Artist Ian Roberts with his subject Kate Hepton at the opening of the Northern Rivers Portrit Prize.
Artist Ian Roberts with his subject Kate Hepton at the opening of the Northern Rivers Portrit Prize.

If you blinked, you've missed it

An art teacher, an inspirational student and an episode of Dr Who all came together to create a drawing that was a finalist in the recent Northern Rivers Portrait Prize.

Ian Roberts is the head teacher in creative and performing arts at Alstonville High School and for his entry he asked Year 10 student Kate Hepton to be his subject. Kate has muscular atrophy type 2, a severe degenerative physical disability, but Ian said this is “a mere speed hump in her busy life”.

“I chose Kate as my subject for many reasons, firstly because I have developed a close relationship and understanding of her situation as my partner Margo works with Kate as one of her teacher’s aids at the school. “Kate is a delightful, talented young woman... she has become an iconic figure around the school and in the local community, she possesses strong leadership skills and was recently elected to Alstonville High School’s Student Representative Council. This is a girl making the best of every opportunity she’s got.”

With the portrait prize being pulled down from the gallery this week, Ian said he plans to present the picture to Kate and her mum today, (Thursday June 9).

“Before I even put any pen on paper I always intended it would be for her (Kate) and her mum. Before I started I asked their permission and worked quite closely with her.”

Ian said he spent 67 hours on the drawing over the Christmas break and communicated regularly with Kate via facebook and her mobile phone. When he asked her what she wanted in it she was drawn to a particular episode of Dr Who called ‘Don’t Blink’ that featured some evil stone angels that could teleport you to another world if you blinked.

Ian eventually called the work Don’t Blink and said Kate enjoyed the kudos of being at the Lismore Regional Gallery for the opening and seeing herself on the wall.

“As a high school visual arts teacher I have worked with a number of wheelchair students, most notable was athlete Kurt Fearnley at Blayney High School... Kurt was the subject of my first attempt at a major art competition with a drawing for the Dobell Art Prize several years ago. Kate will never crawl the Kokoda Track nor win Paralympic medals or Boston marathons like Kurt has, but she possesses that same lust for life, drive and personal ambition. Kate is an inspirational young woman and every bit a champion,” Ian said.


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