Gary Caldow didn't pick up the paint brush until the age of 58, when his late wife told him she would teach him - to keep him on the straight and narrow.
"Janet quite rightfully said, 'if you've got this flat in Kings Cross ... it'll keep you out of mischief'," he said.
"After a couple of years of practice and meeting a lot of artists in Sydney, I was fortunate enough to put an entry in the Mosman Art Prize.
"The judge was Margaret Olley ... there were 914 entries and she downsized it to 120 - and one of those was mine. That was sort of encouragement ever since."
With his father working in the post office and having a travel bug for most of Mr Caldow's childhood, he had seen more Australian landscapes than most.
"We went everywhere," Mr Caldow said. "The visual memories are quite strong.
"What I tend to do is reproduce that memory ... I paint landscape and seascapes, portraits as well."
Growing up in the Northern Territory, Mr Caldow was inspired by the late artist Albert Namatjira.
One of Mr Caldow's painting shows Mr Namatjira in his outdoor studio while creating his internationally-celebrated works of art.
The public can see over 80 of Mr Caldow's paintings at his North Narooma studio as part of the annual River of Art Festival which opens on Thursday, May 16.
Despite using a different medium - Mr Namatjira painted in watercolour, Mr Caldow paints in acryclic - Mr Caldow said he was "absolutely influenced by his colours and capture of the central Australian landscape".
Mr Caldow said Mr Namatjira's story was tragic because the Indigenous artist was not even counted as a citizen for most of his life.
"Albert's family had been pursuing the intellectual property for his works of art ... chasing the Commonwealth for 50 years," he said.
"Dick Smith, the entrepreneur, found out about this and acquired it back for them.
"I thought, 'because I'm an artist, I better do something to celebrate it'."
Mr Caldow is now working on a series of treescapes near his home.
"When you travel though it, it's surrounded by the trees. At particular times of the day, the light is fantastic," he said.
At his open studio, Mr Caldow said the public would see works "which have been painted at various stages of my art life".
He said many projects were experimental.
"I never can quite remember the colour wheel ... I tend to reinvent it every time," he said.
He picked up many ideas for seascapes during his time in the navy but is now inspired by the South Coast.
He said capturing the colour of the water in Narooma was "quite a challenge".
"The South Coast has such a wonderful colour," he said.
"We tend to do a lot of overlays till it works out ... several layers."
He said art was not dying.
"You just have to look at attendance in Sydney and Canberra galleries," he said.
"There are new generations coming through all the time."
However, there was too much instant gratification.
"Some good paintings are done very quickly," he said.
"It doesn't hurt to spend a few days, weeks, or even months planning and preparing, or even changing it, depending on where the mood sits."
Mr Caldow urged younger people to pick up a brush.
"I'd encourage people to start a little earlier," he said.
"But I'm reminded of an Aboriginal artist ... who started at age 80 and now her paintings are hanging in The Louvre.
"I think the shire's done a wonderful thing by putting the River of Art Festival together.
"They've got the council, in particular, that goes to a lot of effort, that brings a lot of tourists in."
Mr Caldow is opening his studio at 27 Eastaway Ave, North Narooma on May 17-19 and May 24-27 as part of the River of Art Festival.
For more information about River of Art, go to riverofart.com.au.