Drawing competition: Winners announced!

July 15, 2020

There were 35 fabulous entries from all over the world to our drawing competition ‘Living in lockdown with invisible illness’, as you can see here.

The judges were impressed by the high quality of the artwork and the many powerful and moving ways that people had found to express their experiences.

Prizes were awarded for the drawings that convey the experience of living in lockdown with an invisible health condition most vividly or originally. After carefully considering the (anonymized) drawings, the judges have made their decision. These are the winning, shortlisted and ‘honorary mention’ entries, as well as the judges’ comments:

1st prize:

by: anonymous

“The most visceral and expressive image of the distress of lockdown on top of already having an illness. It encapsulates desperation and compassion equally, and on closer look there is something poignant about the arms seeming to flail around not able to make contact, and the meaning given to the space in between. The hand-drawn style creates a touching geometry to the couple in the foreground, who are both intimate and unobtainable.”

“The sense of desperate hunger for social and physical contact is very powerful. The artist depicting themselves as a monster eloquently combines that feeling with the effects it has on their self-perception – very moving.”

“Although the artist cites jealousy, I find that the expression on the face encompasses all manner of emotion including despair, anger and grief. I think that what they are trying to say is grief over jealousy. The character’s spikes could be indicative of shielding, pain or their illness.”

2nd prize:

by: Catherine

“Overall this felt like the most vivid account of someone working through the specific stresses brought about by the intersection of lockdown and an existing invisible illness. I love its tactility, and the “spring” metaphor feels very precise. Like any effective metaphor it’s immediate but supports extensive reflection. The sense of struggle seems to be embedded in the process of making rather than added or invented as a visual device.”

“There is strong energy bursting through the image. The clash of the collage and paint amplifies the sense of the exploding spring that has been kept taught. These elements speak of chronic illness and the frustration of lockdown. The hopeful slogans are a little incongruous, but perhaps speak to platitudes that are used to ‘manage’ situations.”

3rd prize:

by: Molly Robson

“Really effective use of striking contrast. The fact that the red eye and beads of sweat are the only parts of the character that are immediately noticeable gives the sense that this person’s anxiety is all that remains of them. Despite the calming palette used for the exterior scene, the outside world still looks threatening. The feeling of yearning for the outside world but being scared of it is palpable. There’s no mention of the specifics of invisible illness in the text, but the anxiety feels very real.”

“The red eye is a powerful image of crying too much. It’s also indicative of upset and grief, and especially of being hidden away.”

“The style is slightly clinical, but there is a strong sense of anxiety, the contrast draws the eye into the darkness, and allows the panic of the figure to emerge palpably. The overall effect is intentionally unnerving.”


by: Maria

“Beautiful image – for me the colours resemble a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, and maybe because of this I see it as a more hopeful consideration of lockdown.” “I appreciated this artist’s take on cocooning rather than shielding. Also, the bright colours of the wings trapped in bed is redolent of thwarted opportunity.” “I enjoyed the presentation of a more positive take on the experience of recent months. In the face of current difficulties and very real worries I’ve been so grateful for the support I have at home, and this image is a welcome reminder of that.”

by: Tumim and Prendergast

“The image conveys a sense of fear and apprehension clearly, drawing focus to the tree before revealing the figure peering out, but not with a sense of relief or hope. The shifting textures suggest the uncertainty of the surface, whilst the curtain wrinkles shift back into lines that suggest bars to imprison/protect the person inside. The artist’s autoimmune disease is conveyed through the marks on the figure, suggesting imprints on the skin.”

by: Siyona

“This powerfully conveys the sense of mood change and the fluctuation of identity caused by blood sugar changes. The move between pattern and naturalism speaks to a fragmentation of the self, possibly hinting at lockdown as well.”

by: Siyona

“The message in the bottle image is one the most original metaphors for lockdown for me.”

Honorable mentions:

by: gemmliart

“I love the busyness of the panel compositions, with great detail and exploration of the interactions of symptoms with daily life. The situations juxtapose what may be specific symptoms with issues that come from confronting everyday medical existence. The design is fun and evocative. Lockdown is addressed as part of daily experience.”

by: Carolina Martins

“A simple and lyrical image that combines powerfully with the poetry to create an introspective piece that speaks both to lockdown and agoraphobia, in the context of the specter of death.”

by: Ella M

“The repetition and placement of text do a great job of capturing the grinding frustration of seeking informed and understanding medical attention. The figure’s expression communicates this very well. It’s more reliant on text, both in the image and the commentary, than some of the others, but its communication of a specific intersection of lockdown and invisible disease responds very closely to the competition brief.”

by: Matilda Tumim

“This image combines yearning for and fear of the outside world. The large cactus in what looks like a British landscape and the writhing figure beneath indicate that it’s an imaginary world that’s open to a free play of interpretation, but this is grounded by the specific choices of imagery and pose.” “I found it interesting that the artist suffers from small fibre neuropathy and that their style is pointillist. As a sufferer myself, I found the cactus image a good metaphor for the condition – sometimes it feels like falling onto the cactus display in a garden centre.”

The judges are all artists who are themselves affected by invisible health conditions:

  • Paula Knight is an author, former illustrator and comics creator. Her graphic autobiography The Facts of Life, Myriad 2017, is about her experience of infertility and M.E. It was shortlisted for the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition in 2012. She has illustrated numerous children’s books and is also the author of three picture books. Twitter: @Paula_JKnight; Instagram: @paulajkstudio
  • John Miers is a lecturer in illustration at Kingston School of Art. He’s currently working on a graphic memoir about his experience of living with multiple sclerosis. The first stage of this project was completed as part of a postdoctoral residency at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London, and the next chapter will be appearing in the journal Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly. Twitter: @johnmiers; Instagram: @drjohnmiers
  • Tony Pickering is an illustrator, comics creator and artist with a particular interest in the psychology of the urban and natural environment, and the science of medicine. In Diabetes: Year One, he combines poetry and illustration to convey the experience of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and becoming a patient; Twitter: @mrpickers; Instagram: @t_pickering