Student art prize winners' amazing show of talent

Wondrous whimbrels, a bold and beautiful southern cassowary and the bulldozers of the bush – the northern hairy-nosed wombat – were just some of the winning artworks from the 2023 Wild HeART Student Art Prize.

Under 13s Wildcard Winner “Natural Colourful Beauties” by Ryeojin J

Greg Miller

Wondrous whimbrels, a bold and beautiful southern cassowary and the bulldozers of the bush – the northern hairy-nosed wombat – were just some of the winning artworks from the 2023 Wild HeART Student Art Prize.

From Cairns to Palm Beach, and as far west as Toowoomba, 217 entrants were received from young Queensland artists with 12 winners announced at the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Garden on Saturday September 16.

The incredible talent of 40 finalists and winners is on display at the Arts and Ecology Centre in this stunning exhibition capturing our unique Australian plants and animals.

Entrants were invited to submit an artwork featuring Australian native flora, fauna and fungi, with a special category for threatened species.

Young artists delivered something special

Sunshine Coast artist and Wild HeART competition judge Bernardine Hine congratulated the entrants and said they had each achieved something special.

“It was a privilege as well as an onerous task to pick the winners in each category,” Ms Hine said.

“When I commenced, what struck me the most, was the time and care each and every artist took to not only create their entry, but to research their subjects and present the most interesting artist statements.

“I took great pleasure in reading them all and it is delightful that each of you had not only a creative journey but also a learning journey in taking part with this exhibition."

Ms Hine commended the finalists saying they should be proud of their effort.

“To be one of 40 finalists selected to hang in the exhibition is an achievement worth acknowledging and the finalists should be proud of what they have done," Ms Hine said.

“Whether it be the quirky subject matter you selected, the artistic skill you displayed or the knowledge you put forth to the viewer – I fell in love with so many of the art works for all sorts of reasons, so please, keep creating.”

Wonderful youth art now on show

Sunshine Coast Council Environment and Liveability Portfolio Councillor Maria Suarez said it was a pleasure to witness such amazing work from talented students across Queensland.

“Art competitions such as the Wild HeART Student Art Prize are a great chance to celebrate the stars of our natural eco-systems and get kids engaged in caring for the environment,” Cr Suarez said.

“Four winners were selected from each age category: best fauna; best flora or fungi; best threatened species; and Judge’s wild card.  

“We were fortunate to have $3000 of donated prizes to divide among the winners – and it was a tough competition.

“So much focus, time and effort has gone into each piece – the commitment is inspiring.

“This art prize is a great opportunity to foster young talent and create awareness of Australia’s native plants and animals.

“Congratulations to all winners, finalists and participants. I loved seeing your beautiful artworks featuring our native plants and animals.

“I encourage everyone to get down to the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden and view the finalists’ works on display.”

The Wild HeART Student Art Prize Finalists will be on display from 10am-2pm daily at the Arts and Ecology Centre at the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden from 10am and 2pm daily, from Saturday 16 September – Sunday 1 October 2023. Entry is free.

For more information, visit the Maroochy Bushland Botanic Gardens website. Special thanks goes to the Wild HeART Working Group - the Friends of the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden, Qld Wildlife Artists Society Inc. and Friends of Mary Cairncross Association.

Wild HeART Student Art Prize 2023 winners and judge comments

UNDER 8 Winners

Under 8s Flora winner “Narrow-Leaved bottlebrush” by James B

JUDGES COMMENT: This artwork I selected for its beauty as a classical botanical study, which shows a keen eye for observation of the subject matter, and was executed both carefully and neatly, showing due care for the floral and leaf formations.     

Under 8s Fauna winner “Wondrous Whimbrels” by Chloe R. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: The tackling of a difficult subject matter of a bird with intricate feather patterns caught my attention in this artwork, where the artist has shown she took great note of these patterns and did her best to capture it in not one but three birds, and their placement in the natural habitat gives the whole artwork life and movement.

Under 8s Threatened Species winner “Little Numbat Adventure” by Sophie T. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: This artwork shows quite the personality of its subject matter, and the rendering of the fur for someone so young shows quite a skill in both observation and painting, capturing a sense of light and life of this rather cheeky portrait of a little marsupial.

UNDER 13 Winners

Under 13s Flora “The Prebuilt Ant Habitat” by Ryan P. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: The winner of the under 13’s Flora shows stunning attention to detail.  The beautifully drawn artwork, along with the careful consideration of subject matter all comes together in a lovely composition that draws the viewer in for a closer look.

Under 13s Fauna winner “Crayfish” by Mylo H. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: This artwork is fabulous as just an artwork in itself, it is not only a well painted rendition of the fauna, but the colour, life and movement, along with composition and attention to detail including shadows made it a standout for this category.

Under 13s Threatened Species “Bulldozers of the Bush” by Louise W. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: This one is a beautiful study of its subject matter, not only in how well the pair are drawn, but also how settled they sit in their habitat, they look out upon the viewer, telling their story in a very compelling manner, showing that the artist took great time and care to get to know her subject well.

UNDER 18 Winners

Under 18s Flora winner “Enticement” by Celine S

JUDGES COMMENTS: The winner of this category selected quite an interesting subject matter, both complex and beautiful, and has created a dynamic artwork with her use of background to really put the spotlight on this intriguing and colourful plant.

Under 18s Fauna “Brown Bunyip Cicada with Cicada Skins” by Giselle S. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: This particular artwork really captured my attention in the way the artist chose the layout, showcasing the subject matter in multiple studies, and displays a careful and studied approach to the subject matter in both an artistic and scientific manner in its intricate detail.

Under 18s Threatened Species winner “The Bold and Beautiful Southern Cassowary” by Erin M

JUDGES COMMENTS: The winner of this category has displayed not only a masterful grasp of her media of choice but has managed to capture the liveliness and character of her subject matter.  The depth of form, life and personality of this portrait is beautifully done.


Under 8s “Midnight Blue Gum” by Koda B. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: I was really drawn to this artwork, with its bold confidence, the colour, movement and composition make it a captivating artwork with not only interest in the subject matter but a lovely inclusion of the night-time setting.

Under 13s “Natural Colourful Beauties” by Ryeojin J. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: My selection for this category came down to the beautiful rendition of not one, but 3 birds, along with two flowers as well.  The wonderful inclusion of all of this in one artwork shows the artists bountiful joy and inquisitiveness at discovering the beauty of nature so close to home.

Under 18s “A Raining King” by Thea-Bella T. Image credit Greg Miller.

JUDGES COMMENTS: The careful and finely rendered details in this category’s winner shone through, including the use of light and skill in handling such a difficult subject matter, and I was impressed by the painting of the setting almost as much as the subject matter’s face.



Sunshine Coast Council acknowledges the Sunshine Coast Country, home of the Kabi Kabi peoples and the Jinibara peoples, the Traditional Custodians, whose lands and waters we all now share. We wish to pay respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the important role First Nations people continue to play within the Sunshine Coast community.

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