FROM the moment she stepped into an art studio during a compulsory secondary school art class, Margaret Jones knew she had discovered her passion.
From life drawing and watercolours to ceramics and graphic design, she cherished every second and better yet, she had a natural affinity for it.
“Everything I tried I instantly enjoyed,” the 58-year-old Margate woman admits.
“When I start drawing, I just enter my own little world and sometimes won’t emerge for hours at a time.
“Art is just so immersive for me and I love being able to create beautiful things that bring people joy.”
Envisioning a bright future as an artist ahead of her, Margaret jumped at the opportunity to attend the Caulfield Institute of Technology in Melbourne – now Chrisholm University, which boasted the number one graphic design class available at the time.
But this was not to be, as six-months into her three-year degree she was forced to drop out and look for paid work due to family circumstances.
Fast-forward several years and Margaret began training as a psychiatric nurse at Aradale Asylum, a mental health hospital located in Ararat, Victoria.
With a versatile personality that allowed her to excel in any role, she soon found herself working full-time in community psychiatric nursing and forensic psychiatry.
“What followed was a 20-year career in psychiatric nursing,” she says.
“My husband, Colin, encouraged me to continue my art as a hobby, but with two young daughters and a high-stress job, I just didn’t have enough time to fully dedicate myself to it.
“Instead, I balanced out my high-stress job with gardening, which gave me an outlet for my creativity through landscaping.”
In 2004, Margaret was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), a neurological condition that worsens over time.
Symptoms of intense fatigue, intolerance to heat and poor concentration were the catalyst for a massive life change that saw her move to Tasmania with her family in 2007.
“All of a sudden I had a life that was stress-free, compared to the incredibly high responsibility job that, some days, was literally a matter of life and death,” Margaret recounts.
“However, even though I was no longer working, I was still busy playing the stay-at-home mum and ‘estate manager’ for our acreage home in Margate.
“A couple of years ago, by chance, I met internationally renowned calligrapher Gemma Black and decided to attend one of her beginner calligraphy classes.
“Instantly, I remembered how much I loved creating art, and working with calligraphy was something that I had never done before, which was very exciting.
“I went on to attend her weekly ‘Lettering Shed’ class – something I still do to this day – and it has inspired me to branch out into more pictorial work such as eco-dyed papers, Celtic decorative art and illuminations.”
With an artistic body of work now behind her, Margaret decided to take a leap of faith and enter her artwork into the 2016 Kingborough Art Prize Exhibition and Sale.
Curated by the Lions Club of Kingborough, the exhibition sees artists judged by an independent, professional panel with the chance of taking home either $1,000 or $600 in prize money.
All artwork exhibited is also available for purchase.
Surrounded by well-known Tasmanian artists, Margaret admits that the prospect of entering the exhibition had originally been “quite daunting.”
“Going in, I was simply hoping that my artwork would hold up to the standards of the exhibition and I think I did quite admirably, selling two out of my three pieces,” she says.
With her past success now spurring her on, Margaret has re-entered the exhibition again this year, this time trialling a different style in an effort to gauge public interest.
This was in preparation for potentially starting her own art show, she says.
“I want to see what styles of art people most enjoy as I someday want to host a ‘one-woman show’ and have it be at least mildly successful.
“I’ve always wanted to produce art for a living, creating what I think are beautiful pieces of art at affordable prices.
“It is never too late to pursue your dreams and even with my PPMS, producing art is something that I can do long into my old age.”
For more information, email email@example.com.
For more information about Gemma Black’s Lettering Shed, visit www.gemmablack.com