Following the creative instinct
TUCKED away in an old church hall in the township of Bangalow is the home and studio of highly regarded Northern Rivers artist Michelle Dawson.
A finalist in last year's Portia Geach Memorial Award and the Northern Rivers Portrait Prize, Ms Dawson is known for her fantastical animal paintings.
"The animals are an ever-enduring theme in my work," Ms Dawson said.
Of the two works selected for the Geach Award last year one was a self portrait set in her studio. For Ms Dawson the work, Visitation, didn't fully resolve itself until an image of a hyena arrived in the painting.
"This very wild creature turning up expressed what I feel about the creative process and how important it is to listen to your creative instincts," she said.
For much of the past 12 months Ms Dawson has been collaborating with children's author Margaret Wilde. The book, Lets Go to Sleep, will be published by Working Title Press on in March.
"It was interesting to see how much very precise care and effort goes into making a picture book for young people," Ms Dawson said.
Ms Dawson makes a modest living from her art while working two days a week in a local gallery.
"The studio existence can be solitary and confronting and that couple of days out in the world, talking to people and still being in the art world is perfect for me," Ms Dawson said. "I love my life and it's slightly hard to believe that I can go into my studio and draw and paint things and live off it."
Her love of drawing comes from her working-class childhood in New Zealand. "I don't ever remember not drawing," Ms Dawson said.
"When I used to visit my grandmother, she would have collapsed all the cereal boxes, opened them up and turned them inside out so there was something for me to draw on when I visited her.
Ms Dawson credits the two years she studied at TAFE for setting her on the path towards being a professional artist. Like many other local artists she is concerned with recent State Government cuts to visual arts courses at TAFE.
"Fifteen years ago I did two years at TAFE and they were astoundingly good courses with passionate, enthusiastic teachers.
"That enthusiasm and expertise basically set me on my course as a professional artist.
"I don't know when we stopped being a society and a community and decided that everything could only be justified by its economic value."
For more of Michelle's work go to: msdawson.com