Allen wins inaugural Derwent Art Prize – Oct 2013

Throughout 2013 we ran the first ever Derwent Art Prize and received an overwhelming response of nearly 3,600 entries!


We interviewed Chrys Allen who was awarded first prize for her work – ‘Walk in progress: Koli’


1) Which medium do you prefer to use and how do you find this medium is able to express your artistic vision?

A combination of drawing media (primarily washes and pencils) lend themselves to the sense of movement and depth I hope to achieve. I appreciate the patience and nerves needed for a wash to settle into place while the pencil can be both decisive and spontaneous. There are moments within the drawing where the wash and pencil mark disappear into each other, other areas where they are knowingly left in their raw and most pure states. The materiality and physicality of the media are very important to the drawing, after all I am working with the landscape, the figure, and natural forms so how could I not value these elements? Filming the drawings has enhanced the sense of time and movement. (  but I feel most closely connected with drawing materials and working on paper.
2) How do you begin a drawing/painting?

By walking, a series of shorthand pencil sketches (usually the size of a credit card) are the first material beginnings but they would not happen without walking.
3) Do you work with any other artistic medium?

Printmaking, my BA and MA were both in Printmaking. I have been told that I approach drawing like a printmaker. I will always layer a drawing allowing textures and details to emerge, often pushing and pulling the pictorial space and always working through variable states. That said, I approach printmaking as if I am drawing.  Line and tone are obvious links but the vitality and focus of drawn marks find their way into my prints, as does working towards unique pieces rather than limited editions.  I am fortunate in that I have presses in my studio so am able to adapt working methods to see an idea through.
4) Which artists have inspired you?

Turner, Goya, Giacometti, Dienbenkorn and Auerbach and so many more.
5) What do you have planned in the future?

The current ‘Walk in Progress’ is inspired by the rocky landscape near Koli (north Karelia, Finland).  There is a footpath through the national park that passes spectacular rocks. Again a 10 metre scroll, this time I am layering washes of graphite and pigment with pencil and crayon work. This, along with other ‘Walks in Progress’ and walking drawings will be exhibited at the Art Gallery, Ukko Koli Visitors Centre Summer 2014.
Planning further ahead, I have been invited by London Fieldworks to go to ‘Outlandia” in the Scottish Highlands. A brilliant project of theirs, I hope to produce a time based drawing of some kind with a view to contribute to London Fieldworks proposed book dedicated to the importance of field work in art practise.  Meanwhile I am happy to be continuing with weekly life drawing, working in the studio and teaching 2 days a week.
6) What was it like to win the inaugural Derwent Art Prize?

To win was incredible, I was thrilled beyond words. I was delighted when I heard I had been included in the exhibition and even more so when I saw the selected artworks (online gallery at  It was a very impressive show to visit and was hung beautifully.  Each piece, be it delicate, passionate, monumental or mystical was well informed and well presented. I had been looking at the exhibition the evening of the private view enjoying what was on show and compiling a list of about 40 possible winners and a further 40 close seconds. There was a very friendly and mutually supportive atmosphere, so to win really was incredible.
7) What were your thoughts on the Derwent Art Prize exhibition?

The Derwent Art Prize Exhibition is a landmark event. Most open submission shows pass me by, but I immediately recognised the importance of an exhibition devoted to (pencil/crayon) drawing. Drawing is a tradition, yet it as a tradition which is relevant today and should be celebrated as such. The exhibition brought together a wealth of possible approaches to pencil and crayon drawing. It is entirely appropriate that Derwent has made the inspired decision to support and encourage contemporary drawing and doing so has already attracted international attention. Well done Derwent, yet another visionary move.


You can see more of Chrys’ work on her website