The Art of the Hut

Drawing New Zealand’s backcountry huts

Our backcountry huts are made for shelter and not much else. They’re humble in contrast to the bush and mountains - rectangles of plywood, corrugated iron and tanalised pine. But like many utilitarian things these same qualities give them a beauty of their own, and few trampers would deny the appeal of a hut after a long day of hiking.

For the next two years, artist Felicity Deverell plans to capture the character of these silent heroes of the backcountry. A pet painter by trade, she will be heading bush to work on location, aiming to draw about 50 North Island huts with the intention of exhibiting her work and eventually publishing her journal of sketches and drawings. Like those who built the huts she’ll be using simple materials: charcoal, graphite and paper. Felicity spoke to us about her plans.

In drawing huts I will be able to stay in the actual buildings I'm drawing which will give me a more thorough experience and familiarity with my subject. I have grown fascinated with drawing huts in a way that shows their individual characters. Though so many huts are very similar in structure and design I want to discover the peculiarities of each one and show that in my drawings.

Along the way I'll be doing as many sketches of whatever else interests me as I can. The stoves/fireplaces inside the huts interest me as a subject for drawing, so I'll be drawing those. I'll be also on the lookout for interesting and unusual trees to draw. And whenever I get the chance I'll take the opportunity to sketch portraits of people.

It's very difficult choosing huts because there are so many! I have tried planning out a detailed list of all the huts I want to visit, but it got very confusing and I didn't really know anything more about the huts that what is on the DOC website. So what we are going to do is just go, aiming to visit those that I really want to draw and the most likely ones in between. I also hope to meet people on the way who will recommend interesting huts for me to draw, and I'm already beginning a list of those. So we will play it by ear and have an adventure!