Archibald Prize finalist has fond memories of Wingham

2018 Archibald Prize finalist Vanessa Stockard's self portrait is currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW.

2018 Archibald Prize finalist Vanessa Stockard's self portrait is currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Two-time Archibald Prize finalist Vanessa Stockard was known as the kid who draws from as early as kindergarten.

Her primary school years were spent at St Joseph’s Primary School Wingham and it was here that an early drawing of a bird received such a positive reaction from her teacher that Vanessa soon developed an obsession for drawing.

At the age of 12 Vanessa became a boarder at Abbotsleigh in Sydney and went on to graduate from the College of Fine Arts (COFA) Sydney with a BFA.

Vanessa Stockard and her husband William Wolfenden.

Vanessa Stockard and her husband William Wolfenden.

She is now a highly respected artist and has exhibited her work all over the world.

Vanessa is the daughter of Stephanie and John Stockard who still live in the Manning Valley, she is married to William Wolfenden and is a mum to Isobel.

Vanessa creates her beautiful art in a studio in Bowral in the Southern Highlands.

Her self-portrait is currently on display at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney as part of the 2018 Archibald Prize until September 9. Archibald Prize finalists will then go on a regional tour until June 2019.

The Wingham Chronicle caught up with Vanessa to ask her a few questions:

WC: Congratulations Vanessa on being a finalist in the Archibald Prize for the second year in a row. You say you have grown so much as a woman since being a finalist last year. How do you feel you have grown as an artist since becoming a mum?

VS: “Seeing the world through your child’s eyes has reminded me of what it is like to be filled with wonder. Her imagination and the way she puts words and thoughts together inspire my imagination also and to be honest sometimes I just steal her ideas. I love watching her active mind come to her own conclusions and that is exciting, she is not yet to be dictated by anyone but she is sure good at dictating to me.

WC: For an artist of your calibre with work shown all over the world, what does being a finalist in the Archibald Prize mean to you?

VS: Being a finalist this year was fun, last year was terrifying. It is a lovely compliment to be included with the up and coming and the veterans also. Seeing the works hanging in the AGNSW is impressive and a sure sight better than seeing your work hidden underneath others on the studio floor.

WC: Will you enter again next year?

VS: I sure as hell will, I hope to find someone to paint in time, other than of course myself.

WC: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?

VS: My ultimate goal is pretty much what most people’s would be, that is to keep doing a job that I love, and to continue to learn, experiment and increase my skill and understanding. I find large holes in my practise that shock me sometimes and that is exciting as well. I find so much more to learn.

WC: At what age did you know you wanted to be an artist?

VS: I think I wanted to be a musician firstly, but that wasn’t going to work out. I’ve always loved art, my mother went to the National Art School and Julian Ashton as well and is an excellent draftsman. My grandmother also was a painter, so I grew up respecting and loving drawing and painting. I didn’t know I wanted to be a painter for real though until I was about 19. Then I thought I could be Brett Whiteley over night (eye roll).

WC: Did growing up in the Manning Valley have any influence on you becoming an artist or shaped the type of work you do?

VS: My love of the natural world, animals and insects surely have shaped my interest permanently. My home was in a bush that my father created from scratch, it was a paddock that is now a really beautiful piece of rainforest with rare plants. We also did a lot of bush walking with Dad  and of course his work with the Wingham Brush meant that we looked after orphaned animals or injured baby bats, possums, snakes, you name it. It was a fantastic way to grow up.

WC: Could you tell us a little about your journey to become an artist?

VS: My journey included years and years of bar-tending and I painted whenever I could, usually in small cramped spaces on the floor or the kitchen bench. I guess I am just one of those people that gets obsessed with something and I never got bored. I just kept plodding along and after a while, you do start creating your own language and develop a style of work that is unique to you. I had no idea it would take so long, and if I did, I might have chosen a reasonable job.

WC: Do you get home much to visit your family in the Manning?

VS: I don’t get to visit the manning much, though I hope to when my daughter is a little older. She just turned two in February and with several shows and a new house and garden we are busy every day.

WC: What do you love most about the Wingham area?

VS: I love the bush, I love the bats and I love all the flora and fauna.

WC: What’s your next big project?

VS: Next month (June) I am in a show in Los Angeles with one of my favourite artists Mark Ryden. November I will be showing in art Basel Miami with my Derek Milkwood series, a fictional character I have an ongoing attachment to. He is a bit of an odd bod, not like me, I’m very normal. 

Vanessa will also be showing with Euan Macleod in September with 3:33 Art Projects at Clayton Utz in Sydney.

Find Vanessa online at or Instagram as Vanessa Stockard and Derek Milkwood.