Kurrajong's Archibald contender

Samantha Yates with her Gulgong exhibition entry of Stevie Ray Vaughan which took out top prize.
Samantha Yates with her Gulgong exhibition entry of Stevie Ray Vaughan which took out top prize.

KURRAJONG’S Samantha Yates finds out on Thursday, July 20, whether her first tilt at Australia’s most prestigious portrait prize gets a guernsey amongst the finalists. 

Samantha, incredibly, only started painting in December last year. So what made her think she could throw her hat in such an exalted ring?

“Why not?” she laughed. She received some encouragement that she might have a chance last month when she won best exhibit with her portrait of Stevie Ray Vaughan in the Henry Lawson art competition at Gulgong.

Also she said the Archibald is only $50 to enter. “I don’t know why more people don’t do it.” Last year’s Archibald Prize attracted 830 entries. Only 50 make it through to the finals, though there’s also the more informal Packing Room Prize as a consolation.

Her Archibald Prize entry is of former South Australian Greens senator Robert Simms, who she said is a human rights activist as well as fighting for equal rights, climate change action and education. “He’s a friend of mine,” she said, adding she grew up in South Australia.

She flew back there to do a live sitting of Robert in a boxing ring with green gloves, symbolising his fight for the things he believes in.

The vintage frame around it symbolises that some of the fights have been going on for a long time, such as equal rights. “My style is modern – almost pop art,” she said. “I like the contrast of the modern with the old style frame.”

The painting is in watercolour, and 117cm tall, but she did not want to reveal it until she finds out if it is a finalist.

She said she loved the process of entering, even if she doesn’t get anywhere. “Dropping it off, and meeting other artists was wonderful. One woman had a portrait of Maggie Beer and she had wonderful technique. I didn’t show her mine.”