To see her painting in the old 1900s barn she sub-leases at Arcadia, Anne Naylor looks like your typical artist.
The West Pennant Hills woman has five paintings in a new exhibition at Wallarobba Arts and Cultural Centre and is working on a commission for a hospital.
Mrs Naylor has bipolar disorder. She also has four adult children, three of whom need care. Her eldest son, Joshua, 27, has Down syndrome, autism, dyspraxia, mild hearing loss and sleep apnoea.
But that's what she loves about art — that it gives her an identity separate from that of a carer.
"Being a carer, you're put into that role. With art you're an artist," she said.
There are 850,000 carers in NSW, with one in 10 people looking after a family member or a friend who has disability, a mental illness, a chronic health condition or are frail aged.
"I have a fantastic life and the people I care for bring a richness to my life that I wouldn't have had"
Mrs Naylor was one of 14,382 unpaid carers in the Hornsby local government area in 2011.
In The Hills there were 15,373.
"Everybody knows somebody in a carer's role; this exhibition celebrates them," Mrs Naylor said.
"It's one of the chapters in my book, Art From Adversity — A Life With Bipolar [released last year]. Everybody knows somebody."
"There are also a lot of hidden carers, young carers and people who wouldn't consider themselves to be carers; they may be looking after an older husband, or their neighbour.
"I think it's important to say I have a fantastic life and the people I care for bring a richness to my life that I wouldn't have had, so it's a positive thing."
All of the 60 works featured in the exhibition at Wallarobba Arts and Cultural Centre are by carers in the Northern Sydney Local Health District and because she was last year named Carer of the Year by NSW government and Carers NSW, Mrs Naylor gave the opening speech on Tuesday (July 8).
"Everybody knows somebody in a carer's role; this exhibition celebrates them"
In her speech she talked about how — with her art — she may start out with a plan "but it often gets turned upside down and ends up just as beautiful".
"That's what life can be like as a carer," she said.
The exhibition has been put on by Hornsby Council, in conjunction with the health district.
"It's a wonderful initiative that Hornsby Council is doing," Mrs Naylor said, "because it's really important to say to carers 'let's showcase the wonderful things you're doing'."
The free carers art exhibition runs until July 20, 10am-4.30pm daily, at Wallarobba Arts and Cultural Centre, 25 Edgeworth David Avenue, Hornsby.
Access Economics estimates that nationally, carers provide 1.32 billion hours of care each year, saving the Australian taxpayer $40 billion annually.