Regena King, Maree’s mum holding Maree.
I grew up in a beautiful suburb of Brisbane, Australia, called Ashgrove. My earliest memories are of lying quietly on cool, bare wooden floors, coloring and drawing, and trying to stop my pencils rolling away into the middle of the room into the chatter and chaos of noisy children playing with their toys. Occasionally, one of my siblings or cousins would come over and see what I was doing. “Why are you always drawing?” they would often ask. “Because I like drawing the most”, I would reply.
Even before I could hold a pencil, my creativity was shining through… Apparently, I drew a masterpiece on my Mother’s walls (and carpet!) with her bright red lipstick when I was only a toddler!
Maree with colouring books on her birthday
My memories of school are filled with waiting – for art classes, for English classes so I could illustrate my stories, and for the art competitions. Although I was always one of the top students, I was way too shy to put my hand up in class or do anything that would draw attention to myself, EXCEPT, for when it came to my art.
I loved it when kids would come over to see what I was drawing, and I really enjoyed hearing their excited squeals when they would see my funny little drawings and we would laugh together and make up stories about my tiny mouse, or cute turtle, octopus or baby kitten. I started to gain confidence when the teachers would also praise my drawings, so eventually, I discovered that art was a way to connect with, and entertain, people.
I was lucky my parents encouraged me with my art. My Mother used to take me to choose my own ‘Colour by Number’ painting sets to paint. She also gave me a big, picture-filled book on Walt Disney and his cartoons, which I still have to this day. My Dad taught me how to paint the human face one night at the dining table.
Art Competitions in the Courier Mail
My first official ‘public’ exposure was in early primary school. It seemed like an eternity for me to wait for dawn each Sunday morning and listen for the ‘paper boy’ to throw our newspaper – The Courier Mail – onto our front lawn. I would leap out of bed and tiptoe across the cold, wet grass – still covered in dew (freezing in Winter!) – to get the tightly rolled, now damp newspaper. I would undo the rubber bands and the paper would burst out of its roll, and I would pull out the Kid’s Section, which was filled with cartoons, and stories and pictures.
I noticed each week there was an Art Competition where you could send in a drawing, and only one child could win the ‘prize’ (a small cheque) for the best drawing. I decided to enter in one of my drawings, and I couldn’t believe my eyes a few weeks later when I saw MY picture was published, right there, in the middle of the comics, for all to see! My Mother cashed in the cheque for me. From then on, I would often send in drawings to the Courier Mail, and I went on to win many more of these competitions
Out in Nature
Part of growing up in Brisbane, Australia in the 60’s and 70’s was being able to explore the local creeks and rivers on weekends and school holidays. It was quite normal to me to walk for miles along the creek beds with my siblings, cousins and neighbourhood friends. Without fail, I ALWAYS slipped and fell into the creek. But it was worth the embarrassment because during these walks, we came across plenty of wildlife – wallabies, turtles, frogs, fish, snakes, birds, koalas and lizards to name a few. Although our parents would have been horrified if they found out, we also often snuck out at night to see the possums, owls and other nocturnal animals. I just loved watching and studying all these creatures in their natural habitat. Their little personalities, mannerisms, and funny, cute antics would make me laugh. These experiences have reflected through my artwork as far back as I can remember. To be so close to these beautiful creatures was very special, and is still an important part of my painting process to this day.
Having children and a family was a lifetime dream. After getting married and raising three beautiful children, I found that circumstances led me to a place where my self-worth was tested. Being a single Mum had its challenges. I experienced some dark and difficult years, but thankfully, my gorgeous, funny children and my passion for art kept me going. I always kept a sketchbook somewhere to sneak a quick drawing or idea in when I got the chance, and I read and dreamed about getting more time to paint and draw.
The day my youngest daughter started High School, I went out and bought myself a new easel, paints and pastels.
I joined local art classes, continued learning all I could about fine art, and then attained a Certificate in Cartooning, Animation and Caricature. Studying art and being back at the easel was indescribable. I mainly painted portraits of animals, people and flowers.
I loved painting my big, fine art pieces on black or coloured backgrounds to really ‘pop’ the subject, and I loved painting big, bright, colourful artwork on white or vibrant backgrounds – especially when I painted my happy, fun animals.
Meeting my Soul Mate
When you least expect it, some of the best things in life can happen! I met Peter, my amazing husband, through a ‘blind date’ set up by two of our sons. They must have known we would be perfect for each other. Peter is generous, funny and passionate about life – and he laughs a lot. He is so supportive and encouraging to me. Between us we have seven wonderful adult children, and twelve grandchildren.
Maree Davidson – Art School
In 2003 I commenced Maree Davidson Art School teaching art to students of all ages – from children to adults. At one stage, I had over 70 Students and ran up to 10 classes a week! I just loved my students and they were all so passionate about art, and when we gathered together, all painting or drawing, it felt like ‘home’.
During this time, Peter was very busy working as a successful head service provider to Coles and Woolworths, but he still always had time to support and encourage me in my career as an artist. I did many commissions of both pet and people portraits. I was also painting majestic wildlife – especially big cats which had always fascinated me.
Peter and I often talked about how wonderful it would be to work together in our own art business sometime in the future. We knew this dream would be amazing for both of us, as my passion is art, and Peter’s passion is business. I enjoyed many wonderful years of running the art school until Peter got an opportunity to work in Cairns, North Queensland, and I closed the school, moved to Cairns, and concentrated on growing my art portfolio up in the tropics.
The Partnership Begins
As time went on, we moved back to Brisbane and Peter’s business grew so much, he had to expand into a big warehouse. Part of the warehouse was devoted to his picture framing and printing equipment and stock. Eventually, Peter finished his contracts and suddenly the timing was absolutely perfect for us to make our dream of working together a reality!
A New Chapter
You could say that my life has had lots of colour! After lots of great detective work by some of my family, I now know that I come from a long line of artists – even famous ones like Thomas Henry Illidge (also a portrait painter), and Julian Ashton (Julian Ashton Art School, The Rocks, Sydney).
Being a woman in business and a full time professional artist is something that I never knew I could do. I just LOVE that I can paint whatever I am feeling onto a canvas. I get to do what I love every day – whether it be painting, or going out on the field and meeting my furry subjects, or talking to people about my art.
There is a quote that I love which goes – “Life is a great big canvas. You should throw all the paint you can on it!”
Perhaps I am proof that if you let your passion lead you, and work hard, anything is possible!