Term: 4 Year: 2008
I first met Nicholas Hutcheson at last year’s A.E.V. Conference. He was presenting himself as an Artist
who had received a Fellowship to visit Antarctica in 2008. Frances Evans and Georgina Reid presented their DVD as artists
who had recently returned from Artist Fellowships to Antarctica and I was overwhelmed by the beauty they were able
to capture, both photographically and musically, as part of their project.
Nick had a different reason for attending the Conference. He was looking for Schools to communicate with him while in
Antarctica and possibly participate in his Exhibition, upon his return. What an opportunity, I thought, for my students
to access not only the artist but the Creative Process. After the presentation, Nick stood in the Foyer, clipboard
in hand, and after a brief chat, we were signed on. Usually the children I teach are lucky to access the artist behind
the artwork, but Nick was offering more. I was thinking of the Grade 5/6 area and the potential for integrating it back
into the classroom. Luckily my school still employs an Arts Specialist and has a Studio, so aspects of the project could
stand alone and the Antarctic Theme could run as long as was necessary. When I returned to school, both the Grade 5/6 teachers
were really excited. It could be adapted to fit into a Communication Theme they were planning and we were all excited about
its potential for making Global Warming issues a little more tangible for the children.
Nick came in and we showed the children Antarctica visually, both through Georgina’s DVD and images Nick had
prepared as a slide show. They asked questions and we set up the concept of them being able to email Nick and receive web
pages while he was away. My children don’t often have conversations with artists and their faces were magic. Nick
told them where Antarctica was and how cold it might be while he was there. He explained why he was interested to go and
how he had received the Fellowship. We talked about conditions he might experience and how this might affect his ability
to draw or paint. Nick also showed the children some of his artwork so that they became familiar with him as an artist.
He paints refineries in the Western Suburbs, and as my school is close to these, my children responded to the familiar
Nick was to leave at the end of January 2008, so we arranged for him to meet the Grade 4/5 children, who would be Grade
5/6 2008, in December. In the meantime, I had visited Georgina and bought a copy of her DVD to show the children, and discovered
that the husband of a friend of mine had gone to Antarctica to document an Artist’s journey two years before. I rang
Matthew and he was very generous and supportive. He had a DVD too and heaps of uncut footage if needed. I organised to
have him come to talk to the children while Nick was away, to bridge the gap and make things a little less abstract. His
movie, which had appeared on the ABC documented Stephen Eastaugh, as he travelled to Antarctica. It showed conditions
which were so severe that on one particular occasion it was almost impossible for Stephen to open the door to the little
hut he was staying in while he produced his artwork. They also saw Stephen having to re-think his original plan to paint
on a large scale, as the hut he was staying in didn’t offer him enough floor space to unroll his canvas. As
we watched Matthew’s DVD, we saw the Bases Nick would be visiting. Matthew showed us some abandoned Bases
which cannot be cleaned up or removed. The children didn’t realise until the end of the movie that they were
in the room with the actual film-maker, and when they applauded they were applauding the man sitting at the front.
They were able to ask Matthew questions about what Nick would be experiencing and what it was like when he had been to
Antarctica. It was great.
We brainstormed some things we might do back at school to simulate some of the things Nick might be doing and decided
to draw ‘ICE’ in the Studio while standing on wobble boards, wearing mittens. Nick thought this was great and
couldn’t wait to see what the children came up with. Nick stayed for about an hour and then we said goodbye to him.
The next communication we would have with Nick would happen after the Summer Holidays via the Internet. The seed had been
Nick and I communicated via email during the holidays and he set up a web page and links so that communication would
be fairly simple. Nick designs web pages as a freelance artist so we were in for something special. I didn’t realise
then just how special.
The children had been asked to think of questions that Nick could answer while he was in Antarctica. We emailed these
to Nick and each week he would answer a question from a different child at a different school and it would appear, along
with illustrations, on his webpage ‘Heading South’. Dimitri, a Grade 5/6 student from my school, was so excited
when his question about the coldest temperature Nick had experienced appeared on the web page. Nick’s web pages were
brilliant. They had five sections: ‘Drawings’, ‘Word of the Week’, ‘Interview’,’
Weather’ and ‘Your Questions’. Each section expanded into its own multi-page document. Nick would send
us his drawings of the week which could include as many as eleven images. We could see what he had been seeing and what
techniques and media he had been using. ‘Words of the week’ were Antarctic related, for example, Antarctic
Nose-wiper Mitt:- a glove with a sheepskin pad on the back, for wiping your nose without freezing your hands. ‘Interviews’
were beautiful, as the answers were hand-written, even though the whole document was computer generated. These included
a couple of drawings of the person being interviewed. ‘Weather’ would be drawn and temperatures would be included,
just to put us in the picture. ‘Your Questions’ section would include the question and the answer and usually
some accompanying drawings. The roof nearly flew off the school when Dimitri saw his name on the web page and his question
was answered by Nick. It was a very exciting moment in a little boy’s life. We printed the web pages in colour and
laminated them so that we could display them and bind them into a book.
We would also receive emails in between the weekly web pages.
We have travelled the huge distance of 3 miles in 24 hours. The boat ‘powers up’
forwards maybe 50m each time and reverses and charges up to the ice again, and again, and again. We have 15 miles of this
to get through to the open water in front of Mawson.'
‘Getting to Mawson
required a degree of patience. 30 something hours to travel 15 Nautical miles, through thick ice. Groups of penguins walking
towards land often overtook the ship.'
It was very exciting coming to work and finding an email from Antarctica!
While Nick was away we tried to immerse
ourselves in Antarctica back at school. Using Interactive Whiteboards, we were able to project images to draw. We drew
the Aurora Australis, which is the ship Nick travelled on, and Quad bikes, Adele Penguins, seals and ice formations. We
tried drawing these in a style like Nick’s His artwork is quite linear so we worked in felt pen and didn’t
take our pen off the page as we drew. The ‘ICE’ drawing was great fun and as the ice melted, the children became
aware of all the patterns and textures of each surface of the ice block. We investigated taking the children to the ICE
BAR in Russell Street, but unfortunately this proved to be cost prohibitive.
When Nick returned, he came back to talk to us and show us all his photographs and some of the artwork he had made while
away. We had seen a lot of it on the web site, but these were the originals. He even showed us some of his dud works. Usually
he doesn’t show anyone the bad stuff, but he showed us. It was amazing to think that a practising artist made mistakes
that even he was embarrassed about. He told us how hard it was to draw ice and water, especially when a lot of the water
was black. We showed him our Visual Diaries and the work we had been making. He talked with us about it and he even complimented
our drawings. That was really great.
We had a task to choose our favourite two drawings and transform one to the other through eight frames. We really enjoyed
making these and it was fun drawing the shapes as they merged in and out of each other. Dimitri tried to use a morphing
programme to reproduce this on the computer but it wouldn’t save. We will have to keep investigating this idea as
it would look amazing. We have laminated our Transformation pieces and bound them into a book as a gift for Nick for working
I wanted the children to have a session on Nicholas Hutcheson the artist and the children ‘Googled’ Nick
and started writing things down to present to the others and then I thought, this is ridiculous. Nicholas Hutcheson is
alive and accessible so I asked Nick if he would present himself. He agreed modestly and came in and talked to the children
about growing up in England and Norway and drawing X-Men characters from comics. At this piece of information, many of
the boys in the group leaned in and started to really engage. Expressions such as “MAD!” and “Cool!”
were flowing freely. He also liked looking at graffiti and skateboard deck designs. He told us that his father designed
Oil Rig platforms and he used to give Nick his old blueprints on which to draw. Nick used to draw on the back of these
large pieces of paper but he also traced sections of the rig designs too.
When Nick was thinking about what he might want to do he thought that he might like to go to Art School and so he applied
and was accepted. He watched what the other students were doing and shared ideas and that is how he came to be an artist.
He showed us some of his artwork and some things he collects to draw; bird skeletons and bits of wood, stones with interesting
surfaces. He had an exhibition after going to Chile and drawing some mummies he had found there. These were really colourful
considering that they were dead people. He also likes to draw bark on trees and human bodies. Sometimes when he draws you
can see bones that would be on the inside even though it is really a drawing of the outside of the body. Sometimes Nick
will draw a section of a face or leave off the hair or part of the head. He likes to draw refineries and he will draw graffiti
on them or make them look like they are metal. He also paints figures that look like they are made of metal. One piece
of artwork he brought with him was a painting of a lizard that had swallowed an echidna and died. He found it in a museum
and it was really old and semi-decaying so he made lots of drawings from different angles and he worked two into completed
paintings. We were glad that he told us it was a lizard because it was slightly abstract in style and initially we thought
it was a rabbit. He said that it is scary having an exhibition because people can be quite critical and not everyone will
like what you do. He also told us to believe in ourselves because you have to like what you are doing and if you started
to change things in your work to please everybody else, that wouldn’t work either.
Nick left for Antarctica with the intention of having an exhibition of his artwork. He didn’t have a concrete
plan for what those works would be like other than to draw as much as he could while he was away so that he would have
lots of images to develop when he came home. His plan is to include some of our artwork in his exhibition. This is so exciting.
This won’t be until October/November this year. We will all go to the Exhibition as this will complete our journey
with Nick and we will see how the exhibition looks and see our artwork in it.
Ardeer South Primary School