Artist of the Year (Part 1)

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

I joined the SAA (Society of All Artists) prior to my first “Artisan Market” because I needed Public Liability Insurance. I heard that Artist’s Groups/Society’s may be the most affordable way for me to get this...


After doing some research, the SAA’s “Gold Membership” seemed like the best option for me. I’d also been meaning to start entering Art Competitions, as this seemed to be a way to new opportunities and funds to help further my career as an artist. I was hesitant to enter competitions before this, wanting to create something magnificent specifically for a competition, but never finding time to develop my own work between commissions. My new membership offered unlimited free entries into their Artist of the Year competition, so I had nothing to lose by entering all of the work that I had available! I didn’t expect anything to come of this.


I was thrilled when receiving a letter requesting I send pieces “Sniffer John” and “Rise” to the SAA’s headquarters for their next round of judging. With the pieces, I was asked to send a little information about myself and each of the works, as well as a photo of myself. They mainly wanted to know where my inspiration came from and what visual references I used for the work. These were my answers:


“I’ve noticed the negative and derogatory comments and attitudes towards the diverse group of people labelled as “homeless”. A word that is forced to become their whole identity. I painted this from a personal photograph.


I was out with my camera in central Milton Keynes, waiting to feel drawn to someone. It’s difficult to put into words, but I felt something painfully intense from, who I later discovered to be known as, “Sniffer John”.


“I was officially diagnosed with depression shortly after finishing education. I wanted to depict the times when I feel fresh, inspired and rejuvenated. The difficulty was in giving this feeling a form.


I drew the orchid plant from life, when mine finally came into bud after a year of struggling. The bird shares my eye colour and has scars on its left foot that match mine (from a life changing experience). I referenced several photos in an attempt to create the picture in my mind.”



I can’t remember the timescale between sending these off and my dad excitedly Facebook video calling me, as he’d opened the wet “important looking envelope” addressed to me in attempt to save what was inside. It was my certificates! Thanks to him, only slightly damaged (but you can’t tell now that they’re framed). I later received the trophy and was published in the SAA’s “Paint Magazine” (which I think was accidentally recycled. Good job I got a scan!).


The competition was split into these different categories:

  • Professional

  • Amateur

  • Beginner, June Atherton Award (if you have been painting less than two years)

  • Young (16 – 25 years old at the time of entry)

  • Junior (up to 16 at the time of entry

I think I was 22 at the time of entry, which apparently makes me young!

I’m extremely grateful and humbled to have achieved the best possible outcome for my first time entering a competition like this. I’m hoping to enter more in the future, but first, of course, I need to paint!


You can see all of the winning entries here:

https://www.saa.co.uk/artist-of-the-year-2017