A MUCH-LOVED artist, champion for the homeless and mum-of-two from Chester has lost her brave battle with cancer.

Stephanie Burton, 53, passed away at her family home on Tegid Way, Saltney, on February 1 after a two-year fight against the disease.

Known to many Cestrians as ‘The Portrait Artist’, she became a voice for homeless people in the city having lived on the streets herself as a teenager.

Her husband Martin described her as a “force for good” who would stop at nothing to help those in need.

“Steph was just the kind of woman people don’t say no to,” he said. “She was infectious, and got people involved.

“She was also very righteous and if she saw someone in trouble she would always be the first person to step in to say ‘this is wrong’ or ‘can I help you?’ That was her through and through.

“She did so much; she was a force for good and will be missed hugely by our family and a lot of people.”

Stephanie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2014 and received treatment at The Christie cancer centre in Manchester. She was in and out of hospital more frequently over the past year, and asked to return home before she passed away.

Martin said that on her last night he read her a book about their cats, called ‘Cheeky, Beanie and Bo’, which they had written together and Stephanie had illustrated shortly after they met in the late nineties.

They used to read the book to their boys, Joseph and Moses, now 17 and 15, when they were little.

“Steph hated having cancer but she just got on with things,” said Martin, 44, who described himself as her ‘toy boy’. “She had been making ceramic Burlesque dancers in her hospital bed. Art was one of the things that made her happy.”

Stephanie was perhaps best known for her ‘Face in the Window’ and ‘Face on the Street’ exhibitions in Chester. The former saw pictures displayed in shop windows with the aim of driving up footfall, while the latter featured pictures of rough sleepers and was about raising awareness of homeless people in the city.

Besides her recent fascination with making ceramic Burlesque dancers, she also dabbled in pet portraits and once had a job as a medical illustrator.

Martin said one of her favourite portraits was of the late astronomer and celebrity Sir Patrick Moore, whom she painted at this home in Selsey, West Sussex, in 2004.

“She just looked him up in the phone book, called him and he answered the phone!” said Martin. “She said ‘I’m an artist and I’d like to paint your portrait’, and he said ‘why is that? I’m no oil painting!’.

“She loved his attitude towards life; he was a fascinating character.”

Stephanie studied art at St Martin’s College, London, and then Canterbury, and she and Martin met while teaching together in the capital.

“I thought she was lovely,” Martin said. “We got together pretty quickly!

“We were friends and colleagues for several months, and would just pass each other in the corridor and chat. Then one day my car broke down and, being herself, Steph offered to give me a lift and so we started chatting lots on the way to and from work.

“Then her flatmate was moving out and she said ‘do you know anyone who needs a flat?’ At the time I was fed up with my grumpy old landlord so it was agreed I would move in with her.

“That’s when we got together. We were engaged after a week and married in four months!”

Martin said that Steph’s workshop would pass to Moses, who has a talent for art and hopes to forge a career in computer animation.

One of his lasting memories of his wife was of her dressed as a devil, rocketing around the streets of Chester in a mobility scooter for the Mid Summer Watch Parade in 2015.

“She was absolutely wonderful,” he said.

l Stephanie’s funeral is expected to take place on Friday, February 17, at St Luke’s Church in Huntington, Chester.