Derwent Art Prize selection

colour pencil drawing of some pest control sprays

I was very pleased to be selected for this years Derwent Art Prize exhibition, with my drawing ‘Death Row’. The Derwent Art prize champions works mainly done in pencil from artists around the world, and this year had over 6000 entries, so to have my piece selected among 67 others is a great honour indeed!

‘Death Row’ my drawing that was selected for the Derwent Art prize. 66 x 46 cms, colour pencil on paper

Drawing has always been an important part of my practice, and although the final pieces may not end up as drawings, most of them begin with drawing at some point. I rediscovered my love of colour pencil drawing during the Covid lockdowns, when challenging myself to do some large, time consuming drawings helped me with much of the anxiety that was gripping the nation as we all navigated our ways round what was going on. I find drawing very absorbing and I am able to just think about the drawing, not be distracted by other thoughts in my head. In fact one of my drawings of my dog, ‘Dante in Fake Furlough’, back then was longlisted for the Jacksons Art Prize in 2021. There were quite a few pictures of pets on sofas that year, I think it was a common inspiration!

I often think back to a still life drawing I drew while on my A level Art, it was probably the best piece I did during that time. Unfortunately when I went off to art school to do foundation and BA, drawing was not very fashionable, as it was during the height of the YBA’s movement, and it was mainly conceptual art that was encouraged, so it is heartening to see drawing still very much has a place in contemporary art today.

The Derwent Art prize catalogue page with my drawing on

Me in front of my work in the Derwent Art prize exhibition 2024

‘Death Row’, the drawing that was selected, is a still life of a window display of pest control items I found myself staring at one day whilst I was standing outside a hardware store with my dog, as my partner had gone inside. I was originally drawn to the bright colours, but then I was quite horrified as I looked closer and realised most of the items were for killing or trapping ‘pests’! I was drawn to the dichotomy of the bright colours and the macabre subject, as I am often I am drawn to subversive art. I felt compelled to draw it, for the technical challenge of capturing the colours and also I felt the subject matter fits with my other work, as it questions what we consider pests – it seems to me to be other beings who have managed to become very successful at living alongside us in the world we have created, and are punished for it as these ones don’t provide us with food or comfort. Not that it is a judgement – having lived with cockroaches and witnessed my dog suffering fleas, I understand the need to control some of them. But when you hear about such things as Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and how pesticides led to a massive decline in birds due to the thining of egg shells, or the decline of bees due to pesicide use or even rivers becoming polluted by pets flea treatments, we need to be more aware of the knockon affects of our actions.

The exhibition runs from 4th – 14th April 2024 at Oxo Tower Gallery, if you get the chance do pop in and see some fantastic drawings! If you can’t come by, you can see the shortlisted artists here.