Calling for entries for the $30,000 Dobell Drawing Prize

Be part of a new national conversation around drawing. The Dobell Drawing Prize has been revived as part of a major biennial festival presented by the National Art School.
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Image: Liz Bradshaw, Smalltown boy, Darlinghurst (detail) 2017. Graphite, pen, acrylic dimensions variable.

The Dobell Drawing Prize is back in a newly revived state, tackling drawing as a progressive 21st century medium and looking at all its permutations within art making today.  

Presented by the National Art School (NAS), the Prize positions drawing not as a dusty, dry draftsmen’s tool but rather as the foundation of all learning, thinking and seeing.  

NAS Director Steven Alderton told ArtsHub: ‘We want to bring drawing into a 21st century conversation. Drawing has a long way to go and it plays a big part in what we do here at the NAS.’

He said the biennial prize was a perfect fit with the National Art School.

‘Drawing is absolutely central to the National Art School’s curriculum. While the heritage and traditions of drawing are important, there are also new ways of seeing through drawing and its impact on making today. We believe that drawing also trains an artist with the skills to articulate ideas.’

The prize is acquisitive and open for submissions, with an award of $30,000 for the winning entry.

More information here.

Artist Ben Quilty has been chosen as the judge of the 2019 Dobell Drawing Prize, selecting both the finalists and the winning work.

The inaugural exhibition of finalists, which will thereafter become a biennial event, will be presented by NAS Gallery from 28 March to 25 May 2019.


The new look Dobell Drawing Prize has been designed to be part of a mini-festival of drawing. ‘You can’t just define the role of drawing with an art prize,’ said Alderton. ‘We want to flesh out all the different permutations of drawing; we want people to really soak deeply into what drawing can be, and understand it on multiple levels, and to do that you need to create this kind of mini-festival.’

Next March, the NAS will present not only an exhibition of the finalists for the prize, but drawing installations and interventions across the NAS campus, a drawing symposium, and masterclasses and lectures which interrogate the state of drawing today.

‘The medium has changed dramatically – you can even draw on your iPhone with light. We want to open up that up and show drawing as contemporary, vital and vibrant,’ said Alderton.

‘On one level, people think it’s all been done and all been said. But that kind of thinking hasn’t engaged with the role that drawing is currently playing. We want to talk about drawing – from animation to kinetic work and installation – and what that interplay into spatial relationships and the physicality of the act of drawing might look like.’


The genesis of the Dobell Drawing Prize (1993-2012) aimed to encourage excellence and draughtsmanship. From 2019, however, the NAS will develop its new approach to the prize.

The Dobell Drawing Prize is not to be confused with the Dobell Drawing Biennale, which is presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Alderton explained. ‘Theirs is a curated exhibition and ours is a selected prize. We are about diversity and showing more artists.’

The Dobell Foundation funds both, and is also committed to encouraging the scholarship of new drawing practice by making this prize acquisitive, with work entering the NAS Collection. The finalists’ exhibition will additionally be toured by NAS to regional galleries in late 2019.

Alderton said: ‘Acquiring the winning work into the NAS Collection is very important for us to see a history of the Drawing Prize and current drawing practice. The exhibition, and ultimately the collection, will become an active teaching tool to show students the formative process of art making, and how that builds into substantial art practice.’

Art Director of The Sir William Dobell Art Foundation Paula Latos-Valier AM said: ‘The Dobell Drawing Prize has many great attributes – it is very democratic in that any artist can enter and there are no restrictions to subject matter or medium. This freedom from curatorial constraint is a distinguishing feature.

‘The Prize champions the idea of peer group assessment by inviting respected practising artists to select the finalists and determine the prize-winner,’ Latos-Valier added.  


Entries open in July 2018 and close 31 October 2018

Winner announcement and exhibition launch: Wednesday 27 March 2019

Exhibition: 28 March – 25 May 2019, NAS Gallery

To apply visit

The National At School is located in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina