Thirroul artist India Mark was “pretty amazed” her portrait of Dane Taylor, lead singer of Illawarra band Shining Bird, was shortlisted for Australia’s most prestigious art prize, the Archibald.
“It’s really validating and I feel the work I’m doing is on track,” she said.
The 22-year-old, who’s currently completing a Master of Fine Art at the National Art School in Darlinghurst, said this was the first major indicator that she may be able to fulfill her “ultimate goal” of making a sustainable living from her art.
Originally from Gerringong, Ms Mark relocated to Thirroul a few years ago and was given the opportunity to hang one of her paintings on a wall of the Big Star Cafe in Coledale.
That opened many doors to meeting other creative types in the northern suburbs, including her muse Mr Taylor, and being able to work with the owners of the Egg & Dart Gallery, Aaron Fell-Fracasso and Ann Eklund.
Mount Warrigal artist and president of the Illawarra Association for the Visual Arts Melissa Ritchie was another of the 52 finalists selected from around 900 entries, for her powerful painting of Sydney comedian Rhys Nicholson.
Mr Nicholson is pictured standing next to a large matchbox with the “Redheads” logo.
“The matches themselves represent words, but the fire they produce represent the hurtful, bullying words, that Rhys and many LGBT youth have been unfortunately subjected to at some point in their life,” Ms Ritchie said.
“In this painting, Rhys has taken ownership of those sharp tonged words, now using them in his vibrant career. He owns the words, he is the smart mouth.”
Meantime, a vivid painting of lawyer Deng Thiak Adut, a Sudanese refugee and former University of Wollongong student, by Nick Stathopoulos also made the shortlist.
Mr Adut's remarkable life story has spread around the world thanks to a viral advertisement for Western Sydney University that has been seen millions of times.
Born in the South Sudanese fishing village of Malek, he was conscripted into the army aged six.
The winner of the Archibald will be announced Friday July 15, while the finalists will be on exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW from July 16 until October 9.
In The Young Archies, seven-year-old Mia Eager of Horsley was named a finalist in the 5-8 years category and 10-year-old Sian Luck of Horsley was a finalist in the 9-12 years category.
Last year two Young Archies finalists hailed from Horlsey and another from Unanderra.
The Sulman Prize, awarded for the best subject painting, genre painting or mural project, had two locals shortlisted: George Gittoes from Gerringong and Isriel Adams from Wollongong.