Michael Hodgkins is keen to get his art business up and running

Art has been running through Michael Hodgkins’ veins since childhood. From his earliest years he watched his father, professional landscape artist George Hodgkins, at work and at the age of 10 his first set of oil paints set him off on his own artistic journey.

He still has the original palette and knife from that first set of oil paints and uses it today to help create the vibrant landscapes that now adorn the studio walls of his home in the Highlands Estate.

A varied career path has seen him work as a jack-of-all-trades in the television industry in Geraldton, a photographer, a guitarist and singer in a touring band, an audio engineer and a website builder.

In his early 30s the lure of canvas and oil paints proved too strong and he took up formal art training, discovering different styles and experimenting with different techniques.

Throughout it all he maintained his love of Outback Australia and painting landscapes.

Today his ambition is to work from home, sell his work and run art classes but he’s being frustrated by bureaucratic hurdles preventing him from doing it.

Zoning regulations won’t let him do that without special council approval, and while the process is underway, it’s a long-winded exercise involving public announcements of his intentions, newspaper ads and mail-outs to neighbours.

“It’s frustrating,” Mr Hodgkins said, “it’s costing time, money and effort when I could be promoting and running the business.”

He’s still waiting but if there are no objections he hopes to be able to open-up for business by Spring.

Without that approval he can’t even sell paintings from home.

“People can come by appointment, but I can’t sell anything to them. It seems ridiculous,” he said.

He’s not even allowed to advertise or promote his work at the Visitor’s Centre.

Throughout it all councillor Jenny Mountford, who runs the Rabbit Hole artist’s studio, has been very supportive. She’s keen to see a vibrant arts community flourishing in town and Michael’s gallery is an important part of it.

Ms Mountford thinks Mr Hodgkins’ problems with gaining approval for his business may have stemmed from applying for approval under the wrong category in the first place.

She said the shire may need to be a little more flexible in such cases but stresses that the CEO has strived to find a solution.

“It’s important to find a way for home studios like this to fit into shire policy,” she said.