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2020 Competition Winner

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

This morning Philip Wollen OAM announced his decision as judge of the 2020 Penny Marathon Children’s Drawing Competition.

1st place: Anja Wegrzyn, 10, Sydney, Australia

2nd place: Alexandros Batris, 9, Athens, Greece

3rd place: Eleni Sipsa,10, Thessaloniki, Greece

Watch the announcement here:

FULL SPEECH follows…

I am delighted to have this role with Penny Marathon for reasons which resonate with me:

  1. It protects animals.

  2. It involves a past passion of mine, long distance running, a healthy and liberating sport!

  3. And it involves art – encouraging children to explore the artistic sides of their nature and their natural love of animals.

Tonight I am delighted to announce that the winner of the Art Competition is Anja Wegrzyn, from Sydney, Australia. In close contention were Alexandros Batros, from Athens, Greece, and Eleni Sipsa, from Thessaloniki, also in Greece.

It is fitting that so many contestants came from Greece! The land where the Greek soldier Pheidippides carried a message of victory from the Battle of Marathon to Athens. Tonight, I’d like to speak to parents of these young artists.

Art predates the Dawn of writing, 6000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The first cave drawings – dating back 40,000 years, from Africa, to France, to Indonesia and Australia all depict the animals of their times, most of whom have since been driven to extinction by human beings.

Art by children reflects the current zeitgeist. The anthropologist Charles Mountford studied the art of an Australian Aboriginal child, raised by European settlers and grew up drawing familiar objects like houses and trains; But once he reunited with his Aboriginal community, he began drawing using symbols such as circles, dots and squares.

I have seen artwork by children in war-torn regions or natural disasters like the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, Asia and Australia. Their drawings invariably reflect their experiences, often hidden in plain sight. They drawings reflect the familiar: Their brothers and sisters; their Mums and Dads; their pets; their toys and their homes.

But all too frequently, another image slips into the picture. A plane dropping bombs, a house with no roof, a street with no people, a tsunami or a bushfire. What matters most about children’s drawings is not the finished product, but what they say out loud to themselves while they are doing it. They are recording their "mental travels" out loud.

With no invigilating adult there to supervise them, the painting child’s unfiltered thoughts are verbalized, occasionally in impromptu song, and laid down in brushstrokes – the purest form of self-expression. I can remember my own childhood. As an only child, I was frequently on my own, drawing without any adult supervision. I don’t remember the drawing itself.

But I remember the stories I told myself while I did them. They were often elaborate. They were usually unstructured. They invariably involved animals. But they were always my very own. And I was always the Odyssean hero.

I could share my picture but not the story I told myself while painting it. A child with a paintbrush is unlike an adult artist performing the same task. As different from a child building a fort out of cardboard boxes and an adult assembling an Ikea bookshelf which was delivered in the box.

The child speaks out loud to the emerging picture; And it is not a monologue. It is a happy conversation between new friends. A child responds, modifies, changes her mind, her direction, as the picture changes shape. Just like a free-flowing conversation among friends.

The child is subconsciously calling upon and synthesizing all the senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, even taste as the paint inevitably spreads from brush, to fingers to mouth.

I became, in a sense, the Mental Traveller, of William Blake.

When I was a child, I was enchanted by Grimm’s’ Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

I then graduated to The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis and Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne.

But Art changes you. It rearranges the furniture of your mind. It Cuts, Cures – and sometimes Terrifies. It is Truth laid Bare – by Brushstrokes.

In human history:

  • 100 billion people have ever lived.

  • 7.5 billion are alive today.

  • And we torture and kill 2 billion land animals every week

  • And 1 billion ocean animals every 8 hours.

  • If humans were killed at the same rate – we would be wiped out in one weekend.

  • 10,000 entire species are wiped out every year because of the actions of 1 species.

  • The Oceans are dying our time. By 2048 all the fisheries will be dead, the lungs arteries of the earth.

  • And we now face the 6th mass extinction in cosmological history.

  • If any other organism did this, a biologist would call it a virus.

  • It is a Crime against humanity of unimaginable proportions.

Hitler sent one of his officials to Paris to enlist Picasso in the Nazi cause. In Picasso’s apartment he saw the painting "Guernica" depicting the hideous bombing of the Basque village by the Germans. The Nazi official, trying to flatter the artist said "This is wonderful. Did you do it?". And Picasso replied, "No. . . . You did".

  • We need more painters.

  • We need more poets.

  • We need more musicians.

  • We need more philosophers.

  • We need more physicians.

  • We need more creative, imaginative people.

  • We need more scientists, statesmen, and carers.

  • And we need more parents who encourage their children to be creative, compassionate and courageous.

We need them all. It is a broad church. Everyone is welcome.

So I send out my best wishes to all the children who participated, and everyone who supports and runs in the Penny Marathons around the world…… for a happy, safe, and compassionate life.

With them, and through them, the best is yet to come.

Thank you.

Philip Wollen


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