Caroline Esbenshade moved to Point Cook from the US to be with partner Andrew. The 27-year-old artist is painting marine life along Wyndham’s coastline during an artist in residency program with Wyndham council. She speaks to Charlene Macaulay.


What’s your connection to Wyndham?

I’m from the US, from Virginia. I was a military brat – I spent a lot of time in Japan when I was little, and in a few different states, but always on the east coast. The first time I came to Australia was for uni; I came out for a year and then went back to finish my degree. Then I came back and met my partner, Andrew, with only four months left on my visa, so I had to leave. But then I came back and I’ve been here now for two years.

I started living in Point Cook because Andrew lives here. He moved out here nine or 10 years ago because he works in aquaculture and he loves the Point Cook Marine Sanctuary. He wanted to live somewhere where he could go out snorkelling every weekend. Now I love it too, and it’s a shared passion for us.


What made you pursue a career in the arts?

I’ve always done art. By the time I got to the later part of high school, I knew I wanted to do fine art in uni, and I actually looked at going to some fine art schools. My dad and I thought, financially, I could either go to the Pratt Institute and do painting at one of the best art schools in the country, or I could go to a state school and go abroad for a year. I wanted to go abroad, so I took the state school option.

I have a Bachelor of Arts from James Madison University, and my majors were studio art and a double major in media arts and design.


What’s your preferred art form?

It’s predominantly painting. I really like oil paint, and I’ve recently got into using a little bit of watercolour. Oil just makes sense to me, but watercolour is a really nice medium to teach in.


Tell me about the artist in residency you are doing at Featherbrook Community Centre.

My partner said maybe I should do something about the marine park, and then we went to the Great Barrier Reef, and I really wanted to do marine stuff. Now I’m here surrounded by shells and fish and mermaids. I try to be here Tuesdays and Thursdays every week, I also spend a lot of time here on the weekend. It’s nice to have the freedom, so that if the weather is really nice, I can go down for a snorkel to get more inspiration.


You’ve been doing the residency for two months now. How have you found it?

It’s awesome. Before the residency started, it wouldn’t be unusual for me to spend the day working on a painting, but it makes it easier having a dedicated space outside the home.


You put in an entry for the Archibald prize last year – who did you paint?

At one of the local art exhibitions I went to, Passage Through Ceremony, Andrew and I got to meet [artist] Gayle Maddigan. She was such a striking person. She was really interested in us, and what we had to say, and she listened. I loved her work, I loved her, and I wanted to paint her.


Do you have a favourite piece of your work?

It was something I painted just for myself, and it kind of got me through my recovery [from a car accident]. I called it Osaka … inspired by a documentary called The Great Happiness Space.