The people have spoken and the winner of this year’s Visitor’s Choice Award goes to Ewan by Phoebe Wilman, with 104 public votes. Well done, Phoebe!


All the more incredible when you consider the oil portrait was a final piece for Phoebe’s Art GCSE at a local school. Phoebe has now moved on to college to study graphic design, photography, maths and Japanese. She hopes to go to university to continue graphic design. With her painting beating those of professional artists hanging alongside, it’s certainly a promising start.

Phoebe told me:

Although the work I do now at college is more digital-based (I actually haven’t painted for over a year now), I’m really enjoying it; we’ve had a few live briefs from people out of school, and I ended up being chosen to produce some typography to promote a production of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat at Romiley Theatre, as well as being part of a small group that got chosen to have our mural of Florence Nightingale put up in Stepping Hill Hospital to celebrate 70 years of the NHS.

Ewan took 8 weeks to complete which consisted of Phoebe going in for an hour twice a week before school, and staying for about 2/3 hours two or three times a week after school, as well as having 3 art lessons a week. Her hard work and dedication has paid off; the intensity of a young musician’s performance has obviously struck a chord (no pun intended) with visitors to the gallery over the last few weeks. I asked Phoebe how and why her creation came in to being:

I had chosen the subject because I’d done a very small piece for my project of the same model playing the piano, and my art teacher wanted to see more of this kind of work, and it kinda lead to this whole big music-based art project. Ewan himself is actually a friend of mine that I’ve known since primary school, and we were also in the same choir as well as both being a part of Peak District Music Centre. Since he was the model in the start of this project, I thought it would be fitting if he finalised it too.

As far as the medium goes, we only really used oil paint at school, and it was helpful that it took a while to dry so I could go back and add to or change things a day or two after. I also chose to use a palette knife because it matched the style of Leonid Afremov (who I was researching at the time, and also explains my use of bright colours), and also because I actually couldn’t paint very well with brushes for the whole of my first year of GCSE!

I’m actually not sure why it’s so popular! Maybe it’s the bright colours or maybe the fact that I feel like Ewan’s rather well-known around Buxton and maybe people just recognised the painting to be of him? I was really surprised so many people voted for it to be quite honest, as there were so many amazing art pieces in this year’s exhibition, and I believe the Visitor’s Choice Award over the past few years have been given to older, more experienced and professional artists.

It’s not for sale because I’d actually like to give the painting to Ewan and his family (if he still wants it, hopefully!)

COMMENDED 88 Harry by Phoebe Wilman

You can see Phoebe’s award-winning artwork and another called Harry, which won a commendation from the judges, plus many more until Friday 31 August. Admission free.

You can plan your visit here.