By Nick Galvin


One morning eight years ago, Jane Grealy was standing in her backyard looking vaguely over the fence into her neighbour’s lush garden, contemplating what the future might hold. She’d just recovered from a debilitating illness and knew she didn’t want to return to her job as an architectural illustrator.

“I thought ‘well, I’ll draw that,’” she says. “It’s a very complex garden. And that, I guess, was the start of it.”

Eight years and many, many drawings later, one of Grealy’s drawings of Maria’s garden has won the $30,000 acquisitive Dobell Prize for Drawing, presented by the National Art School.

When organisers called Grealy at her home in Brisbane to say she had taken out top spot in one of the nation’s most significant art prizes her response was one of disbelief.

“It’s so hard to comprehend because I know there are so many other good possible winners on the wall,” she said. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me, ever in my life before.”

For 30 years before that lightbulb moment in her back garden, Grealy worked as an architectural illustrator, producing extraordinarily detailed artist’s impressions for a range of clients.

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