A Stich in time

Entries for the 2021 Parkin Drawing Prize have just closed. The finalists will be announced later this month and we can't wait to see what this year's entrants have produced.


While we wait for the announcement , we looked back to the year Douglas Stichbury won the award.


This story was first published in ArtZone #56, Spring 2014


Douglas Stichbury, portrait by Benjamin and Elise

Douglas Stichbury was not encouraged to draw as a child.


He knew his mother drew because he had found albums of her elegant fashion sketches hidden at the back of the family book shelves. She had been a Hong Kong fashion designer and was determined not to encourage him to follow in her footsteps.


As a youngster he would draw pictures and then demand that his mother give an opinion about its composition. "Does it look right? Is that in the right place?" Her reluctance to share this part of her life was frustrating to him. "She was fearful that I might follow her into fashion – instead I became something much worse – an artist!"


Stichbury's determination has paid off. In August (2014) he was awarded the $20,000 Parkin Drawing Prize, set up by Wellington hotelier and arts patron Chris Parkin. Preliminary judges Heather Galbraith, Roger Boyce and Simon Morris whittled 454 entries to 80 finalists so it is no mean feat to catch the attention of judge Gregory O’Brien.


Stichbury's winning work Observer depicts a man with his face obscured sitting at a telescope or projector. It is large and immersive. The medium; charcoal, is relatively new to him. He has been experimenting with it for the past year. He describes charcoal as "affectatious". It gives a scale and depth more powerful than painting.


Douglas Stichbury, Observer, 2014

After six years completing a Masters degree at Massey University Stichbury now bases himself in Basel, Switzerland and splits his time between there, Hong Kong where his parents now live and Wellington.


The road to Basel is serendipitous – Suite Gallery in Wellington offered to represent him soon after graduating and the public responded well to his work. Keen to challenge himself he applied for a six month lectureship at a Beijing art school and after that a grant to study Chinese in Taiwan. There he met his girlfriend who later got a job in Basel so he applied for an art residency in Zurich to be near her.


Throw in to the mix more art residencies in Auckland, China and Germany and you can see Stichbury has been busy. He likes the format of art residencies "they are project based so you have a defined time to produce a body of work – it focuses the mind." Being based in Basel also helps keep him on task. "It’s very boring, it’s smaller than Wellington (or certainly feels like it) and there are no distractions so I can get on with work."


Stichbury often doesn’t enter competitions. "They usually require sending a ‘one off piece’ so you have to take time out of the body of work you are creating to produce them." He also likes his work to make a connection on a personal level. To connect with one person is more important than the opinion of a judge. Having said that, he is thrilled to have won. And what will he spend the prize money on? "It will be with great pleasure that I go down to the student loans office before I leave next week and then...champagne."


The winner of the 2021 Parkin Drawing Prize will be announced on 2 August.

An exhibition showcasing all finalists’ works will be held at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington from 3-29 August.