‘My mother could draw – she won a scholarship to go to art school in England. Her mother pulled her out and made her go and do a job that she really hated somewhere. It’s terrible.
‘My father really should have been an academic but, through all sorts of things – poverty and a long story – ended up not being able to do that but going into various types of business. He eventually ended up doing what he wanted. He was a writer historian and wrote the Pictorial History of Newtown. That’s my dad, Alan Sharpe. He was a historian but a creative and imaginative person. He wasn’t a visual artist, but I feel that I got my art thing from him.
‘Even though they had gone bankrupt at one stage and had very little money, they were still anxious to do everything they could to help me do what I wanted in life.
‘I haven’t done anything else but art all of my life. I was the only person in my school who didn’t do maths or science for the HSC because I knew that I wasn’t going to be interested in either of them. I went straight from school to art school.
‘To earn a living, I was an artist model and taught part-time. I’ve never had a full-time job except now with painting which is fabulous, but I always just accepted poverty back then.
‘Creativity and the arts are something you’ll have all your life and it’s never wasted. It is enrichment that is forever.
‘Life is chance. You do make your own luck but only to an extent. If you’re out there doing stuff it’s far more likely to happen. It is chance – that’s chaos theory. That’s scary but it’s also good.
‘You have to put yourself out there or nothing will happen. You can’t guarantee if you do all these things that this will happen; it may not, but you’ve got to give it a go.
‘One of my favourite quotes is from Picasso: “Inspiration exists but it has to find us working.”’
‘My diagnosis at 27 changed my life dramatically. I connect all these things back to what I bundle up as “below-par”. I’d do weights and not bulk up. I couldn’t run as fast as other people. Knowing you are somehow physically different to others, made me feel really inferior and insecure.
‘I looked for various ways socially to compensate for that. It led me toward a lot of really negative lifestyle choices as far as being reckless. Getting diagnosed was a huge relief – it turned all that around.
‘I have a degenerative neuro-muscular condition called Inclusion Body Myositis which means my muscle cells don’t regenerate. Effectively I’ve got a slow, degenerative, muscle-wasting disease. It started off in my legs and it progressed to my arms. It’s slowly going through every set of muscles throughout my body.
‘I’ve had to face so many physical and emotional challenges. It’s made me a lot tougher and a lot stronger as a person. It’s made me a much nicer person than I used to be in my 20s. I’m nowhere near as selfish; I have a different perspective on life. I know what’s important and what’s not. I think I do. It just put me on a different path.
‘Before I was diagnosed, I was working in hospitality. I’ve always done really physical kind of work but I really physically started to struggle with all of that. Then I decided that I wanted to study and did an Advanced Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE followed by a Bachelor of Fine Art at the University of NSW.
‘I was fortunate enough at the start of 2016 to be awarded a grant through Accessible Arts which is designed to support me as an emerging artist in a sustainable arts practice. It’s helped me buy art supplies and an electric easel. It’s helped me build a website and employ a videographer to do a short 3.5 minute documentary about me and my practice. It all culminates in a solo exhibition where I produce 20 paintings. It’s designed to sell some work and generate some income so that I can then be funded to have a sustainable art practice for another year and have another show.’