Artist David Darcy has won the Archibald Prize People’s Choice Award for 2019 with his depiction of Indigenous elder Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward. Darcy was also a finalist in last year’s Archibald, and only picked up full-time painting two-and-a-half years ago.

Ward is a respected elder of the Warakurna community and Ngaanyatjarra people of Western Australia, and a cultural and community liaison officer for regional schools, a director on the NPY Women’s Council, a translator, artist, storyteller, and an advocate against domestic violence.

Darcy and Ward became friends last year when she walked into his studio looking for art supplies. Darcy lives in the small township of Murrurundi in rural New South Wales.

“Tjuparntarri is a beautiful human being,” Darcy said in a statement. “She is a strong, proud Indigenous women of great substance. It was an honour to paint her and I am overwhelmed with pride knowing that through my endeavours, her portrait has connected with so many people.”

The striking portrait features Ward with a traditional paintwork on her chest, taken from women’s songs she is permitted to perform. Her face and torso are covered in red oxide, which is used in place of traditional red ochre.

“David’s striking depiction of Daisy Tjuparntarri Ward certainly struck a chord with visitors to the exhibition with many commenting on the strength and emotion visible in her gaze,” Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said in a statement. “It is no surprise that it came out on top as the ANZ People’s Choice award winner.”

Darcy picked up a $3500 cash prize. More than 22,000 visitors to the Archibald exhibition have voted this year, with 12,000 of those offering written comments about their favourite work. The exhibition will be on display until September 8 at the Art Gallery of NSW, then travel through regional galleries and museums.

The Young Archies winner was also announced earlier this week. Matthew Chen, eight, won the five-to-eight-year-old bracket with a painting of his medical-scientist father. Sixteen-year-old Aysha Huq took out the top prize for the 16-to-18 bracket with a depiction of her grandmother's first visit to the ocean. And 11-year-old Callum Macgown won the nine-to-12 category with Grandpa's eyebrows. “Grandpa's eyebrows are very long and extraordinarily impressive,” he says. And 15-year-old Celeste Hang painted her grandmother for her winning piece in the 13-to-15 category.

This year’s Archibald winner was Tony Costa, whose painting of Zen Buddhist and fellow artist Lindy Lee was chosen for how its expressive “painterliness” and minimal palette evoked a sense of calm repose.

The 2019 Archibald exhibition continues until September 8.