Meet Faye and Oluwatobi, the Derwent Art Prize People’s Choice Winners

A few weeks ago, we announced the winners of the Derwent Art Prize People’s Choice Awards. Out of the 4,756 entries submitted by artists from all around the world, the Derwent Art Prize judges selected a shortlist of 70 pieces. Then, it was your turn to choose two winning artists by voting for your favourites online. The Prize received 4,813 votes and the two artists who won a share of the £1,000 People’s Choice Awards were revealed: Faye Bridgwater with Studying Murmurations and Oluwatobi Adewumi with Doublesided.

After their big win, Faye and Oluwatobi sat down to discuss all things drawing and Derwent Art Prize. Here’s what they had to say:

Oluwatobi Adewumi and Faye Bridgwater

Faye: Hi there, it’s Faye here from Brighton in the UK! Isn’t it fantastic that we won the People’s Choice Award for the Derwent Art Prize? The thought of us both drawing with pencils and winning a prize on opposite sides of the world blows my mind! 

Oluwatobi: Hello! I am Oluwatobi, natively from Ibadan, Nigeria, and now living in Arkansas, USA. It’s a huge honor to win this prize with you Faye!

Faye: Since winning the Prize, I have been inundated with lots of wonderful press and interview opportunities. I have certainly had to up my game from a PR perspective. It has been great, at this time of lockdown, having something positive to focus on. It has all been a real boost to my confidence. The international exposure is completely new to me! It was strange seeing my name pop up in the Arkansas Times, who were running a feature on you, Oluwatobi. How has it been for you?

Oluwatobi: Well, Faye, it has been humbling and inspiring the same time. I have done two interviews as well as that feature in the Arkansas Times, which has brought a new audience to discover my work. That’s a big plus in these challenging times! Winning the Award means a lot to me… as a self-taught artist with 10 years’ experience, the recognition does not come that easy. I have worked with Derwent art supplies ever since my high school days, so getting the Award was a huge deal for me.

Faye: Winning the Derwent Prize was an absolute delight. When you are locked away in your studio, you never really know whether what you are painting will connect with people. That’s why winning the Derwent Art Prize People’s Choice was so special.

Faye Bridgwater, Studying Murmurations

Oluwatobi: With every piece of art I produce comes a story, an opportunity to provide history, a new voice, narrative, and perspective for my audience. I believe in using my artistic gift to share the stories of people living in a different society or culture. My creative process always leads to providing a platform and some information to discuss values and cultural shifts in today’s world. The way I use different materials in my work is calculated. Sometimes, I use a medium that is fast and deep like charcoal; and sometimes I use acrylic. I use my charcoal pencils just like I use my paints, adding each layer of shade, making it smooth. Sometimes, I take a more forceful or vibrant approach to contour hatching to give a feeling of sculptural mass or 3-D view. 

Faye: In terms of my approach to drawing my winning piece, Studying Murmurations, I hammered the pencil into the paper to create the clutters of birds. Sometimes, the study is from a distance with the murmurations’ strange shapes over the sea; other times, it’s right in the heart of the flock. This gives each little square its own unique feel but also conjures up the idea of storytelling or old slides flicking through, even the squares of an Instagram feed. I tend to draw quickly and expressively, with the drawings exploding down my arms onto the paper. I don’t hold the pencil in a traditional way. To create the clusters of birds I grip the pencil firm in my fist with my thumb placed at the end. I then hammer the pencil on to the paper (it’s rather loud) and these marvellous marks appear. I almost lose control and it becomes hypnotic experience!

Oluwatobi Adewumi, Doublesided

Faye: I studied fine art at Sheffield Hallam University and received an honours degree in Sculpture. After I finished my degree, I worked in some galleries and managed some pottery studios in London. I then took a brief break from art so that I could be a full-time mum. I picked up my paint brushes and pencils again three years ago. This was a completely fresh start with new eyes looking at the world in a different light. I had already set up a photography group called Brighton Skies, with 14,000 members, and this provided some inspiration along with my emotional response that formed the foundation for the landscape paintings. Oluwatobi, I love your portrait, Doublesided. I was wondering… is it a self-portrait? If not, can you tell me about the subject? I would love to hear the story.

Oluwatobi: No, Faye, it isn’t a self-portrait. The woman in the portrait is a muse/model of mine. Doublesided was created out of an idea to tell her story as a refugee. I wanted to work with her face to tell the story, I used charcoal pencil on toned paper to create a strong contrast; I did not want anything to take away from the subject so I stayed within one medium and approach. I had to show the good and the bad side of her journey through life, the black lines representing the dark times, and the clear paths representing the happy moments of her life. But the central point of the artwork is where her face which her identity came together to form an image.

We all go through good and bad times, but it is left to us to choose what we project. Think about it: everything in your life is defined by its comparison to something else. Night is night because it is not day. Physical pain is the opposite of not feeling pain. Heartbreak is the end of love while “being in love” is, umm, being in love. And so on. So then, how do you appreciate life if you have yet to feel the effects of death? How do you appreciate success if you haven’t tasted the bitter sting of failure? Without good, there is no bad; neither exists because each defines the other. This dualism is what gives us art, music, love, passion, joy and happiness, and, on the flip side, gives us war, suffering, rape, pillage, hate, and murder. Each one is defined by its contrast to something else.

Thank you to Faye and Oluwatobi for sharing their stories with the Derwent Art blog!

If you would like to discover or rediscover their winning artworks, you can still visit the Derwent Art Prize virtual exhibition online.

For more information on our artists, please use the links below.

Faye Bridgwater

Oluwatobi Adewumi