WHEN Imants Tillers heard he had won one of Australia's richest contemporary painting prizes, he was on the other side of the globe.
Mr Tillers was in Rome when he won The Gold Award at Rockhampton Art Gallery.
But it's not just the prestigious title he won, there's cash prize of $50,000 that goes with it.
Mr Tillers said it was a fantastic surprise.
The New South Wales artist has been creating art since the 1970s, with his first art exhibition at 23.
His career has gone from strength to strength since.
"I like to say I was born an artist," he said.
Mr Tillers studied architecture at university in Sydney, but the art world was calling.
He won the Rockhampton Art Gallery's top prize last month after entering three pieces into the competition.
He thought that if he were to win, it would be his gold piece Capricornia that would do it.
But it was his smaller piece, Epiphany, that caught the attention of the judges.
His pieces are made on panels that connect, which he's been creating for 15 years.
Each panel has been numbered, and he now has more than 94,000 panels.
"In the early '80s I had the idea to use panels, they are a way for my work to continue," the 64-year-old said.