Norman Hetherington is a national treasure. Born in 1921, he is a celebrated cartoonist, printmaker and illustrator (replacing Norman Lindsay at the Bulletin) but he is best known for his puppet creation Mr Squiggle, who has been delighting young and old since first appearing on Australian television in 1959. Mr Squiggle and friends is now Australia’s longest-running TV program.
“I always thought Mr Squiggle would make a compelling subject,” says Nick Stathopoulos. “He seems to capture a sense of nostalgia and evoke a child-like innocence. He’s an archetype, like Pinocchio, and that huge red pencil nose embodies fertile creativity. His ability to turn a random scribble into a cogent image was pure magic to me as a small child in the early sixties, glued to a black-and-white television.
“Norman was a charming and patient subject. Squiggle, on the other hand, is impossible!” laughs Stathopoulos. “He never sat still, always floating off on a space walk or turning my painting over and squiggling it into something else. This is a painting that I’ve been carrying inside me for a long time and it came together very quickly. It seems I had painted it so often in my head that when I recently got the chance to paint it for real, it just happened. The whole process was a joyful experience. I’ve never been happier painting in my entire life, and I think it shows.”
Born in Sydney in 1959, Stathopoulos did a Bachelor of Arts and Law at Macquarie University. He has worked as a professional artist since graduating in 1983. He has painted backgrounds for animation and has designed and executed art for film and television. He is also an award-winning illustrator and book cover artist.