As we celebrate the tenth year of Young Archie, we take a look back at some of the artworks that have been in the annual exhibition since this portrait competition for artists aged 5 to 18 began in 2013.
Every artwork tells a story about a special person who has made a difference to these young lives, from parents, siblings and grandparents to friends and teachers. In these portraits, we glimpse the artists’ hopes and dreams and see a powerful reflection of our diverse community and our shared humanity.
Many of the artists have celebrated the cherished people who have got them through tough times, or explored their own inner strength. Ten-year-old Paige Franks painted ‘my dad because he risks his life for others and helped me get through my mum’s cancer’ while 11-year-old Thea-Bella Taylor shared how painting animals helped her cope with her dyslexia.
As Joanna Jia learnt from her 98-year-old great-grandfather, who ‘has long white eyebrows like two lively white foxes that play together’: ‘no matter how hard life is, a new day will always come’.
In depicting their elders, young people like six-year-old Jiwon Yoo are noticing the challenges, such as ill-health and immobility, that may come with aging but they're also finding inspiration in figures such as 103-year-old Wilga – likely the oldest Young Archie subject – who helped her great-granddaughter Hannah Batchelor ‘break away from materialistic values and to see that in the end life is about, amongst other things, the relationships you’ve created and the lasting impact you’ve left behind’.
One of the most heartbreaking stories is from this year's finalist Jun Qian Lin, whose grandfather has dementia and simply disappeared one day, and one of the most heartwarming is from nine-year-old Claire Shin who, in response to the death of two cousins, decided to paint a picture of life, in the form of another young cousin who ‘wiped the tears away for everyone in our family’.
Most often the Young Archie pictures celebrate the joy to be had in everyday experiences, as Lily Nicholson captured so beautifully in her 2018 portrait of her mother titled Happy days. ‘My mum beams when she’s happy,’ she wrote. ‘I love the way her green eyes sparkle and her cheeks glow … At the beach on a hot summer’s day is where my mum is completely in her element, where you can see her joie de vivre.’
In 2017 Francis Odlum made us want to join him for afternoon tea with his beloved grandmother as he recounted how she walks around towns hunting for cafes, fuelled by her passion for cake, while 2022 finalist James Charlesworth had us in stitches with his depiction of his grandma who had accidentally dyed her hair blue.
And wouldn't we all wish to be so gloriously happy and fabulously mousy as ‘mummy dressed up as a mouse’ by five-year-old Benson Wells, another of this year’s artworks, or as giddy as Gideon the Great in 2021, whose eight-year-old creator observed, likely with unintended humour: ‘I have drawn myself as an Ancient Greek warrior because I love Greek history. History is my favourite subject. I also like Greek mythology, but it’s a bit weird.’
Our young artists have proved particularly adept at capturing funny expressions, whether it’s the ‘Blue Steel’ gaze of Amy Hill’s brother or the facial contortions in portraits by Sarah El Ammar, Heather Kim and Charles Elward.
The abiding message from our Young Archie artists is one of love and hope. When Patricia Ortiz wrote about her best friend, she thanked him for teaching her ‘that our lives and futures are out there for the taking … Because of him, I am no longer afraid of tomorrow.’ We think you'll agree that the future is in good hands.
Read other Young Archie stories