhurst in Lancashire. Born in nearby Hurst Green, Ellen had already demonstrated her talents as an artist while a pupil at Stonyhurst College. At the age of 16, her work was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery and a year later, she was the North West winner in the ITV programme Brush with Fame.
Ellen moved to Paris in 2007 to pursue her artistic career and there met Cédric Charleuf. However, three days before her 22nd birthday in November 2009, and shortly before she was due to open her first solo exhibition, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After a seven-hour operation to remove the tumour, Cedric - who is also an artist - proposed at her bedside and they married at St Peter's, Stonyhurst, in June 2010.
Her cancer turned out to be incurable but that did not stop her working. She kept busy with commissions, including many from churches and community organisations - and had been recently asked by the Society of Jesus to paint portraits of 12 Jesuit saints, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Society's restoration by Pope Pius VII in 1814. She described her artwork as therapeutic: "It keeps me going because time is ticking and I've got paintings to do," she said. "I have got all these paintings in my head that I want to get out so I'm working really hard at the moment to get as much done as possible. It helps to have something else to concentrate on so that I'm not just sitting around and moping."
This was clearly the impression she gave to the British Jesuit Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, when he met her. "Ellen knew she was living on borrowed time," he said. "That made her determined to live for the moment and concentrate on the important things in life - her husband, her family and her art. She was an incredible inspiration for pupils at Stonyhurst where she was the artist-in-residence. She will be sadly missed.'"
The funeral for Ellen Riley will take place at St Peter's Church, Stonyhurst, on Wednesday, 18 July at 10.30am.
To see Ellen's work visit: http://www.ellenriley.co.uk/