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Neil Tomkins and Digby Webster were both born in Sydney in 1987. Tomkins says: ‘Digby and I share the same middle name, Ernest, and as we were painting each other for this prize it seemed like a good title. It gives a little more background to our friendship and, although it’s a coincidence, we have a lot of similarities.’
Webster is a self-taught artist, whereas Tomkins studied at Wollongong University and Sydney College of the Arts. The pair first met in 2017 and they have since worked on a range of collaborative projects together. ‘Collaborating has always been a strong basis of our creative connection and has brought a lot of joy in our friendship,’ says Tomkins
They worked separately on their portraits for this year’s Archibald Prize but as the paintings came together it became clear that they should be hung as one work. ‘The way the colours play with each other, although not specifically planned, was so powerful we couldn’t separate them,’ says Tomkins.
‘Digby produced his work of me in one sitting, whereas I did many sketches. I’m predominantly a landscape painter so the process of painting a portrait was a little less natural to me than to Digby.’