By Mikayla van Loon
Coming runner up in a national art competition was not something Jan Liesfield ever expected would happen.
But it did and she even won first prize for Victoria.
The primary school art teacher from Mooroolbark East Primary School, entered the Zart Art Supplies National Teacher-Artist Prize.
“They developed a teacher artist prize, so you had to be a teacher and I suppose an artist, and they created this competition and I thought ‘well I’ll just have a go’,” Ms Liesfield said.
Even though it was Zart’s first year running the competition, they received 760 submissions and over 400 of those were from Victoria.
Esteemed judges from both England and Australia, those being Henry Ward and Del Kathryn Barton, viewed every artwork before narrowing down the selection to just 50 pieces.
Artworks ranged from paintings to sculptures and photography.
For Ms Liesfield, her chosen art form was lino prints, where she carved into a piece of lino and used ink to print it onto a sheet of paper.
Instead of using a regular lino press, Ms Liesfield prefers to use a wooden spoon because it allows her to check her work as she’s going.
Drawing inspiration from her surroundings in Lilydale and particularly the Yarra Valley, Ms Liesfield created two lino prints that depicted her time in lockdown and the natural wonders she was able to enjoy.
“[The Crow Tree] was during lockdown and you could only go 5km. Along Castella Street there’s a lot of really big trees and they are always full of crows, so that’s what got this one started.”
“[The Orchard] is basically St Huberts Road, so down one end there’s an orchard and it’s just such a beautiful spot. Every time you drive to the Yarra Valley, it just makes you want to think of something to create.”
Ms Liesfield said she never imagined she would come close to winning even though she had been shortlisted.
“When I got the first prize for Victoria and I thought ‘oh well that that’s done’ and I don’t think they were going to have a runner up and then they decided they would have a runner up as well, so that was a bit of a shock but it was a nice shock,” she said.
“In your head you go ‘don’t think about it, it’s not going to happen’ and then it was a rather lovely surprise when it happened.”
Zart hosted an exhibition of all the shortlisted artworks throughout April at The Lennox art gallery in Richmond, with an opening night for all the artists and their families at the end of March.
Having always been a creative person since childhood, Ms Liesfield understands the importance of art for children.
“I’ve always done something, even since I was a little kid, I was always making stuff and I always loved art and just trying different things,” she said.
“I think art and the creative arts are really important for kids’ education because it’s just thinking in a whole different way.”
And because of that and with the anticipation of the Archibald Prize in September, Ms Liesfield ran a Little Archies competition with her primary school students.
Students from each year level submitted their portrait drawings and four winners were chosen from Prep, Grade ½, Grade ¾ and Grade ⅚.
“I think it is really important because it just gives them time to just relax, it can be social, it’s great for their skills, it’s great for their creativity, just trying to do something a little bit different and it gives kids a chance to shine in a different way,” Ms Liesfield said.
She’s hoping to run another art competition for students next term.
But her own aspirations see her running a lino print class with YAVA Gallery and Arts Hub in Healesville in June.
Ms Liesfield is also hoping to enter her artworks into a few more exhibitions and competitions later this year and next year.
“I just think it’s great to have that opportunity for people to put their art out there because it can be quite daunting to put your art out there.”
“Some people will like it and others won’t but if you enjoy it I think that is the main thing and if you’re happy with it, that’s really all that matters in the end.”
The only other thing Ms Liesfield would like to see happen is a push within the arts in both schools and in her Lilydale community.
“I’d love to see something in Lilydale that’s more of a community arts hub.”
“If you join groups, you get to meet like minded people and it’s just an opportunity to chat about what you love doing.”