Art teacher also kicks a few goals

August 02, 2017

Moama Anglican Grammar School teacher Philip Hickingbotham with his portrait of Gary Ablett Snr.

A TEACHER at Moama Anglican Grammar School is turning heads with his eye-catching painting of one of footy’s all-time greats.

Philip Hickingbotham, a year 7 teacher, recently painted a portrait of Geelong champion and AFL Hall of Fame inductee Gary Ablett Snr.

Mr Hickingbotham said the work took more than three months to complete and came after a chance encounter in Kyabram.

‘‘I met him last year through church, so he’s a friend of some friends,’’ he said.

‘‘I kind of just mentioned to a friend the idea of painting him, so she asked him, showed him and we met up.’’

Ablett kicked 1030 goals in a glittering 248-game career which included three Coleman Medals and four All-Australian selections.

In 1996, he was named in the AFL Team of the Century.

Mr Hickingbotham said Ablett — a largely reclusive figure since his retirement in 1997 — jumped at the opportunity to be portrayed on canvas.

‘‘He was really keen to do it, which was great,’’ he said. ‘‘He’d actually seen some of my artwork. I met up with him, did some sketches, took some photos and went and did it. ‘‘He was very kind. In fact he was very humble, which was surprising.’’

Mr Hickingbotham completed the project using acrylic paint for the first layer, before going over the top with oil paint.

He said Ablett saw the project when half of it was finished, but ‘‘disappeared’’ before it was completed.

Nonetheless, he said Ablett was the first famous person he had painted.

‘‘The rest of the people I usually paint or draw are my own family,’’ he said.

The portrait was entered into this year’s Archibald Prize but, as one of more than 800 entries, it did not make it to the final 43.

Now Philip is turning his attention to later this year to the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize. He lists artists Vincent Fantauzzo and Ken Taylor as some of his inspirations.

But he also acknowledges his students and colleagues at Moama Grammar for helping him along the way.

‘‘It’s really good. I’ve got lots of staff here who are really supportive and have helped me to learn a lot of stuff,’’ he said. ‘‘Danny Hindson taught me some painting techniques. Tara Moon, the head of art, taught me how to build and stretch my own canvases.

‘‘Everyone is really supportive here and the kids inspire me.’’

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