Hugh Mackenzie | Recipient of Distinguished Educator Award
This November, Bau-Xi artist Hugh Mackenzie will be honoured with OCAD University's prestigious Distinguished Educator Award. Read below for the OCAD Alumni Association's biography on the acclaimed Canadian painter.
HUGH MACKENZIE (AOCA, DRAWING & PAINTING, 1950)
Hugh Mackenzie was born in Toronto in 1928. He attended the Ontario College of Art (as it was then known), from 1946 to 1950. His instructors at that time included Carl Schaefer, John Alfsen and Jock Macdonald. The latter, according to Mackenzie, “came into the College like a breath of fresh air.” He continued his studies in Fine Arts at Mount Alison University, studying under Lawren Harris and Alex Colville. It was also at “Mount A” that he met Dorothy Johnson, another Fine Arts student, who would become his wife and critic for more than 60 years.
Mackenzie’s early working years included a two-year stint as a technical illustrator for the Avro Aircraft Company, where he illustrated manuals for the Avro Arrow. Since 1967, he has exhibited new works regularly in solo shows as well as with colleagues. His early high realist egg tempera works found a ready audience and led to a number of portrait commissions, most notably the state portrait of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson. Taking up etching in the mid-1970s freed Mackenzie from the exacting demands of egg tempera, helping him grow from the young painter focussed on the product, to a mature artist who takes pleasure in the act of painting itself. Trading in a fine sable brush for a palette knife, allowed him to switch easily between the representational and pure abstraction.
Teaching has been the other focus of Mackenzie’s elliptical career. In 1969, Mackenzie landed his dream job as a part-time instructor at the Ontario College of Art. He also served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Waterloo, the University of Victoria and other institutions, but OCA remained his primary teaching venue. Although his job title was often “lecturer,” he found his greatest success and enjoyment when he moved away from the podium to engage more directly with his students as colleagues. Learning to listen to, and learn from, his students, was key to his success as an educator.
Mackenzie was honoured to receive the A.J. Casson Award from the Alumni Association in 1991. More importantly, Mackenzie sees his success in the relationships that he developed with his students, many of whom have become accomplished artists, respected colleagues and life-long friends.
Text and image courtesy of OCAD University