Ellie Neilsen may joke that her qualifications, "Masters in Age Experience and Diploma in Country Living," come from "Hard Knocks University," but she is more than qualified to teach a form of art that goes back to Durer and Rembrandt 's time.
The visual artist and printmaker has perfected her skills during the past 40 years and is passionate about passing them on to the next generation so they are not lost.
Ellie, 91, teaches art students in the studio behind her Morayfield home. The studio is also home to Ellie’s most prized possession, her printmaking press.
“It’s more precious than gold and my house, and it would be the one thing I would save in a house fire — if I could lift it,” she says.
She etches an image onto a prepared piece of zinc to make her painting, which is then coated with ink and rubbed away leaving the ink in the scratches. Through the press the zinc and paper are placed, creating a mirror image.
Ellie also has no idea what she'll be making before she starts. “(I love) the feel of the metal. It tells you what to do,” she says.
She first dabbled in art when she was a child, entering work into the local show.
“Others did riding and cooking and whip cracking ... I didn’t do any of that, I just shoved some stuff in the pavilion and I annoyed the other kids by winning,” she laughs.
She says she studied art at school in her last year and developed her skills with the Australian Flying Arts School and later with the Capricornia Advanced Education Institute, where she taught first-year students in exchange for third-year classes.
While she didn’t get “the piece of paper”, she picked up the skills she had been yearning.
Ellie's workshop is a functioning treasure chest and a glimpse into her twisted sense of humour.
Hanging on the wall is the title of a self-portrait, Poor Hair Day, and the door is filled with cats paintings added by artist friends.