A NORTH Lancashire artist has used her talents to help benefit two local animal charities at the Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail.

An exhibition of Melissa Elizabeth's acclaimed pet and wildlife studies was hosted by Silverdale Holiday Park as part of the well-attended event featuring 90 artists from the area.

As well as admiring her coloured pencil drawings, visitors were able to buy prints of a red squirrel which she recently completed, and to take part in a raffle for a pet portrait.

All raffle proceeds and 20 per cent of the print sales raised funds for both the Westmorland Red Squirrels charity and the Lancaster-based dog rescue centre Wolfwood.

A resident of Warton near Silverdale, where she was born and now lives with her partner, Melissa has won a large and growing fan-base for her highly detailed animal drawings.

But the 26-year-old only first started seriously putting pencil to paper three years ago when she took a year out in Australia after studying design at Lancaster and Morecambe College.

In between exploring the country, and funding her odyssey with jobs such as cleaning yachts and working in cafes, Melissa began making drawings of Australia's wildlife.

Back in England, she took up a part-time post at Silverdale Holiday Park, and found that she also had a talent for creating lifelike drawings of dogs, cats, horses and other animals.

Staff at the holiday park began asking Melissa to create drawings of their own pets – and soon she was receiving commissions from other people living in the community.

Taking her business online, she now creates her pet portraits for owners from much further afield, and is currently working on an Alaskan Malamute for a Norwegian customer.

"Although I still love drawing the native wildlife of Cumbria, I find that domestic animals make absolutely fascinating subjects," said Melissa.

"Each has an individual character which, if possible, I'll try to discuss in advance with the owner as this can help me give a sense of its personality in the drawing.

"It was great being a part of this year's Silverdale and Arnside Art and Craft Trail, and it's amazing just how much creative talent there is in this area," she added.