Belinda Street was at home the day it happened. She had been entering the Paddington Art Prize for about 15 years, having never made the finalist list but she kept submitting a work, year after year.
"I did miss entering a couple of years but it's the art prize I really wanted to win." she says. "I see myself as an Australian landscape painter and besides the Wynne Prize, this is the Australian landscape prize."
The Paddington Art Prize was established as a national acquisitive art prize in 2004 by Marlene Antico OAM. Belinda Street is the 2019 Paddington Art Prize winner.
The prize has contributed to establishing Australian landscape painting as a significant contemporary genre. Past winners have included Paul Ryan in 2010, who eight years later was a Wynne Prize finalist and Tony Costa in 2014, who last year won the Archibald Art Prize. Along the way the prize has acquired a range of paintings, with the finalist exhibition promoted to encourage the purchase of artworks, reminding visitors of the importance of entrepreneurial art collecting to the Australian ethos.
Street remembers the call: "I was here in my studio and I was madly finishing off some work for an upcoming exhibition and I had charcoal all over my hands. I remember I was a bit annoyed the phone rang."
She laughs and continues: "It was Marlene Antico and she said something like how pleased she was to be able to tell me I had won.
"It so surreal at the time. I've worked so long, and so hard and I'm so used to the rejection letter and then suddenly something good happens. I spent the day with it swirling around in my head. I was in disbelief."
"When Wal arrived home in the afternoon, I was in the kitchen and he put his little esky up on the bench and I said something like 'You won't believe what happened today. I won it.' and he was looking at me and said 'What do you mean?' and I said again 'I-won-it. I won the Paddington Art Prize and he cried."
For Street, it wasn't until she sat down to write her acceptance speech a few days later that she started to cry.
"Then I couldn't stop. I had to practice it over and over so that I didn't cry. I didn't want to be a blubbering mess on the night," she says, explaining that it was her first major art prize win.
She had won the youth section of the Mosman Art Prize just after her university degree and had been a finalist in other art prizes.
She described it as "my first adult win, winning has given me the confidence that outsiders agreed ... that others see me the way I see myself, as a landscape painter ... sometimes you lose confidence that even anyone else thinks that what your doing is good."
Street studied Fine Art at The University of Newcastle. A semester learning oil painting from the late Sulman Prize winning artist John Montefiore cemented her understanding of how to represent light and colour in paint.
"We called him Monty and he taught us all about light ... he taught me about seeing light, seeing the reflected light, seeing the colours that were actually there," she says.
Lezlie Tilley was another lecturer who made a lasting impression on Street. Street recalls Tilley saying 'everyone can paint, you just have to find the way that you can do it'.
"Before that I hadn't really thought about it that way, I thought you either could or you couldn't," she says. "But it is just a matter of finding your journey and finding your way of using different materials."
Nowadays, you'll find Street in her home studio, well on her journey as an artist. She is like many artists, juggling her art practice with family and work commitments while she continues to exhibit in group and solo exhibitions in Newcastle and around the country.
She's hasn't give up hope on "cracking" that next art prize.
Belinda Street is exhibiting in the group exhibition MISTRESS at Blackstone Gallery, 470 Hunter Street. It officially opens on the eve of International Women's Day, Saturday, March 7 from 6pm to 8pm. Curated by the gallery's Marguerite Tierney who is also an exhibiting artist, it includes eight other local women artists.