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Moments of heartache and joy

A person uses a finger of each hand to stretch their mouth wide and stick out their tongue

Young Archie 2016 finalist, 13–15 year olds, Abbey Vella Untitled

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’.

A person in an orange top and cap, both labelled 'fire'

Young Archie 2014 finalist, 9–12 year olds, Paige Franks Untitled

A smiling person with a bird on one shoulder, a mouse on the other, with branches and leaves behind them and a flower in front

Young Archie 2020 finalist, 9–12 year olds, Thea-Bella Taylor Wishes amongst my menagerie

The head and upper torso of someone wearing several medals

Young Archie 2020 finalist, 13–15 year olds, Joanna Jia Survivor

A person sits among many objects in a room

Young Archie 2019 finalist, 5–8 year olds, Jiwon Yoo My grandma in her room

The head and shoulders of a person with short curly grey hair

Young Archie 2017 finalist, 16–18 year olds, Hannah Batchelor Great-grandma

The head and torso of a person with short grey hair wearing a hearing aid and black top on which a sewn-on label reads 'Please call 96774811'

Young Archie 2022 finalist, 16–18 year olds, Jun Qian Lin Walking home

A seated child in a yellow body suit surrounded by plants and insects

Young Archie 2017 winner, 9–12 year olds, Claire Shin My lovely cousin

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.

A smiling person in the ocean

Young Archie 2018 finalist, 16–16 year olds, Lily Nicholson Happy days

A person holding a cup and sitting at a table with cake on a plate

Young Archie 2017 finalist, 13–15 year olds, Francis Odlum Having cake with Gran

A person wearing glasses and a floral top and holding a mirror looks up at their short blue hair

Young Archie 2022 finalist, 5–8 year olds, James Charlesworth Blue-hair Grandma

A mouse-like figure dressed in blue

Young Archie 2022 finalist, 5–8 year olds, Benson Wells Mummy mousy

A person carrying a spear and shield

Young Archie 2021 finalist, 5–8 year olds, Gideon Baker Gideon the Great

A person with pursed lips

Young Archie 2019 finalist, 16–18 year olds, Amy Hill Blue Steel

A person wearing a headscarf pulls a funny face

Young Archie 2016 finalist, 16–16 year olds, Sarah El Ammar Untitled

A person wearing glasses pulling a funny face

Young Archie 2017 finalist, 9–12 year olds, Heather Kim Person who makes you laugh

A short-haired person wearing an orange top with a red and black figure on it

Young Archie 2022 finalist, 5–8 year olds, Charles Elward Me

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

A black-and-white pencil drawing of the head and shoulders of a short-haired person looking directly ahead

Young Archie 2014 finalist,16–18 year olds, Patricia Ortiz Untitled