A Letchworth woman who has been painting for less than four years was stunned to have her portrait of Simon Cowell accepted into this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

The Comet: Jean Samtula's portrait of Simon Cowell is being exhibited at the Royal Academy over the summer.Jean Samtula's portrait of Simon Cowell is being exhibited at the Royal Academy over the summer. (Image: Archant)

Self-taught artist Jean Samtula – who used to work as an HR manager in a bank – has never attended art classes, but her portrait of the music industry mogul is in pride of place in the prestigious London show until August 16.

The Royal Academy whittles down around 10,000 pieces submitted by professional and amateur artists each year to produce the largest open exhibition of contemporary art in the UK.

The 65-year-old said: “When I found out that my work would be featured in the RA Summer Exhibition I was shocked and delighted because it is the first time I have entered.

“Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. When I saw my work hanging in the gallery, I was quite emotional. For me it is the pinnacle of my achievement.

“I am very pleased with where it is positioned in the exhibition because as people enter the room the first thing they see is Simon’s wonderful smile.

“I painted the portrait of Simon because I admire him and I wanted to capture his wonderful smile and the twinkle in his eyes – I think I have achieved this.

“Painting is my hobby and portrait painting is what I enjoy most. I have painted portraits of friends and family.

“I painted Simon’s portrait because getting his perfect smile was a challenge.

“I was encouraged by a friend who saw the portrait of Simon to submit it to the RA Summer Exhibition.

“I did not feel very confident, so I was amazed when it was accepted.

“Now I will keep on painting and submitting to the RA Summer Exhibition – and of course I want to sell my portraits.”