On Friday, 1 July 2016, I won the bi-annual Wollongong Art Gallery Contemporary Watercolour Prize worth $10,000, with my work Series #5, still life with leaves and juggling pins.
This year’s judge was Anne Ryan, Curator of Prints, Drawings and Watercolours at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. She said of the winning painting, “…It’s an exceptionally well-made object but also a beautifully made object and a worthy winner of a prize dedicated to watercolour.’ She also commented that, ‘…(Tiff’s) use of the watercolour medium is virtuosic’ and that the work was, ‘…very exceptionally well-resolved…’Well I guess the old saying 'practice makes perfect' applies here. I've been painting these still life paintings since I could hold a paint brush. I remember scavenging around the woods behind my house in the mid-west in the US where I grew up looking for interesting and pretty things to draw and paint. I was around 13 when I set up and painted my first formal still life. I was probably younger when I created my first formal still life graphite rendering. That was over 35 years ago and I've never stopped. I love everyday objects. There's really no intrinsic value in a lot of the stuff I collect to paint. But most of the objects I collect have a certain intrinsic beauty and feel about them. Old things have a history, a story, a past. And natural things are imbued with an ancient lasting quality and beauty I find irresistible.
Someone once asked me at one of my exhibitions what I was planning to do for my next exhibition...They were surprised when I said, 'Oh, more of the same!' I just can't stop painting these paintings. I've essentially been a still life artist my whole life and I'll probably continue to paint these pictures forever.
Beauty isn't a particularly popular notion in contemporary art but there's no doubt I'm whole-heartedly wedded to this concept. I'm captivated by little details, how the light plays on different kinds of surfaces, glass, wood, metal, or how a shadow falls or how light travels through something transparent, a vase, a leaf, a petal. Capturing the beauty of these things is what I love. It's why I paint these paintings.
As for winning the prize, well, it's always wonderful to receive recognition for the work you do. Being an artist is a pretty solitary pursuit so it's nice to get your work out there in the open, to show people what you've been up to while you've been locked away by yourself in the back room for hundreds of hours. But you don't win these things on your own. You create good work under the auspices of unfaltering support from family and friends. This is a win for every one of those people too (you know who you are).
The Contemporary Watercolour Prize exhibition runs until 21 August at the Wollongong Art Gallery