It is the dream of every artist to make a career out of doing what they love.
For Zoe Young, that dream was realised following the success of her first solo show in the Southern Highlands.
“My first solo show at the Bowral Art Gallery was a real turning point where I realised that I could make a go of it and afford to paint full-time,” Young said.
Since then, the two-time Archibald finalist has exhibited around Australia and internationally and garnered acclaim more recently after winning the Margaret Olley Commendation Award at the Mosman Art Prize and now has not one, but two paintings listed as finalists for the Portia Geach Memorial Award.
“I’ve been a finalist a few times, but this year I’m really excited because I’ve got two works in which is very rare,” Young said.
The Portia Geach Memorial Award is considered the most prestigious women’s art prize in Australia. Named in honour of Portia Geach, the Australian painter and suffragette who was also the first antipodean to be awarded a scholarship to London's Royal Academy, the award recognises the best Australian female portraitists.
Young’s first portrait, of Australian film director Bruce Beresford, involved a painstaking process of tracking down and convincing the award-winning director to be the subject.
“I had studied 70s Australian new wave cinema in art school and I became a bit obsessed with [Beresford’s film] Don’s Party after re-watching it a couple of years ago,” Young said.
Young used all the contacts she could find to get in touch with Beresford, and built a rapport with his producing partner, Sue Milliken in the process.
“I happened to call Sue one day and she was sitting across the table at lunch with him. She sent me a photo of him at lunch and from that I made a painting and posted it to Sue who passed it onto Bruce," she said.
Young admitted she fell down a bit of a rabbit hole during her research process, calling it “a very Beresford year.”
The final painting reflects much of that journey; depicting Beresford in his home study, surrounded by all the chaos one would expect in a creative space as well as the story of Beresford’s unfolding influence on the artist.
The second portrait is of former deputy lord mayor of Sydney, Jess Miller, titled ‘My Kinda Govergirl’.
Food writer Jill Dupleix had invited Young to sketch Cr Miller as they dined in a Sydney restaurant.
“Jill likes to collaborate and put people together. She was interviewing Jess Miller and asked if I’d be interested in sketching her portrait,” Young said.
The sketch was transformed on canvas and became the cover of the magazine that published the interview.
“I have a background in graphic design and typography was my specialty,” she said.
Young’s continued success and upcoming shows in Brisbane and Sydney have not yet tempted the artist from leaving the Southern Highlands.
“I feel so supported by the local community here, there is a unique creative community in the Highlands,” she said.
“I can’t imagine living anywhere else."
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