Harry McArdle didn’t think he had a hope of winning the Derbyshire Open in 2016.
It wasn’t because he was unhappy with his entry but as a three-times winner already he assumed he had had his fair share of the honour and the judges would reward someone else.
But he was wrong because, amazingly, his painting wowed them and The Draca Trophy is once again in pride of place at his Matlock home.
The 75-year-old artist was born and brought up in Beccles on the borders of Suffolk and Norfolk and moved to Derbyshire to work as a lecturer at the Chesterfield College of Art in the 1960s.
He says he was always interested in painting and drawing but when he left school he started out as a trainee manager at Woolworths and then joined a printing works where he was studying time and motion.
It was a colleague there who, impressed by his drawing, suggested he applied to Lowestoft College of Art.
“I knew as soon as I walked into the college that first morning that I wanted to be a professional artist, but I thought I would never make a living out of painting and decided to study textile design, which I thought would result in a proper job,” he explained.
“It was the biggest error of my life. It just wasn’t for me but by the time I realised it was too late.”
Eventually Harry took a teacher training course and headed for Chesterfield to teach printed textiles and the fact that he stayed 40 years until he retired 13 years ago suggests that choosing to study textiles as a young man wasn’t so disastrous.
“I stayed because the college was a wonderful place to work in those days,” he admitted.
“We were encouraged to do our own work and we had so much freedom to use the facilities at the college, which then were very much envied by other colleges.
“Chesterfield’s foundation course was considered one of the best around and much sought after by students. It was great to be part of that team and to be able to develop my own work.”
Harry, who has been inspired by the works of John Sell Cotman and JWM Turner, has been exhibiting his work with considerable success since 1980 a, before this year, won the Derbyshire Trophy in 1993, 2001 and 2011.
“It is a brilliant award because it gives local people the opportunity to show off their work in a relatively prestigious setting.” said Harry fervently.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked to find out I had won this year as well, but I admit it has encouraged me to get going with my painting again.
“I hadn’t been doing much for the last year or so and preparing for the competition has got me back into it.”