SEASPRAY resident Nyulla Safi describes herself as the "accidental artist", which is probably a modest but accurate way of describing her incredible talent.
After turning to art in 2019 as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder therapy, the former Australian Army soldier had no expectations other than to find a way to express her feelings.
But something magical happened when the 48-year-old put paint to canvas, with her works revealing a previously undiscovered creativity and intensity of emotion.
"I can't draw or sketch to save myself, and I got kicked out of art classes at school for lack of ability, so it really is a surprise to see what comes out when I paint," she said.
Her work speaks for itself, even impressing Gippsland MHR Darren Chester, who has agreed to sit for her entry into the prestigious Archibald Prize.
"I thought I would challenge myself, and Darren Chester was really kind to help me by agreeing to allow me to paint him for the competition," she said.
"It's a huge challenge, but if I don't try I won't know - so fingers crossed."
Although born in the Parisian art mecca of Montmartre, Ms Safi is new to the art world and is still coming to terms with her paintings getting noticed - and not just in Australia.
"On a whim two years ago I entered one of my very first paintings into a competition, and was a bit shocked when I was told I was a finalist," she said.
"I just kept painting because it really helped with my PTSD, but I didn't have a plan ... I just let my hands take the palette knife and do the work.
"I've since been a finalist in other awards and am now getting requests to exhibit my work in galleries both in Australia and overseas."
Ms Safi's paintings are best described as expressionism, but other than that she admits she "freestyles" everything.
"I didn't like the paint brush so much so I use a palette knife and honestly, my hand just does the work; I don't even think about it or know what I am going to paint when I start," she said.
"I start by putting all the paint on the canvas, I draw on my emotions at the time and a painting comes out of it."
Ms Safi said that although lockdown was a difficult time for everyone, it was helpful for her because it allowed her to spend a lot of time at home painting and developing her art.
"Lockdown was announced two days after I moved to Seaspray, so I thought I had better find something to do," she said.
"And I am a very private person, so being able to sit and paint with no distractions wasn't too bad."
A selection of Ms Safi's colourful works adorn the walls of her little seaside cottage, and some have appeared in three respected London art books.
Many of her works have been snapped up by buyers here and overseas, and she is currently
working on six new pieces for Canberra's Belconnen Arts Centre.
"One can do anything at any age," she said.
"There's no such thing as too late."