• Leo Davey

The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2019

Every year I enter a number of painting competitions. I do this for a variety of reasons. It’s a platform, an excuse to attempt something ambitious, a re-assuring pat on the back (if successful), an opportunity to sell and (somewhere towards the bottom of the list) there’s an outside chance of winning some prize money.


But it’s also time consuming, expensive (travel, submission fees and delivery costs), deflating (when you don’t get selected) and nerve racking.


Most competitions are judged in 2 stages. There’s the digital or pre-selection stage and if successful you then have to physically take the work to the venue (sometimes hundreds of miles away) for more judging. You then have to pick up your work a week later if it’s not been selected or, if you’re “lucky”, you can go to the PV (private view) and then pick it up 2 weeks after that when it doesn’t sell.


But you’ve got to be in it to win it!!



My Sunday Times Watercolour Competition Journey


2012 was a great year for me – my first London Marathon, the London Olympics (I didn’t participate), a new fitted Kitchen, Annie said “Yes”, and I had 2 works selected for the first time at the prestigious Sunday Times Watercolour Competition.



“Tyne Bridge” and “Spanish Ruin” were selected without a fuss, PV was attended, “Spanish Ruin” sold, canapes were had, champagne was consumed and our first child was conceived!!


2013 - 2 more successful submissions. “SLIP, SLIP, SLIP” (PILS, PILS, PILS in reflection) and “Sun Set Over Florence”. The latter used in The Royal Academy magazine as part of an advert for the STWCC exhibition with a credit - get me!! Both sold.


In 2014, two more ambitious works were selected including a portrait – unfamiliar territory for me. I loved the rhythm of the hands dancing across the painting and the empty shoes and the printed laces on the socks slightly confusing the viewer.


In 2015 I submitted 3 works. Initially I was disappointed to only get one of these paintings selected but the disappointment was short lived as I won The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition’s Smith & William Cityscape Prize. A prize that just rolls off the tongue. The winning painting was a depiction of London's Regents Canal entitled "Drip". When this was announced in the Culture Magazine in The ST, the enquiries and sales came rolling in. I felt like I had arrived!


2016 was a shocker. Of the 3 works that I submitted only 1 made it to pre-selection and fell at final selection. “Where The Wild Things Aren’t – Room 1024 – Bangkok”, the title a salute to Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are”, was a comment on our now more reserved party/holiday antics, in which a bedroom crosses over into a cityscape (rather than a jungle) and we are staying firmly in that bedroom (with child). I felt rejected after the previous year’s high. However, this painting did go on to win the watercolour prize at The Royal West Academy and was also selected at the Royal Watercolour Society. I still have this painting.


In 2017 I bounced back with “Tomorrow’s Dodos” being selected and also used for the exhibition catalogue cover.


In 2018 another disappointment with “Revolution –Temporarily Suspended” not even making pre-selection. I spent 2 months on this piece. This painting is mounted on the wonk giving the sense of swaying, but the judges never got to see this quirk and the painting is still waiting for the right platform.


And finally – 2019. My year!! We’ve come full circle. A painting of the subject who was conceived hours after my first STWC wins a first prize of £8000.


I couldn’t be happier!!



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© 2019 by Leo Davey. Proudly created by the power of art.

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