Early this year, before the COVID pandenmic took hold, Gino Palmieri was standing near Newcastle harbour's southern breakwater, painting a landscape of Nobbys, when a storm suddenly rolled in from the south.
"It was all I could do to paint what was in front of me," Mr Palmieri recalled.
He called his watercolour painting, boiling with energy, Nobbys Head - storm approaching Newcastle.
Little did the artist know that what was just ahead of him, and the world, was a coronavirus storm that would change his life.
Gino Palmieri owned Deluca's Italian restaurant in Darby Street. But the COVID restrictions pushed him and his wife Sharon to shut the restaurant after 14 years.
"It was a big chunk of my life going down the drain," he said.
Yet that painful decision gave Gino Palmieri more time time to pursue something that had given him pleasure since he was a child growing up in Hamilton: art.
He decided to enter his Nobbys painting in this year's Wynne Prize, one of the country's most prestigious landscape painting awards. It was the first time he had entered the Wynne. As Mr Palmieri wrote in his submission, the image "seems to be a premonition of impending danger".
Now a storm of excitement has whipped into Mr Palmieri's life. His work is one of 34 Wynne Prize finalists.
Like so many, Mr Palmieri feels as though his life has been "on a rollercoaster" this year, "but getting into the Wynne Prize is like the rollercoaster doing the loop".
Having been so busy running restaurants, the 55-year-old may now devote more time to painting.
"Maybe the stars have aligned in my favour," he said of his Wynne Prize selection.
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