Award winning artist was a brave and beautiful rebel

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A MUCH-loved and well-respected artist who grew up in Aylesbury has died after a short illness, aged 41.

Selina Maria di Girolamo RBA was born in Aylesbury on September 5, 1969. She attended Aylesbury High School before training at Amersham Art College, where her father Romeo di Girolamo, a former president of the Royal Society of British Artists, was head of art and design.

Selina was a member of the prestigious Royal Society of British Artists and continued exhibiting her paintings until shortly before her death. Many of her paintings depicted butterflies and when she was diagnosed in late 2010 with a rare and inoperable type of brain tumour, it was one known to doctors as ‘the butterfly’ for its winglike formation.

According to her father, Selina showed academic promise at school but was not keen on exams.

“She was a bit of a rebel, but this was what was beautiful about her, she was a rebel not to make trouble, but to improve,” he said.

A lifelong non-conformist, Selina, who lived in Ninfield, Sussex, asked for a pagan ceremony for her funeral.

Her passion for helping others through art found an outlet when she married Mike Fairclough, whom she met at Amersham Art College.

When Mr Fairclough was appointed head teacher of a failing junior school in Sussex, he asked Selina and her parents to establish an art academy within the school with the aim of helping pupils who had been dismissed as no-hopers.

Selina and her husband rented land on the outskirts of Eastbourne, where they created a Bronze Age farm, with water buffalo, sheep and goats, selling meat from the farm from a small shop within the school grounds.

At the age of 13 and sporting a punk hair style, Selina sang in a concert in aid of Amnesty International in Aylesbury. The singer Val Doonican, then a private art student of Selina’s father, was sufficiently impressed by her voice to ask her to sing later for him and his wife, a performance that reduced the Doonicans to tears.

When Doonican invited Selina to appear on his television show on condition she change her hair, she refused, telling her father: “He takes me as I am , or I don’t appear.” Selina stuck to her guns and her spot was eventually taken by Nana Mouskouri.

Selina’s final art exhibition was held in aid of the blind and one of her works, The Black Madonna, was selected as the image to represent the forthcoming International Women’s Day Centenary Gala.

She was a former chairman of the education committee of the Federation of British Artists and winner of several awards, including the Creating Reality award and the St Cuthbert’s Mill award for works on paper.

Mr di Girolamo described his daughter as “a remarkable girl” who showed tremendous bravery when she died. He added that he hopes friends from the Aylesbury area will be able to attend a second memorial service, which will be held in a few months time in the grounds of Villa Scalabrini in Hertfordshire.

Selina Maria di Girolamo is survived by her parents Romeo and Megan di Girolamo and by her sister Emilia di Girolamo, the script writer for the ITV series Law and Order UK.

Her husband Mike Fairclough, 23-year-old son Johnny, Taliesin, 13 and Indigo, 6, also survive her.