Shaun Tan Gallery of Utopia Competition Winners

As part of Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing: From book to film exhibition, we ran the ‘A Gallery of Utopia’ competition, a fantastical depository of your amazing drawings. The entries, inspired by Shaun’s picture book, were remarkable, so much so that the man himself had trouble choosing the winners of the four categories.

Here the acclaimed artist explains what he looked for and how he whittled down the list, while the entrants explain their illustrations above their winning artworks. 

Very hard to choose! In the end I’ve chosen on the basis of overall feeling, even though the pictures all have different strengths, not to mention fun ‘lost thing’ spirit and originality. But I’ve tried to explain my choices too, in case this is interesting to each artist. I’ve also suggested commendations for other works, if nothing else the artists might appreciate that I’ve commented on them.

Category 3 – 7
Kennard Alvaro – Playing Ball with My Lost Things
“It will be fun to play with my “Lost Things” friends.”

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The sheer joy of this painting is very striking, and I like the way the human being becomes just another figure having carefree fun in a colour-soaked universe. Each creature has its own distinct personality.

I’d like to also commend Audrey’s Flying Wheel Whale, which is a beautiful drawing, and shows how the art of very young children can easily rival that of the most skilled adult artists in terms of capturing the essence of a subject.

Category 8-12
Aimee Sluga – The Wandering Washing Line
“A washing line that walks around to find the sun and uses crabs as pegs.”

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This was a difficult category to judge because they are all so wildly different. This one I kept coming back to because it was just so strange and unexpected. I could never imagine drawing something like this!

I also like Old Teacup and Friends and Tic Toc Lost, both very interesting pictures with their own unique feeling.

Category 13-17
Isabelle Burns – Lost Thoughts
“The idea of these creatures came to me after I forgot my original idea for this competition. While I was trying to remember my idea I started to think about what happens to lost thoughts, which led to my final drawing. The rat-like creatures scurry out of hiding to feast upon the ideas that fall from the back of my head. With their brush tails, they sweep the ideas into their gaping dustpan mouths. Forgotten almost immediately after being seen, the creatures themselves become a lost thought.”

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Although not about lost thing creatures as such, this drawing and concept really captures the same themes that preoccupied me when creating ‘The Lost Thing’, namely the problem of forgetting (and the paradox of not being able to remember that this has happened). I find the dreamlike claustrophobic feeling of the picture very fascinating too, and it feels very sincerely realised. I like the fact that the problem of making a picture has become the subject of the picture.

I really like Stumpa too – this is just such a great looking creature. This one really impressed me.

I’d also commend The Cleaner and Collapsible Life Preserver for their keen observation of my own drawing and narrative style. Although slightly imitative, that’s not always a bad thing and all art has some basis in imitation – I learnt how to draw and write myself by studying the styles of others – and they are excellent pieces of work. (The others in this category are particularly strong too, both in idea and technical skill, it’s hard to pick!)

Category 18+
Stevie Smiles – Beware the Thinkpincher 
“This terrifying creature lives in the skinny dark crack between night time and day. He collects the dreams of his victims just as they wake, so that by breakfast all of their incredible sleep time adventures are forgotten and lost forever.”

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In this older category I’m more or less looking for work that seems at a professional level or publishable, and both Beware the Thinkpincher and Desfile des nubes seem that way to me. If I had to pick one, it’s ‘Beware the Thinkpincher’ because of the broader dimension of an implied story.

I’d also commend Among the Birds by Jamie Duncan as a great example of a delightful illustration that invites the viewer to consider a larger story. Similarly Lost Mix Tape is also an amusing take on the theme, and Gizmo Whiz has a strong narrative concept that’s very endearing and intriguing.

As an overall comment, the standard of the submissions is excellent, particularly in their originality of concept. It’s so great to see artists inspired by one thing go on to create something completely different, personal and free-wheeling. It reminds me too of the original spirit that drove me to spend so many years working on The Lost Thing as both book and film.

– Shaun Tan

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4 Responses to “Shaun Tan Gallery of Utopia Competition Winners”

  1. Jamie Duncan 05. Mar, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    Hi Shaun,

    Thank you so much for opening up your world and inviting everyone in. The “Lost Things” project gave me a concept to play with as I work perpetually on freeing my braaaain. I don’t envy your job, sorting through so many intriguing entries and having to choose, but I’m so glad that you were willing to participate. The sense of community and conversation arising from an invitation to a sandbox is very special.

    Best wishes,
    Jamie

  2. Cat Soper 05. Mar, 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    That was such a fun competition to enter and so many incredible ideas came from one theme making for a very interesting and intriguing on line exhibition. Very hard to judge I’d say. I had few other drawings of ‘Lost Things’ that came out of this exercise that I think I might combine them all into my own weird Utopian book. Thank you for the opportunity to stir my creative mind Shaun Tan (x) and ACMI.

  3. Mary Beth Tremblay 07. Mar, 2014 at 4:05 am #

    I am pleased to have the opportunity to view the art work of others than my daughter. It opens a world for an elderly person to enjoy and perhaps enhance one’s own thoughts when the paintbrush is in my hand. I hope that at another time I will be allowed in to this new world of art. Thank you.

  4. Tabitha Lowdon 04. Apr, 2014 at 5:48 am #

    Wonderful, really enjoyed all the art.

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