The artist made by Charles Saatchi sets out on her own with a £7,000 cast of celebrities

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The artist who was plucked from obscurity by Charles Saatchi when he bought her kitsch painting of Princess Diana will today unveil Margaret and Denis Thatcher as her new celebrity subjects in her first solo show.

The artist who was plucked from obscurity by Charles Saatchi when he bought her kitsch painting of Princess Diana will today unveil Margaret and Denis Thatcher as her new celebrity subjects in her first solo show.

Stella Vine, a former stripper, painted what she sees as a romantic portrait out of deep respect for the former Conservative leader. She said yesterday: "That's a very non-artist's thing to say because she's supposed to be so evil. But I bought my council house and it changed my life beyond belief. I think she was an extraordinary woman."

The also includes distinctive paintings of the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, the model Jordan and the broadcaster Joan Bakewell, who is bizarrely featured with the dead German artist Joseph Beuys. Other works feature the actress Catherine Deneuve and the singers Courtney Love and PJ Harvey, all in Vine's bold brushwork.

Several had already been sold before the opening last night, some to collectors overseas, for sums of up to £7,000, eight times higher than her prices only four months ago. It is thought Mr Saatchi may buy the painting of the Thatchers.

Vine, a 35-year-old single mother, had been struggling to support her art by working as a stripper before her striking portrait of Diana with blood dripping from her lips was bought by Mr Saatchi and featured in the latest show at his gallery at County Hall, London. A second storm of publicity engulfed her when she showed a painting of the schoolgirl Rachel Whitear, who died of a heroin overdose.

After suffering from a serious depression, which only began to lift after a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Vine has emerged with the set of new works, which will open to the public at the Transition Gallery in Lauriston Road, east London, today.

"It's been a real nightmare. I've been really down and I had a little breakdown," Vine admitted yesterday as she steeled her nerves for the critics' response. She said she had no dealer and no experience in handling the surge of interest in her work, which had left her "worried sick".

In contrast with the apparently boundless confidence of a Tracey Emin or Sarah Lucas, Vine said yesterday she found it difficult to have faith in her work. "I'm so unconfident and my self-esteem is naturally low. You need the art world's advice to help you manage all this crazy stuff," she said.

"I think no one will like this stuff and then on a cockier day I think I'm making great work. I'm really proud of the Catherine Deneuve painting which I finished about four days ago. Without that, I would be feeling very, very worried about the show.

"I've really got to stop knocking myself and giving myself a hard time. I was this really down stripper who was struggling but could cope, then something wonderful and lovely happened. This was what I had dreamed of, to be recognised for doing something creative. But I was really lost and confused by the response."

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