Tilly Ly does not typically take photographs. An artist at core, Tilly focuses her creative efforts on painting and sketches, on colourful portraits and intricate ink drawings. Aged fifteen, her art classes are where she flourishes, but still, photography is not Tilly’s preferred medium. It was with coming across Kompetes’s ‘Portraiture’ competition that she decided to take out her iPhone and submit an entry. And with that submission, she has come first place.

For the most part, taking photographs for Tilly is to compliment her other artwork. ‘I am greatly inspired by lights and love to take my own reference photos outdoors so that I can either paint or draw them in my own style.’ As points of inspiration go, light is an advantageous one to have as a resident of Greenwich, London. ‘I think there are lots of places where I live to take photos. I can easily go to the river Thames or even Woolwich, where there is a lot of modern construction. Also, nighttime is amazing when the shops and buildings light up.’ It comes as no surprise, then, that light the primary figure in the competition-winning photograph, draped before her own reclining head. The picture has a dream-like quality, where Tilly has made the light surrounding her her own.

For Tilly, art promises both an escape and a future. With her earphones in and pencil, pen, or brush in hand, she disappears into her creative outlet. ‘Currently, I am studying for my GCSEs so there is a lot of stressed attached to school life. I use art and photography as a way to relax and express myself. I love how I can get lost in art and almost forget all of the worries on the outside world.’ As GCSEs encroach on her life at school – Art, Product Design and French – and she begins the process to college, Tilly is able to use her broad imagination and talent to find a release, one that many more students could do with when exams approach, to have a rabbit hole to drop down.

Another escape for many, regardless of age, is social media. Though she is not yet posting her work online, Tilly understands its significance for modern artists: ‘it’s a great tool to share your art and get recognition with whatever kind of art you create. It’s also very accessible for many so instead of going to an art exhibition or gallery, people can easily look at art on social media.’ Seen as a huge public gallery, social media is a liberating space for artists, where the distance between creator and audience is brought to nothing. Tilly’s idea of the internet also takes some pressure away from the art world, where exhibitions and galleries can decide who does and doesn’t succeed. Online, every artist is given the opportunity.

In terms of the future, Tilly looks to use her art to pursue a career in architecture. ‘I have wanted to be an architect since I was young because I have an uncle who is in fact an architect and it has sort of influenced me from when I was little. Also, I love designing things and problem solving so I feel like I’d be good at it. I’m always intrigued by buildings and wonder why it’s this shape or how it all fits into the landscape so well.’ Besides the influence of her uncle, Tilly finds inspiration in the vibrant work of Antoni Gaudi, and the warped, chrome productions of Frank Gehry. An eclectic pair of artists, but then, Tilly’s work seems to draw from anything that takes her attention, whether that be her city, what she finds on the internet, or those artists that have come before her.

As she moves through her GCSEs and hopes to continue her education into college then university, Tilly will no doubt bring a professionalism with her creativity that is evident in her winning photograph, and unusual in someone so young. Tilly’s attitude can only help her achieve exactly what she works toward, wherever the art world might take her.

Tilly Ly can be followed on Instragram at @rocket.salad, where she hopes to start uploading work soon.