FOR Merrylands artist Dona Samson, 60, one of the best inspirations is the melting pot of cultures found in western Sydney and further afield.
The self-taught artist combines influences from her childhood home of Malaysia with Japanese and Indonesian styles to create colourful pieces filled with butterflies, Auburn cherry blossoms, koi fish and peacocks.
"I grew up in the '50s in Malaysia when it was still under British rule, in the streets of Johor Bahru. My parents are half Sri Lankan and Portuguese," she said.
Despite limited resources, Ms Samson's parents supported her budding creativity as best they could with a few art supplies and lots of encouragement.
"My father was really poor — the only thing he could bring me was coloured pencils.
"I love things Japanese. It's a very beautiful kind of art. My first artwork that won an award in Malaysia before I turned 16 was a painting of three geishas walking in the snow. That won first prize in our town."
Dona said print-making was now her forte, including the Batik wax method — traditionally used to decorate sarongs — to create Indonesian-inspired screen prints on cotton or silk. "I use a lot of peacock blues, light blues and indigo."
She creates needlecrafts and textile art, lacework pieces, collages, photography and has published articles on Malaysian race riots. Her first photo work was a series of postcard-sized stills of Malaysian street scenes, called Postcards from Home.