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Posted by portugalpress on June 28, 2018
Cozmin and his Prize entry

Once again, this year I was privileged to organise the Sovereign Art Foundation Algarve Prize which ended with a prize-giving ceremony and auction at the Lady in Red Gallery in Lagoa and I am grateful to gallery managers Peter and Liz Roberts and their team for putting on such a prestigious event.

Did you know that the Adega Cooperativa de Lagoa (wine cooperative), opposite the bus station, has the most amazing art gallery? This enormous warehouse that from the outside seems somewhat abandoned amazes visitors as they enter through the welcoming and cosy lounge bar to walk through to the 3000sqm gallery set over the still-working wine cooperative visible through the air vents in the floor. Currently on display are over 500 sculptures, paintings and photographs from 55 artists.

Peter and Liz have created an amazing venue for events and hope to be doing much more in the near future, from cinema showings, corporate events to jazz afternoons, which will both involve and attract local residents.

The gallery has a small craft shop and visitors can relax on comfy settees to sample the local wines or choose from a selection of ethically-sourced teas and coffees. Both the Teapigs and Caffe Praego brands make donations to the Point Foundation which helps Rwanda orphaned and vulnerable children.

In particular, the coffee sales are helping to support art and graphic design student Francois-Xavier Setto who grew up in a Rwanda orphanage following the 1994 genocide and who is the sole provider for his family.

The Sovereign Prize allows students to show their work at prestigious events. It is rewarding for me that some of ‘my’ finalists gained other opportunities through the competition.

First-prize winner Yalda Abbasi has an order for another painting and Cozmin Olalau, who entered a pencil drawing of two dogs, has been commissioned to draw a picture of someone’s daughter with their pet dogs. It just goes to show how even a small bit of exposure for these talented students can lead to more openings.

I am particularly interested in Cozmin’s work. His entry was to highlight the plight of abandoned animals in the Algarve. He is currently undergoing some serious medical treatment and yet was able to attend the Sovereign event, bringing with him a small A5 pad which he shyly showed me and which had his amazing animal watercolours.

Cozmin is Romanian and three years ago he joined his parents who had been living here for some time. It was not easy to start school in a foreign country and to learn a new language. However, Cozmin is managing to keep up with his studies which are important because, in the Portuguese education system, students must pass their end-of-year exams in order to move up a year, otherwise they have to repeat it again. In the 10th year, students choose what subjects to study for the next three years and Visual Arts is the course chosen by those wishing to pursue an artistic career.

Cozmin particularly loves to paint animals. His attention to detail makes his paintings look like photographs and I was amused to discover that all the insects he has recently painted can actually be found in my garden. Using his limited colour palette, he manages to mix the right colours to produce these vivid realistic pictures. Inspired by nature, he goes for regular walks or bike rides along the beach or countryside, taking advantage of this wonderful Algarvean environment. Cozmin also loves to listen to music and has been playing the guitar and piano since he was nine years old. I have a lot of musician friends and it is interesting to note how many are also successful painters!

Like any teenager, Cozmin has his worries and aspirations for the future. When he is unhappy, he tends to draw in black and white and, when he is happy, he paints with bright colours. Funds are often limited and with art materials being expensive, he has been painting on small pieces of paper but hopes to be able to do some large paintings in the summer and maybe get a few more commissions for his fantastic dog drawings. I would like to thank artists Alyson Sheldrake and David Trubshaw for donating some art materials and paper for him.

Cozmin still has two years to finish school and he then hopes to move to the UK to attend Portsmouth University for an Art degree. Visual Art students are able to choose from many degree courses such as painting, history of art, graphic design and animation, but it can be difficult to find the right course in Portugal and so many opt to study abroad.

When my son chose to do a four-year Painting degree in Lisbon’s Belas Artes University, a few people commented that there was no future in painting and what was the point in doing his degree. Belas Artes is located in the heart of Lisbon’s bohemian and stylish Chiado neighbourhood where there are opportunities to learn and become involved in the art world through the city’s many galleries and museums. My son has thoroughly enjoyed his time there and recommends it to other students. However, they will have to work hard to promote themselves and get recognition because it is not easy for new artists to make a living from their work.

Being an artist is not really a choice. It is a compelling need to pick up a pencil or brush and produce something, concentrating as the picture develops as more lines are drawn and colour is added. It takes the artist away from their troubles and provides a form of relaxation and therapy. My grandmother started painting for the first time when she was in her 70s!

Following on from the Art Prize, Peter and Liz Roberts kindly offered the top five students the chance to exhibit more of their work and an exhibition is currently on show at the gallery.

I love that I get to meet the students who take part in the Sovereign Art Prize. The talent of these youngsters is outstanding, and they will have to work hard to follow their dreams of being successful artists in a very competitive market. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity of helping them to share their art and, having become friends with Cozmin, I look forward to following his progress.

Who knows, one of these students could be the next Van Gogh or Picasso whose early art could one day be worth millions!

See Cozmin’s pictures on or contact him for a commission on

So now you know …

By Isobel Costa

Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing.