PETER Turner hadn't picked up a paintbrush since primary school before enrolling in a Certificate II course in Cultural Arts at the ACE Community College in Lismore.
The work he and his seven fellow students produced during the 26-week course came as a surprise to everyone.
Cultural Arts trainer Luke Close said the artwork produced was "exhibition worthy".
"It's unbelievable, the transformation," Mr Close said.
"Some of these people had really low self-esteem and really low communication skills.
"Just watching people have light bulb moments … what you see today is the end result.
"With indigenous people, art is a really fantastic medium because it's actually the centre of the culture, it's like the glue, and you can always discuss everything through art."
The paintings Mr Turner have on exhibition are a combination of landscapes and modern takes on traditional indigenous art.
'The Journey Begins' is a piece that explores the idea of moving out of dreamtime and going into modern times.
"It's about walking into the new day, into the future, that's what I see in it," Mr Turner said.
The south-east Queensland Bunya tree, grown in the same area as Mr Turner's tribe the Waka Waka people, also features in one of his artworks.
Fellow student Desmond Warfe said he started a business and management course as a result of the Cultural Arts course.
"It's sort of picked me up and helped me to go and talk to people, open up a bit more," he said.
ACE Community College Lismore manager Anne Stapleton said she was thrilled to have seen the students produce work of such high quality.
"Only two of them had ever painted before," she said.
"Each week they talked about different things and you could see that developing in their artwork."
Over the 26-week course the students learnt about small businesses, visited galleries and met local indigenous artists.
A graduation day for the students was held yesterday at the ACE Community College, where the works were put on exhibition.