Our Artists of the Year competition has inspired many people over the years, not only to create and compete but also to do something more with their art than hobby painting. Here we will tell you their stories!

Fraser Scarfe

Fraser was just 19 when he won the Best Waterscene category in 2006, and then went on to take the overall Artist of the Year title two years later.

“Winning the artist of the year served as a real springboard for my career. I was very young when I entered and the prospect of making a living from Art seemed very daunting to me, I entered very close to the deadline and never gave it a second thought. To receive the call telling me I’d won was incredibly surreal and of course, a great honour.

I think the hardest thing for most beginners to acquire is confidence and winning the title gave me that in abundance and also the reassurance that what I was doing was worthwhile and important. The exhibition allowed me to meet other artists and build a stronger network. Perhaps more importantly, it began a wonderful relationship with the SAA, who despite my young age and lack of experience, encouraged me to grow and allowed me to start teaching and demonstrating for them. I was already a member but to get to know and work alongside such a great organisation was a dream come true.

It’s over 10 years since I won and my dream of making a living from art is now a reality. As well as painting and exhibiting regularly I also teach and demonstrate and also manage the Postgraduate Programme at the Royal Drawing School In London, I’ve recently appeared as a guest judge on the BBC’s ‘Big Painting Challenge’. All things that have taken hard work but I’m still enormously grateful for that last minute competition entry that proved so key in getting everything started!”

Jennifer Humphries

Jennifer found that entering Artists of the Year gave a new found confidence to take her passion for painting further.

“After winning Amateur Artist of the Year in the Animal and Wildlife category in 2016 with my bee painting, then in 2017 with my portrait painting, I was astounded by the success. Never having been a confident person, it was now time to rethink my situation. I couldn’t ignore this success, but I had no idea what to do about it. Then, to add to it, my Foxglove painting was on the Front Cover of Paint. So many people loved this painting also! It was the most wonderful time for me.

As a direct result of the SAA’s coverage, I am giving my very first Workshop/ Demonstration to an Art Society in October! I am now confident that my ‘self-taught’ artwork is good enough to demonstrate to others. I think that this will be the first of many and am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with as many people as possible.

Secondly, I am going to be the Set Artist for a stage production shortly. I have never done this before, but again, am confident that I will do a great job! This confidence you have given me is a wonderful thing.

Thirdly, I am illustrating a book for an Operatic Singer! The 15 or so illustrations are pencil sketches. I am looking forward to the outcome of this, also.

I never dreamt that such a variety of avenues would open up to me and it is a direct result of the SAA. So, thank you once again for opening all of these doors for me, but most of all, thank you for giving me the confidence in myself!”

– Jennifer Humphries, 2019

Barry Hulme

I remember having an internal debate with myself about entering the SAA Artist of the year competition in 2016. I was really satisfied with my street scene of Bath but surely it wasn’t good enough to be entered in a national competition? After much thought – and a lot of encouragement from fellow artists – I entered. My first surprise was being asked to submit my painting for judging. Then, I was absolutely gobsmacked when the letter arrived telling me I had won Amateur Artist of the Year.

Winning has given me more confidence in my painting and a belief in my ability to produce good work. I started teaching basic watercolour techniques as a volunteer for The Bath Cares Centre to help give some respite to carers. This led to me being confident enough to do some demonstrating to local art groups. Last year, I even plucked up enough courage to approach a local gallery who then featured my work. I did an in-house demonstration to advertise it.

In 2018 I entered again and won Best Landscape or Woodland scene by a professional artist. Seeing my worked exhibited at the NEC was a joy. I would wholly encourage others to have a go and enter. You never know where it might take you.