Artist Rolf Harris admits he “panicked” when he was painting the Queen Elizabeth’s portrait.

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Rolf, who commemorated the monarch’s 80th birthday in 2006 by painting the queen at London’s Buckingham Palace, was terrified the smell of turpentine would upset the royal when she sat for him.

He told The Daily Telegraph: “I was as nervous as anything. I was in a panic. We sat down and I said, ‘What are you like with the smell of turpentine? Does that affect you badly?’

“She said, ‘We shall find out, shan’t we?’ So I said, ‘I like to slosh on paint to kill the white of the canvas with a bit of turpentine. Then I start with a blur which looks something like the subject and I gradually refine it.’ And she said, ‘Sounds very strange to me.'”

However, the Australian artist revealed the queen put him at ease by talking about her Coronation and he soon felt more relaxed around her.

Rolf added: “We finished up chatting like very old friends. She was just lovely through the whole thing.”

The painting – which showed the queen in a relaxed pose surrounded by an emerald glow – was later voted the nation’s second favourite portrait of the royal.