THEY haven't lived picture perfect lives but a talented group of young artists and photographers have found hope in a blank canvas.
Creative enthusiasts who've been denied the resources and schooling many young people their age receive due to homelessness or other difficult circumstances will unveil their skills at the opening night of the BElonging: Art in the Margins exhibition at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre next Thursday night.
Co-ordinated by the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service, the project involved the participants pairing up with a mentor to help guide the impressive artworks and photographs which will be showcased in an environment that vastly differs to the isolated and seemingly hopeless world they've bravely overcome.
Graffiti artist Reece, 20, was homeless at 16 and said the project had "100 per cent" turned his life around, particularly seeing his talent appreciated and realising he could "actually do something in a good perspective for the community."
"When I was young I got told it's not the cards you're dealt, it's how you play them," he said.
"I've always just tried to stay positive and never get stuck on the negatives but there's times when that happens and sometimes it makes you do the worst but . . .
"I'm just starting to pull myself through, starting to become a man, stand on my own two feet, and I'm liking it and it's just this snowball effect that just keeps happening with just good things."
While he once got into strife for "doing stupid graffiti the wrong way", he said he really appreciated being given "a better outlet"— and one where he can realise his dream of being paid to do what he loves.
He's currently studying a Diploma of Graphic Design at TAFE and said he was ''tons excited'' about the exhibition's opening night.
''I can not wait for it,'' he said. ''I'm overexcited, I've been telling everyone about it.''
Eighteen-year-old Emily is another participant in the project who found refuge on trains when she was homeless and confidence from cameras once she was aligned with the Nepean Youth Accommodation Service.
''Photography for me is like, I'm able to express myself and realise that you're good at something and able to achieve something,'' she said.
Since beginning the project, Emily has commenced studies at TAFE which she hopes will help her forge a career in photography.
''I hope to make it big one day,'' she said. ''Or even just be a wedding photographer, or something like that.''
She added that she was ''pretty excited'' about the exhibition's opening night and she hoped local residents would attend the evening to support their work.
''Even if it's just a few people,'' she said. ''It just means a lot.''
The opening night will begin at 7pm, Thursday 18 October, and the exhibition will run until Sunday 18 November. Artworks will be for sale and a painting created on opening night will be up for auction. More details are available at email@example.com