21-year-old Italian artist Andrea Santi submitted work for the first time to a Mall Galleries Call for Entries and was selected for The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition. This week at the exhibition’s private view, Andrea won the £5,000 Alfred Teddy Smith & Zsuzsi Roboz Award for a pencil drawing of her mother. Andrea tells us more about the experience.

‘I’m only just realising what’s happened’ says Andrea. ‘It’s been a wonderful surprise. I feel extremely proud of myself, but I still don’t believe that the judges picked my little work from all the beautiful art that was submitted to the exhibition. I feel so grateful.’

The Alfred Teddy Smith & Zsuzsi Roboz Award is presented to an artist aged 35 or under, for demonstrating traditional skills in an original way. Created in graphite, Mum is almost photographic in its detail and realism, and the judges were impressed by Andrea’s sensitive portrayal of ageing skin.

Mum by Andrea Santi: Graphite, 35 x 33 cm - £1,100

Mum is one of the works by just 61 artists selected from 800 submitted for the exhibition, which is recognised as foremost in its field. The Pastel Society is a magnet for brilliant exponents of dry media, showing the work of leading contemporary artists as well as encouraging work by new artists yet to be established.

Mum is highly personal. It’s a portrait of the beautiful person who is my mother. She’s a wonderful and strong woman, and I hope the portrait shows something of our relationship and my love for her, as well as a physical likeness.’

‘When I was studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, drawings were primarily used as studies for painting. I like to work with graphite because drawing has its own autonomy and importance. It’s great to have a community like The Pastel Society which is dedicated to showcasing dry media.’

Andrea Santi working in her studio.

Andrea’s mother was shocked when her portrait attracted such a large cash prize. ‘She told me it was one of her happiest days ever! She was proud both of me and of being the subject of the winning work. All my family is super excited, and I’m so glad about it because they’ve always supported me and let me follow my passions, and now I want to show them that it was worth it.’

On the back of this success, Andrea plans to submit work to the New English Art Club’s Call for Entries, which closes on 22 February, and to the Royal Society of British Artists, whose Call for Entries is open until 15 March. ‘I would definitely encourage other artists to submit’ she says.

You can see Mum and the 280 other dry media works on display in The Pastel Society Exhibition until 16 February. The whole exhibition catalogue is also available to browse and buy online.

Find out more about The Pastel Society Annual Exhibition 2019