She's been a diamond in the rough walking amongst us, but Anthea da Silva's powerful creativity has now been proven beyond imagination.
Ms da Silva is the first to take home the inaugural Darling Portrait Prize with her evocative portrait of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM, founder of the Australian Dance Theatre.
"When I got the call, initially I was trying to find a place of 'wow'. I couldn't tell anyone so it was just for me to process, feeling everything in hushed tones," she explained.
Watch muse and artist together here, interviewed after the announcement:
The Darling Portrait Prize is a new national award for portrait paintings of Australians, by Australians, with the prize an astounding $75,000.
Ms da Silva said it was "phenomenal, a huge honour" for her to meet the judges and other artists.
The judges, Professor Denise Ferris, Head of the ANU School of Art and Design, Tony Ellwood AM, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria and National Portrait Gallery Director Karen Quinlan, noted the exceptional quality of entries from some of Australia's most established artists.
"As a woman ... I'd seen the names of the other artists, and had been following some of their beautiful work for years, so there was a question of worthiness in my mind as well."
Yet there was no doubt in any of the judges' minds - it was unanimous.
They said her Elizabeth was a gentle, beguiling portrait which revealed the fragile, fluid nature of the human body.
"Here is a woman who has spent her life moving and while she is captured here sitting," they said.
"We were struck by the deliberate power of the seemingly unfinished elements of the work because, like Elizabeth, the complete picture is yet to be filled in - there is much yet for her to do."
We were struck by the deliberate power of the seemingly unfinished elements of the work because, like Elizabeth, the complete picture is yet to be filled in - there is much yet for her to do.Darling Portrait Prize judges
Elizabeth's inspiration for Ms da Silva can be traced back years ago - and yet it was at a 30th anniversary of the esteemed dancer's Mirramu Creative Arts Centre that she had a chance to put that spirit on canvas.
Being captured in a moment, whether on film or photo, can be "stilted, staged and stagnant", so the challenge was encapsulating Elizabeth's seemingly perpetual movement.
"It was the sense of watching her move, that amazingly beautiful honouring of the creative process," she explained.
"I love playing with charcoal and oil mediums because I find they do move, and I love that malleability, they are very sculptural," she explained.
Behind the artist
Currently working as the Griffith Regional Art Gallrey's program's officer, Ms Da Silva says while her career has been varied, throughout her life she was always drawn and painted.
She is particularly drawn to portraiture and figurative work, with a passion for life drawing and portraiture which informs the layered and transparent themes in her work.
X-Rays, shadows and reflections, charcoal, oil and acrylic mediums map the surreal undertows and the obvious, looking beyond to the surface of the precious, fragile, not always robust human.
A fascination with anatomy, physiology and kinesiology has seen her blend careers in Paediatric Occupational Therapy, tertiary Visual Arts teaching and Regional Community Art Gallery programming.
She has facilitated arts workshops in WA, Melbourne, North Coast NSW and now here in the Riverina.
Some of her many developments include a large-scale urban art and video projection artwork, work as an arts lobbyist, and as artistic director, facilitator with festival teams.
Behind the muse
Referred to as the 'high priestess' of Australian Dance, Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM is currently the Mirramu Creative Arts Centre director, and Mirramu Dance Company's artistic director .
She is also a committee member of Weereewa - a Festival of Lake George Committee Inc which she instigated in 1997.
A life-time of experience in dance as a performer, choreographer, director, producer, teacher and researcher, she founded Australian Dance Theatre, which was Australia's first professional modern dance company.
She was artistic director there for ten years from 1965 to 1975.
Elizabeth has had many teaching positions in universities around Australia and was Head of the Dance Course at the University of Western Sydney from 2004 until the end of 2006.
She continues as a practicing artist and is well-known nationally and internationally for her performances and choreographic work.
Always involved in cross-cultural choreographic and collaborative practice, she tours as an actor/dancer, most recently with Michael Keegan Dolan's award-winning Swan Lake/Loch na hEala production in Ireland, Denmark, the UK, Germany, Australia, Russia and New York.