PRECIOUS: Central Coast artist Delysia Jean Dunckley with a recent detailed piece comprising 11 flowers, including five rare and endangered local plants, which took 11 months to complete.
PRECIOUS: Central Coast artist Delysia Jean Dunckley with a recent detailed piece comprising 11 flowers, including five rare and endangered local plants, which took 11 months to complete.

Artist 'lucky' to see beauty through the pain

"I'M a very lucky person," Central Coast artist Delysia Jean (Del) Dunckley told me more than once during our interview.

Others might not see her as such; having been diagnosed with arthritis in her late 20s and had over 30 operations which have limited what she can physically do.

But neither illness nor age has affected her spirit and talent.

The self-taught artist believes she was born with a gift but, in the 1940s and '50s when artists were seen as very alternative "hippy" types, she was told not to "waste" her time.

"So now I waste my time," Del laughed.

She and husband Don receive help these days through a Federal Government aged care package with Living Made Easy (LME), and Del has donated three pieces of her work to the local Coast provider as her personal thanks for the care she receives.

LME states its commitment to providing person-centred support for independent living at home and helping to maximise people's quality of life, independence and social interaction, and Del is happy to sing their praises.

"The help I get from Living Made Easy means I can stay at home, keep well, and I can paint, which is what I live for," Del said.

"I'm in a different world when I paint ... I'm so happy: it's what I'm meant to be doing."

Her true love is wildflowers, which she paints both for their beauty in themselves, but also to help others see that beauty, their ecological importance and the need to protect them.

"I think they are very precious for our heritage," she said.

Twenty of Del's delicate and detailed paintings, including rare and endangered flora, are part of the Bicentenary Collection held by The Legislative Library in Canberra.

Another watercolour of a rare plant found only in the Blue Mountains region, Atkinsonia ligustrina, is part of The Florilegium Collection in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, and was published in their prestigious bicentenary book, Florilegium.

Visiting Heads of State and royalty, including Princess Mary, have been given her paintings.

Del said botanical painting was a bit like an iceberg - two-thirds of what made it great was below the surface.

We admire the finished product, but it's the work that goes into finding and collecting the plant, detailed notetaking, including perhaps when it opens or closes, and getting the dimensions absolutely correct, which goes unseen.

Del said she hoped the paintings she had donated to LME would bring as much joy to others as she had in painting them.

"You don't just paint for yourself, it's about sharing ..." she said.

She also believes it's important to show "you're never too old to keep doing something you want to do".

That's a message LME CEO Helen Pryse Lloyd echoes.

"We are very much about helping people reach their goals in life, and this is a lovely story about someone who has been able to achieve what she wants to, and continues to do so."

LME organised a morning tea for Del with staff and other clients at Gosford Regional Art Gallery on September 18 to celebrate her success and thank her for her paintings.