A Derry artist is on the verge of winning one of the UK’s most valuable art prizes.
A painting by Carnhill man, Tommy Long, has been selected as a finalist in the Lynn Painters-Stainers Prize competition which will have its final adjudication in London tomorrow.
The competition began in 2005 and carries an overall prize fund of £30,000.
It was established by the Worshipful Company of Painters and Stainers and the Lynn Foundation to encourage the very best creative representation painting and promote the skills of draughtmanship.
The Worshipful Company of Painters and Stainers was formed in London in 1502 and still actively promotes the art and craft of painting. The Lynn Foundation is an organisation devoted to children, the disabled. music and the arts.
The competition is open to living artists over the age of 18, who are resident in the British Isles.
Only original, two-dimensional works in any painting or drawing media, that have been completed in the last three years, and that have not been previously exhibited, are eligible.
The Prize regularly attracts hundreds of entries and to make the final cut alone is considered a great achievement.
Thirty-one-years-old Tommy spoke to the ‘Journal’ as he prepaed to pack up his work for shipment and travel to London for the adjudication.
“I have always been interested in drawing from a really young age.
“I was always encouraged by my grandfather. From the age of four or five I can remember sitting with him and we drew on his bookies’ slips,” said Tommy.
As he grew up, this interest in drawing transformed into a desire to paint for the Derry artist.
He told the ‘Journal’: “I began painting when I was around 20. I began the foundation course in art at York Street College in Belfast, but I was very disappointed not to be accepted for the degree course and I became very determined to prove them wrong.
“It was then I began buying books in from America and began to teach myself how to paint.
“Eventually I got into the degree course at Ulster University and when I graduated back in 2009 I won the Carson-McDowell Award, the main prize in art. I thought that was a great achievement.”
In between times Tommy spent two years completing a HND at the North West Regional College.
“I had learned a lot by the time I had finished that,” he said.
His skill was thought to be so proficient at that point that he landed a teaching position at Enniskillen College and he also devoted time to teaching art to children with autism and in various community based projects.
“During the City of Culture in 2013 I had exhibitions at the Millennium Forum and at Beyond What Is possible, an artists’ space in Derry’s London Street.
In 2014, he also travelled to New York with a view to getting an exhibition of his work at the National Arts Club, something which is still being explored.
With regard to the painting up for the Lynn Painters-Stainer Tommy revealed that he uses a technique that helps create work that will look familiar to many people but in fact is a conglomeration of many ideas.
He said: “I worked in a shop in Creggan about six or seven years ago. I think the people there are the best in the world.
“I always carried a camera with me and was always watching out to see what was going on.”
In fact what Tommy does is take a series of around ten pictures then cut them up, form them into a collage and create his painting from that.
It is a technique that he says allows him a lot of artistic scope to create an ‘other-wordly’ effect.
“To be honest, I don’t know where half the ideas come from.
“The whole idea behind this painting is that the young lad in the foreground has moved away from the crowd. The sky is moving in and forming, according to the thoughts in his head - perhaps the sky is changing according to his thoughts and his moods.
“Perhaps he is dreaming about something big?
“That’s what it says to me anyway. When it is viewed in London maybe other people will have many other interpretations. But, to me, when I painted it that’s what it was about.
“It’s like creating a dreamscape. Many people have said to me that they think the background in this painting looks like many places in Derry. But, the truth is that it is a mixture of many places in the city,” said Tommy.
The Derry artist’s preferred method of creating is using oil paints as he he feels they can be shaped more than acrylic paints as the work evolves on the canvas.
Tommy travelled to London on Wedmesday and judging will take place tomorrow with the final decision on the winners being made next Tuesday, January 19.
The judging will take place at the prestigious Mall Galleries right in the heart of London. The Prize exhibition took place at the home of the Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers, the Painters’ Hall, in London until 2012 after which it relocated to its current venue.
The overall winner will scoop a cash prize of £15,000. There are 5 runner-up prizes of £1,500 as well as a Young Artist Award of £2,500 and the Brian Botting Prize for Works of the Human Figure, valued at £5,000 for an artist who is 30 years of age or under.
An exhbition of 100 paintings entered for the 2016 competition will take place at the Mall Galleries from March 7-14.
The range and quality of artists entering and exhibiting in the exhibition have grown each year and its reputation amongst artists is outstanding.