December 10, 2019
All the classes at Northern Education Trust Frederick Nattrass Primary Academy are named after a well-known local person, and the Mackenzie Thorpe class (comprised of Year 2 and Year 3 children) were thrilled to receive a visit from the world famous, Middlesbrough-born artist on Thursday 5 December 2019.
Mackenzie kindly gave up his time to spend the morning with the children, looking at a gallery of their work, watching them paint, and giving them tips and guidance. Some of the class asked what they could do if they made a mistake, but Mackenzie reassured them, saying: “Don’t worry about making a mistake – just turn it into something else – no-one will know.” As they created their own paintings of Mackenzie’s work, the artist drew pictures for them to frame and treasure. The children were delighted with this generous gesture, watching enthralled as he skilfully produced wonderful pictures for them. He even admitted to being challenged at one point, as he was asked for a turtle, which he had never drawn before.
Mackenzie was very impressed with the efforts of the pupils to recreate his own paintings, saying: “I’ve seen some really good work this morning. You’ve all worked really hard, and if you do that all the time, with all that energy, you can do anything.” He also encouraged the children to keep practising their creativity, explaining how it had taken him 30 years to develop his own style, and that he could never remember a time when he didn’t draw. He would draw on anything he could find – a shoe box, a cereal packet, and use anything he had to hand – coal from the fire, even his mum’s make-up!
The children asked why he always drew love hearts. He told them: “My work goes all over the world, and all languages understand the sign of love. When you look at art, you don’t just look with your eyes – you look with your heart and your feelings and memories. You can feel the power in a picture, so I try to draw love.”
Mackenzie also spoke movingly to staff about his pride in becoming the patron of the North East Autism Society, and its plans for opening a new resource base in the area, to be called The Mackenzie Thorpe Centre. He was delighted to hear of the work that Frederick Nattrass Primary Academy do with SEND children, to overcome barriers to learning, agreeing that sports and art therapy can be a key to unlocking expression with children, build their self-esteem and confidence, and enable them to be creative and proud of their achievements.
Teacher Stephanie Graham said: “Having such a popular and inspirational artist visit our academy really was an honour. The children were mesmerised by Mackenzie and his paintings from the moment we started to study them, as they could make links and recognise the emotions he creates. The children will be talking about his visit for years to come. They have nurtured a love for art this year, which has now been embedded after meeting the artist himself.”