Artist Lori Pensini says give it a go

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Boyup Brook artist Lori Pensini is very excited about the Collie Art Prize but she knows better than most that entering an art prize can be daunting for emerging artists who might be entering a competition for the first time.

“I think (the Collie Art Prize) is a fantastic idea.” Says Lori. “Especially with a $50,000 prize, that is really top gear when it comes to art competitions and to be able to be a serious contender to attract a high calibre of serious or professional artists.”

Born in 1970, Narrogin Western Australia, Lori spent her early adult life with her husband on the family cattle station in the Pilbara. Mor recently she has now relocated her studio to their farming property in Boyup Brook, Western Australia.

After graduating from high school in Narrogin, Lori started studying architectural drafting before moving into fine art and design.   Lori had her first solo exhibition at Pilbara Fine Arts Gallery in Karratha 1995 with another 25 solo exhibition and 50 group exhibitions to follow.

Lori has entered many art competitions including the Black Swan Portraiture Prize, The Doug Moran Portraiture Prize, and the Cossack Awards. She’s won quite a few prizes and been a finalist in quite a few more. So she knows better than anyone what the chances are. One thing’s for sure if you don’t enter there’s no chance. But if you do, you never know what might happen.

“I’ve had conversations before regarding competitions, attracting national, and asking does that give local artists a fair go? But the other side is saying for myself, being isolated as an artist, being able to have exposure to see national art and artists work or all mediums and genres, it really does create a level of exposure, education, understanding for that artist who can’t get to Perth. I think it really enhances the quality of your work, being able to look at that calibre of work.

Some people are saying that it’s not quite fair to local artists, but I think as an artist you’re always growing and improving and you can’t ever not improve and grow, so it’s a great way to use it as a study form as well and see what’s out there.

For me as an artist when you do get accepted into a national competition, it’s not the accolade you’re looking for, it’s actually an affirmation that you’re on the right track, or that your work has artistic merit.

Living in a remote location, I’m not in the space where I’m bouncing ideas off other artists, or teachers, or mentors, who could say ‘I like that, it’s good, let’s keep working on that’, and having that input into your work. I think (being accepted) is a really good affirmation that your work has some credit.

So what would Lori say to an emerging artist who might be a bit intimidated by the thought of entering a big art prize?

“It is a bit of a catch 22 there. You might enter 30 competitions a year and you may not even get into one and there is a bit of a downside when you enter major competitions, they don’t give you a lot of feedback and simply through logistics, they can’t. In one of the competitions, I enter there were 10,000 entries last year. It would be impossible for them to feedback on all those artists. So it can be intimidating and if you don’t get in and there isn’t any response to your work I’d say don’t take it to heart because if you love your painting, you love your painting. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad painting. It just means it didn’t attract attention on the day and given that you’ve got different judges and different flavours. It might seem like a lottery but there is a judging process and they (the judges) have to step back from all their personal preferences.

It doesn’t matter, so long as you have good composition and style, anything’s possible.

“As an artist, you have to back yourself sometimes and it does take courage and confidence, you are putting yourself out there to be judged by others, but you need to do it.

“In a portrait competition, there might be a lot of paintings of a photographic style and your work might be right up there, but if the judges are seeing a lot of photographic styles and your work is that style it will end up blending in a bit. For me, it’s about being true to yourself and to follow your heart and put your style into it. You just keep going, you just keep trying.

“Anyone can win. I know the Archibald is a fantastic prize but generally, it’s a painting of a professional or famous person and that’s not really accessible and what’s really exciting about the Black Swan and now the Collie Art Prize is that it is accessible. They haven’t limited it to portraiture which is a field on its own. They’ve given a broad spectrum so you’re not limited to what you can do. There’s a chance you can be selected. I know there were a few artists in the Black Swan last year who’d never entered before. There was one who entered with is third ever painting. It was a fantastic story because he had the right elements that made up a good painting. And also some of those paintings take just half an hour. I was talking to one of the artists in the Black Swan. He did a study last year that took him half an hour and it got in.”

Lori admits that she’s not very good the social media and hadn’t immediately known about the Collie Art Prize when it was launched in September. “My aunty sent me the link and said ‘are you entering?’ We don’t get the local papers, but I was just so excited when I heard that they were having the prize, and to the tune of $50,000. I’m definitely entering and I’m even thinking about the next one.”

The $50,000 Collie Art Prize is made possible through the generous support of Collie and Districts Branch of the Bendigo Bank. Two $5,000 prizes are being provided by the Collie Rotary Club and $1000 people choice prize is being donated by Whispering Pines Bed and Breakfast, Collie.

Click here to find out more or to enter.


11 Responses

  1. carol hackett

    Your story gives me hope. I am presently painting my piece for submission. I have never entered anything like this before- even if i do not get accepted i think the challenge in itself is a good experience for me.

  2. fantastic advice.
    While not entering in the 2018 competition, I hope To have built my skills up for the next show! Good luck to all entrants!

  3. I sculpt in bronze and once again feel i miss the boat for my choice of medium.

  4. Please could you email me a link to the 2018 competition?

    Kind regards
    Jenny Herbert
    Member Armadale Society of artists

  5. Hi there, could you just confirm if the competition is only for 2D works, ie, painting and drawing, or if it also includes 3D works, such as ceramics and sculptures. The information didn’t seem clear. Thanks

    • Hello Jodi,
      Thank you for your interest in the Collie Art Prize.
      The Terms & Conditions clearly states that the works need to be 2D to enter the competition. You can find the information at the beginning of the second paragraph under the Eligible Artwork(s).
      Kind regards

  6. Peggy McKenna

    Just wondering why it is 2d only. This excludes many artists including myself whose work may be sculptural or may have digital/photographic elements. Its a huge prize to not be shared with all artists.

    • Thanks for your interest in our prize. The Collie Art Prize is an acquisitive prize, meaning the gallery had to consider the types of works it is able to store longterm as well as the type of collection it wants to build. These considerations shaped the terms and conditions for entry to the prize. We wish you all the best in your art practice!

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