A BYRON Bay artist describes working on an Archibald Prize entry focused on eccentric dancing man Tommy Franklin as a life-changing experience.
Painter Liesel Arden's oil on canvas, Portrait of a Dancing Man, fittingly shows the Byron icon adorned in a classy suit and rainbow shoes, busting a move atop a boom box. .
Ms Arden created the portrait after being shaken from a period of frustrating artistic block by Tommy's inspirational personality.
"I met Tommy through an event about a year ago and, like most people, was struck by his energy and ability to radiate positivity," she said.
"At the time I was a struggling, emerging painter swimming in a cold, dark pool of artist's block.
"I knew what I wanted and I also understood my capacity to achieve it, but somehow I felt as though I didn't deserve success in my painting."
Ms Arden said Tommy taught her to "get up on the highest boom box and not give a rats what people thought of me".
"I realised that underneath Tommy's technicolour rainbow is a very shy and complex pot of gold. Gold so priceless and it's spilling over," she said.
"This man not only has overcome fear in everything he achieves in the public eye, but he has learnt to believe in himself and accept himself in all his eccentricity.
"One day he looked me in the eye and said, 'Listen Liesel, you are such an amazing woman'. He said it in such a genuine and intimate way, like only Tommy can, I had to accept it."
Ms Arden said her fateful meeting with Tommy turned her life, and passion, around.
"This portrait is my best work yet and has taken me places I never thought I would go," she said.
"It's a product and a story of the lesson Tommy has taught me, for which I am eternally grateful."
The Archibald Prize winner will be announced on July 18.
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