At the age of 81, Canberra artist Margaret Bice is celebrating her first solo exhibition, proving it's never too late to pursue a passion.
"You know, it can happen," she said, with a smile.
"Sometimes people from my generation retire from work and think, 'Oh well, that's it' and I think there is so much out there you can be doing and exploring."
The inspiration for her exhibition of miniatures, Bird Song, came partly from time spent in her garden in Hawker.
"I have always enjoyed the bird life around me," she said, in her artist statement.
"Listening to their songs, the early morning magpie alarm clock, the rosellas announcing their arrival and watching their behaviour, protective, possessive and sometimes mischievous.
"It is the greatest pleasure to have them enjoying my garden."
The exhibition is on at the Designer Op Shop Emporium in Fyshwick, among the vintage clothing and unique collectables. A little corner of the emporium is devoted to the Wren's Nest Studio Gallery of Miniature Art, run by local artist Michaela Laurie.
Margaret's pieces are created with watercolour and coloured pencil and graphite, showing each bird against their environment.
"While the focus is on birds, I thought it important to include the environment which is significant to the individual bird," she said.
"Our eucalypt trees are represented here, along with a variety of spinifex and other forms of bird habitat. We must care for the environment to ensure the survival of our birds.
"To that end, the bird is coloured, using mainly watercolour paint and coloured pencil and the background is graphite, with a 'blush' of colour using coloured pencil."
A retired nurse and midwife who moved from Melbourne to Canberra in 1973 with her her husband John, who was seconded to work in Prime Minister and Cabinet, Margaret still remembers the excitement of her first art award - for a sketch of a farmhouse she did in primary school.
"I always kind of dabbled," she said. "And I always painted in my mind. I'd see something and I'd think, 'Wouldn't it be lovely to paint that?'. But life takes a different direction and then when the kids left home, I had more freedom and that's when I started focusing and I joined various groups."
She helped fellow artist Jan Vincent to form the Art in Miniature group in Canberra in 2000, the group holding annual exhibitions and sharing friendships as well as a love of art in small form.
"I've always loved miniatures. Even as a child, I loved miniature things," Margaret said.
"It's as difficult to paint miniatures as it is to paint big paintings because of all the other inputs. You don't just sit and draw and colour, there's a lot more involved than that."
Many of her paintings were sold at a meet-the-artist soiree last weekend, which left Margaret "absolutely blown away".
"It was totally beyond my expectations," she said.
Designer Op Shop Emporium co-owner Taylor Pitsilos was glad to be able to help showcase local artists, saying Michela Laurie had made great strides with her gallery.
"We've always wanted to have that collaboration here but hadn't found the right person to do that and Michaela is now doing an amazing job at that," Taylor said.
While her art is in miniature, Margaret also focuses on getting joy out of the little things in life, a philosophy she shares with husband John, a member of the singing group The Connections. She paints in a corner of their garage.
"He'll be inside playing the piano and I'll be painting out there and I'll be thinking, 'This is such a lovely environment'," she said.
- Bird Song the exhibition is on at the Designer Op Shop Emporium at 1 Lyell Street, Fyshwick until Sunday, October 22. The emporium is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 4.30pm and Sunday 10am to 4pm.