MY WYNDHAM: Hoppers Crossing fine artist, illustrator and art teacher Michelle Ripari chats to Star Weekly.

How did you become an artist?

I’ve always drawn. I started doing commissions while I was a teacher. I worked with autistic children and also did emergency teaching. But I was injured and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome, a chronic pain disorder. I’ve learned to cope with it – I think that’s why I’m such an advocate for art to help with healing. I’ve had depression myself and I found it very therapeutic to do something creative. I’ve been teaching drawing for about three years. I enjoy connecting with different people and meeting people from all different fields, backgrounds, cultures and jobs.


Do many people say, “I can’t draw” to you ?

All the time. When people say, ‘I can’t draw,’ I say, ‘You can write your letters, can’t you? If you can draw letters, you can draw’. I say to people to carry a sketch pad with them and practice for five to 10 minutes every day, you would be amazed at what a difference that can make.


You use graphite, watercolour and coloured pencils?

I did start out with graphites, then I got a commission to draw some chickens. I didn’t think black and white would do them justice, so I decided to do it in colour – I got lots of good feedback for that. Then I decided to do a landscape. A friend of mine had taken a photo of a tree smouldering after the 2014 Numurkah fires. I asked my friend if I could draw the photo. I kept going and I realised I loved doing it. I got awards for that artwork, it’s been published and sold. I specifically love colour pencils, because of the detail you can get from them.


What is your favourite thing about living in Wyndham?

I must say the arts team at Wyndham council are very supportive. I have friends who live in other council areas and those councils are nowhere near as good. I love the Saltwater Arts Studio, it’s artist-run with council support. I take care of the studio’s website and newsletter. Some of my gumtree artwork is on display at Notorious Espresso in Werribee at the moment. It’s great they do that. I’ve been shortlisted for the Wyndham Art Prize for three years running, which is a great competition.


What else you do, apart from art?

Apart from fine arts, I’ve been doing illustrations lately. With the Wyndham Writing Group, I have two short stories in their 2018 anthology and I also drew illustrations for it. As well, I did illustrations for the group’s Childhood Adventures book. It’s my dream to do a children’s book.

Ms Ripari will teach pencil classes for people aged 10 and over on Tuesdays, 6.30pm at the Wyndham Arts Incubator, Werribee until March 12 ($220 for six weeks, materials included). She also teaches at 7pm on Mondays at the Saltwater Arts Studio ($220 for six weeks or $30 for casual drop-in sessions). Bookings: