17-year-old’s detailed portrait of brother wins Texaco art prize

Lucy Deegan from Laois has won five Texaco Children’s Art Competition prizes in total

Artistic talent runs deep in the Deegan family from Co Laois, who are no strangers to collecting awards.

This year, 17-year-old Lucy snatched the ultimate prize as overall winner of the 63rd Texaco Children's Art Competition. It is more than a decade since she secured her first special merit as a four-year-old in what has long established itself as Ireland's greatest celebration of emerging artistic talent.

Her winning piece Tom – Summer is a detailed pencil drawing of her younger brother during a family holiday at the seaside, initially captured by camera.

“I thought it was such a pretty photo because Tom is at his happiest in the summertime,” she said, doting on her sibling while holding the large framed portrait at the winner’s reception.


“He has such a pretty face to draw or paint, I have done a number of portraits before.”

Her mother, Fionnuala Ballance, was an artist at the Sullivan Bluth animation studios in Dublin and ensured her children had a plentiful supply of paper and crayons at the kitchen table in their home in Luggacurren.

Five awards

Lucy, a pupil at Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach in Co Carlow who plays minor football for Co Laois, has now won five Texaco awards. Her siblings have also accumulated prizes in a competition which continues to attract thousands of entrants every year.

Even in an age of technology, children flock to paints and pencil with about 10 digital entrants in any given year. "They are still going back into very traditional means. I think there is a pureness to it . . . a charm," said Bronagh Carron, Texaco marketing manager.

Lucy's pencil strokes won her €1,500 and a trip to Tokyo to display her work at the International Foundation for Arts and Culture. There were 126 prizes in seven categories.

Past winners have taken the award into careers in art and design – Graham Knuttal, Paul Costello and Robert Ballagh among them.

Self-portraits and jellyfish

Ava Henson (11), who won top prize in her category, is another serial winner having previously taken first and second places in her category. This year she drew the judges' attention for her striking self-portrait in pencil, while younger sister Esmé (8) took a special merit for her depiction of a king jellyfish.

Like the Deegan family, the Hensons have a strong artistic spirit. Mother Leonie and father Dan are both National College of Art and Design (NCAD) graduates and the girls' art supplies arrive regularly in the post courtesy of their grandfather.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times