My Archibald Prize entry in pictures (and why I painted on a piece of paper the height of an Art Gallery of NSW wall)


Almost three months ago I began a quest to win the Archibald Prize. No easy feat so I needed to do some thinking and sharing and to hear collective wisdom (thank you world).

I'd entered twice before without winning so wanted to understand what made a winner. I analysed all the previous winners to find some patterns to the mystery (think a giant oil painting of an artist in vibrant expressionist or realist style). But of course there have also been rogues that flipped the Archibald on its head like William Dobell in 1943 and Brett Whiteley in 1976.

Those rebels had a different take on what had come before but enough winning traits to capture the judge's imagination with a freshly different angle.

With the help of my audience and my inner inclination to go a little rogue I approached my entry this year as a ‘radical rebel’.

But what would a radical rebel look like? Turns out it wouldn't use oil nor canvas (convenient because of course I’m no Old Master). What it might do is use watercolours and ink (rarely won).

This was fortuitous because I would certainly not want to try and beat masters of oil portraits with an oil portrait - that is, don’t try and beat a strongman with strength. I had to approach my piece with what makes my stuff distinctive (think simple black ink lines, the usually unnoticed, a cityscape and vibrant colours).  

But of course to win one must first stand out (last year I saw the vast swamp of hundreds of canvases that looked like a scene from the novel '1984'). So I resolved to avoid canvas. Of course, paper is my constant companion but being noticed would require something else. So I decided on a gigantic piece of paper the edge of the size limit (limit of 3.3 metres high given the art gallery walls are 3.4 metres).  

But what to paint and how?

I needed a subject that resonated to keep me going in the lonely early hours of the morning as I tried to fill the gigantic paper. I’d previously seen and reacquainted myself with a certain artist who did just that. His series ‘Art vs Reality’ was tonic to my mind and sugar to my imagination. Likewise his most recent odyssey ‘Real Australians Say Welcome’ was a poignant message told in a compellingly different way where he travelled to 8 cities across Australia putting giant street posters with a simple, beautiful message (ideally just out of reach of council cleaners).

His name? Peter Drew.

(Here are my notes from our first conversation which felt like speaking to a more articulate, suaver version of myself in a parallel universe).

But Peter is an artist competing with the giant world and a sometimes lonely message.

George Street is one of the busiest and most famous streets in Sydney with the Queen Victoria statue and building. It’s also a regular haunt of mine that brings together the most diverse set of people you can imagine. But it’s also one of the loneliest for eye contact with almost everything remarkable going unnoticed.

I wanted to tell of the bigness of the city and the smallness of an artist trying to change it.  

What I’ve also noticed is that artworks with small details draws an audience and the eye in, capturing precious time and attention.

Those are my feet in the foreground to put the audience into the picture (pink to symbolise the radical rebel). The stretching buildings to the sky recall Immanual Kant’s observation ‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me’.

Now that it's complete, I wait...

Here is the expansive bird's eye shot... with all the detailed photos below.

Queen Victoria Building...


View from the Queen Victoria Building down...

The centre...

Town Hall and Queen Victoria's face...

Peter at work...

Peter in his glorious smallness...

Bottom looking up...

 My radical rebel shoes...(and you in the picture)

The complete series 'How to win the Archibald Prize'
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P.S - If you'd like an original print of my Archibald journey for $20 just go here.

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1 Response

Polly Ifould
Polly Ifould

July 14, 2015

Well done! Love your work!
From another artist who loves the journey!

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Why are your products so special?

Many products (including wall art and t-shirts) are made by combining stock art (you know, images you can buy on used on bad advertisements) to make pretty patterns that don't mean a lot.

Oscar’s works are original and interesting - all designed and crafted using his own hands onto real paper with his imagination, real pencils and ink. That’s what makes each piece like nothing else in the world.

What are the prints made of? Why are they such quality?

Each piece is printed onto the finest museum grade paper. Oscar chooses the Hahnemuhle brand because it feels and looks superb (if you’re interested it’s acid free and calcium carbonate buffered) plus it can last longer than 100 years!

The inking process is called giclée printing and is a high-quality way of getting ink onto the best paper.

id="size" Which size is right for me? A few helpful things to consider:

A4 is small and good for a small desk, kitchen or small wall like a corner.

A3 is medium and good for a larger desk, larger kitchen or moderate sized wall.

A2 a larger and really nice on a wall, behind a bed or desk, adorning a hallway or thoroughfare.

A1 a very large and a wonderful way to make an impact in a room, office, reception, thoroughfare or atrium. Pow.


A4 210 x 297 mm | 8.3 x 11.7 in
A3 297 x 420 mm | 11.7 x 16.5 in
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A1 594 x 841 mm | 23.4 x 33.1 in


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Oscar is Award-Winning?

Yes. He’s entered and won art prizes including for a piece about a magical bus and its passengers and a 22 page piece Moleskin about a boy who woke up with a strange knowing one day. He was also featured in prominent publications for his work and journey to one of the world’s largest portrait prizes, The Archibald Prize.

But now he prefers to imagine and make to change the world.

What is Oscar’s life Mission?

Oscar mission is to change the world with a pencil, pens and beautiful paper so that his imaginative tales and creations can be found in rooms, offices, buses and wall facades in town and cities large and small - so people awe at the ordinary.

A billion people on earth would be nice :) A beloved collection of children’s books too (that Roald Dahl would be proud of). Oh, and a film trilogy...

But I’d love to start (if you don’t mind) with you today!

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