Being selected for Surrey Artist of the Year

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I am delighted that I have been selected as one of 18 finalists for the Surrey Artist of the Year.

Did I get there by myself?


How it works is that people – friends, family, and others unknown to you – visit your studio over the 16 days that Surrey Artists Open Studios (SAOS) is open. This annual event takes place in June and some of those visitors vote for you to be shortlisted as a finalist.

I freely admit that I asked my friends if they would vote for me. One person said that was cheating. How? If I didn’t tell people that there was an opportunity for them to vote, with the possibility of winning a voucher worth £150 to spend with any artist of their choice, then how would they know about it?

I didn’t strong-arm anyone into voting for me. I simply told them that they might win the prize and that I would appreciate their vote. They didn’t have to vote for me, so in my book that is not cheating. It is simply informing the people I know of an opportunity for them. That they went on to show their love and support by voting for me is fantastic and I thank every single person who did so, from the bottom of my heart.

 My work is now hanging on the walls at the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham. It is a lovely gallery which has supported artists through this collaboration with Surrey County Council, which has been a long-standing relationship between the two going all the way back to 2009.

The gallery is a charitable trust which was set up in 1959 to support emerging artists. It prides itself on encouraging community participation by holding free exhibitions, craft workshops and professional practice seminars. Currently they curate over 20 exhibitions a year selecting what they consider to be the best artists who work in paint, printmaking, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, wood and glass.

In being selected for this year’s shortlist, I find myself in great company. I am delighted to say that there are a lot of people on it who I already know and a few of whom I am lucky to be able to call friends.

The shortlisted artists are Caroline Bond, Barbara Bradshaw, Sinéad Fox, Georgie Gardiner, Annabel Hocking, Christine Hopkins, Diana King, Joanna Lloyd, Julie Matthews, Faye Mayo, Peg Morris, Lucy Dorothy Nichols, Julie Patton, Sue Ransley, Sarah Rawlins, Sue Roche, yours truly Alison Saunders and Sonya Vine.

The exhibition opened on 22nd September and runs until 4th November. Whilst the exhibition is on, the public are encouraged to vote for their favourite artist. The artist with the most votes from the public and a judging panel from the gallery will be named Surrey Artist of the Year 2023. Voting closes at mid-day on 27th October and the results will be announced that evening.

The artist who wins this title will also receive a £1,000 bursary, a solo show at the New Ashgate Gallery and a complementary stand at The Surrey Art Fair at Sandown Park. This wonderful competition is organised by the New Ashgate Gallery in partnership with SAOS, which is funded by Surrey County Council and is also supported by Surrey Art Fairs and Loxley Arts.

Anyway, I have decided that I am going to win. This is a bold statement, and I could finish up with egg on my face, but I will deal with that if it happens. I am going through the daily ritual of manifesting, or praying if you prefer, to the world, God, the universe, again whichever you prefer, to bless me with winning the title of Surrey Artist of the Year. So why?

Well, right now I really need this. I have had a few very difficult years recently which have rocked the foundations of my world. I have literally been to hell and back. Throughout this I have done my very best to support the artists who make up the Ginger Cactus Art group, which has had some success but not a lot this past year.

I know we are not alone in this; most artists I speak to have had a very poor year. However, managing group members’ expectations, dealing with pretty shameful behaviour by some of them and trying to keep everyone happy has taken its toll to the point that I nearly closed the whole group down a couple of months ago.

With the help of a fantastic hypnotherapist, I have managed to push through the darkness and even my latest collection of artworks feels lighter and happier. I am getting there. So, I feel that this is my time. I am still dealing with a lot of difficult stuff from my past, both recent and my childhood, but it is beginning to feel possible.

I am so incredibly lucky to have an amazing support network around me. I don’t think I would have survived without my Sunday evening weekly meetings; those women are so incredibly supportive of me and each other. Plus we have some really great plans moving forward which we hope will help support other artists in their struggles, both personal and artistic. I will write about it here when it begins. So yes, this is my time. I want to be the Surrey Artist of the Year and I am ready for it, too.

That readiness is important. One past winner I know freely admits that they didn’t make use of what was on offer, and they really haven’t done very much with their practice, because they were simply not in the right place in their life to take on all that comes with winning an award like this.

So, as I don’t believe it is cheating to ask for your support, I will ask. If you are going to be in Farnham between now and 27th October, mid-day, I would be extremely grateful if you would visit the New Ashgate Gallery and vote for me. 😊


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The Comments


  • Hi Alison – congratulations on being nominated and best of luck! Keeping my fingers crossed for you! Your paintings are outstanding and really look fantastic in the gallery.

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