Saatchi student art prize won by Dafydd Williams

Soldier Number 2 Mr Williams said people commented on the 'gaze' in the soldier's eyes

A student from the Swansea Valley has beaten competition from around the world to win a major schools art prize.

Dafydd Williams, now 20, from Cwmtwrch, said it felt "unreal" to be announced winner of the 2012 Saatchi Gallery and Sunday Telegraph-backed award.

He worked on his portrait of a soldier while an 18-year-old pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera.

Now studying photography and the arts at Swansea Metropolitan University, he says he hopes to make a career in art.

Mr Williams, who was at the ceremony in London on Wednesday night, said: "I had no idea I was in the running to win first prize.

Start Quote

That one kind of caught me and I looked at it - I began work on it a couple of days later”

End Quote Dafydd Williams, One the image that prompted his prize-winning portrait

"I was hoping for another prize maybe but as soon as they mentioned my name I raised my hand to my face in disbelief."

The competition attracted over 13,000 entrants from primary and secondary schools from around the world.

The prize includes £10,000 for the winning school's art department as well as a further £2,000 for the winner to spend on art and computer equipment.

Mr Williams said the portrait - entitled Soldier Number 2 - took him about two or three weeks to paint using oils.

It is also on display at the gallery until 23 April as part of an exhibition of the shortlisted works.

He said: "The reason I painted this guy was I remembered seeing a picture, a close up of his face, and I wanted to have that in something but I also imagined who he is and where he's from.

Nervous 'gaze'

"I wanted to create a narrative for him. I developed him into a soldier in a cream-coloured outfit, like an African."

He said many people had remarked on the "gaze" in the soldier's eyes, saying he looked nervous.

Mr Williams said he stumbled across the image in a book or magazine while researching the subject of survival at the beginning of his final school year.

"I began looking at soldiers. This picture was completely different to anything I had seen before but then because it was so close up it didn't give too much away either.

"That one kind of caught me and I looked at it. I began work on it a couple of days later."

Mr Williams said he had no urge to try and track down the image that caught his imagination but was not against the idea of seeing it again.

He said: "I understand why people want to know how and where it has come from.

"It would ruin the illusion for myself but it would would be interesting to look at it and compare it [with the painting]."

The judges who chose his portrait as the winner included Saatchi Gallery director Rebecca Wilson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, well known for his work on The Gruffalo.

Mr Williams said he intended to carry on painting and would love a career as an artist.

He also paid tribute to the head of art at Ystalyfera, Euros Rowlands, saying he "helped me to have my ideas".

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