AN ARTIST was commended for her work by a judge yesterday as she awaited sentence for cheque forgery.

Philippa Larkin took to court her portfolio, which included a £10 note with her face in place of the Queen's.

Larkin, 31, a single parent, was arrested after she scanned and altered cheques for hundreds of pounds.

But it was the fine art graduate's design and photographic work with the Happy Mondays band that impressed the Recorder of Middlesbrough Judge Peter Fox QC.

The judge told her as she stood in the dock: "It is brilliant."

Larkin did photo-shoots with the Happy Mondays when she was at college in Manchester.

Her other star subjects included Paul Weller and Goldie.

But it was loan shark victim Larkin's forged cheques that landed her in trouble with police, Gillian Kane, prosecuting, told the court.

Larkin was left in debt by a cocaine-addict boyfriend, and cashed cheques with a pawnbroker in Middlesbrough for £900.

She racked it up to £3,000 by cashing more in nearby Redcar.

She backed them up with three stolen bank cards that had been reported missing nine months before, Teesside Crown Court was told.

Miss Kane said that Larkin, whose 19-month-old daughter lives with her mother, was on probation for theft and going equipped for theft.

She had previous deception convictions from 2002, 2003 and from last year.

The judge deferred sentence for six months on Larkin, of Holmwood Avenue, Middlesbrough, who pleaded guilty to one theft and three deception offences last August. She was granted bail.

Jonnie Walker, in mitigation, said: "It was easy for her to prepare the cheques in question because she is highly skilled and highly inventive."

The judge said: "This work is excellent, you have got a tremendous amount of talent. I can't do anything more for you than give you the break and the rest is up to you."