THE beauty of being an artist for Carolyn O’Neill is having the freedom to take her work wherever she goes.
Just as well, considering she has made three major moves in the past six years.
Most recently she relocated to Hamilton with her husband, Stuart, and sons Julian, 17, Kielan, 15, and Luka, 11.
Mr O’Neill works as a metallurgist for Iluka Resources. In the past six years his work has taken the family from Melbourne to Dongara, WA, to Bunbury, WA, to Hamilton.
The moves have been instrumental in Bendigo-born O’Neill’s artistic career, which was conceived 10 years ago in Melbourne while she was working as a psychiatric nurse.
“It was in 2003 after seeing the foyer of my son’s kinder — it was painted with a mural,” O’Neill said. “It’s not my kind of art but I felt inspired just by seeing some painting around me.”
She said she took to painting quickly, despite not having any technical artistic skills.
“I had no idea about composition or elements of design … but something struck a chord and when I picked up the brush it was pivotal and I just wanted to keep painting.”
Her paintings were displayed in local cafes and in 2007 her work featured at the Emerging Artist Exhibition.
In Dongara and Bunbury, O’Neill undertook formal art study and began to develop her technique.
“I got into the South West Survey (exhibition) over there and got into the top 50 artists. It really affirmed that I was doing the right thing,” she said.
Arriving in Hamilton in mid 2011, the O’Neill family purchased a home by the lake, discovering it was cheaper for them to buy than rent.
“We’re near the Grampians, near the beach and I went to the Folk Festival (in Port Fairy) last year, which was amazing,” O’Neill said. “I just feel so fortunate living within an hour of it all. The location is great and it’s beautiful.”
O’Neill said it took her some time to make friends, but being involved in the arts culture had helped.
“I’ve become a member of the local art gallery and I’ve been involved in a focus group because they’re looking at making lots of changes and enhancing the creativity in the town,” she said.
O’Neill said she believed living in a regional area had helped to boost her art career in its own way.
“I think in a small town there is probably more scope for recognition for an artist. Even though I do abstract work and this is a traditional town, I have felt acceptance.”
Today her work is displayed in Melbourne galleries and is pleasing art purchasers. “Things are starting to happen, I can call it a career now … I’m an artist, I’m not anything else any more. It’s taken a while to get to that point.”
O’Neill had her first solo art show in Hamilton last year. “It was an opportunity that was my goal when I got here, to have a show, so that was very exciting and special.”