Texaco art competition winner (16) astonishes judging panel

Drawn to art: Shania McDonagh’s pencil portrait wins overall prize

Shania Mc Donagh from Claremorris, Co Mayo, with her winning portrait in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin,  this week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Shania Mc Donagh from Claremorris, Co Mayo, with her winning portrait in the Texaco Children’s Art Competition at the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, this week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

She was hailed as one of the most talented artists of her generation this week and when you see her work, you understand why. Shania McDonagh (16) from Claremorris, Co Mayo, drew a stunning portrait of fisherman Coleman Coyne to win the overall prize in this year’s Texaco Children’s Art Competition.

From the eyebrow hairs to the reflection in his eyes, the pencil study was so detailed it resembled a photograph. She saw a photograph of the beaming Galway man in the latest book of the Vanishing Ireland series.

Judging panel chairman Prof Declan McGonagle, director of the National College of Art & Design, said he had been watching her progress in recent years with great interest. She took first place in her age category four years in a row before this week’s overall win.

“It’s almost hypnotic in the level of detail she’s achieved,” he said. “The commitment that she puts into it is extraordinary. If she were to submit works to professional exhibitions she’d certainly be able to sell the works and could be picked up as a portrait artist.”

Forging a career as an artist is not easy, particularly with cutbacks to arts funding but Prof McGonagle said her style of work as a portrait artist gave her a better chance of making it than many other artists. The unassuming teenager left the talking to her mother, Yvonne, when the results were announced on Tuesday. She recalled how, as a toddler, Shania was always making things. Then on her first day of school she startled her teacher with her skill. Since then, she has been clearing the boards at art competitions . The only downside is for the other teenage artists who don’t stand a chance when Shania enters a competition.