Scuba Diver Girls, Margo Sanchez interviews Artist/Explorer Eric Hutcheson.
Eric Hutcheson is known the world over for his work in the field of underwater exploration and cartography. Growing up in south Florida, he spent his early years snorkeling reefs, rock pits and canals. Eric has a myriad of explorations under his belt, having professionally explored hundreds of caves, sinkholes and reefs. He has mapped several cave systems throughout Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico, including the world’s longest underwater cave system “ Nohoch Nah Chich” in the Yucatan. And the world’s largest artesian spring “ Silver Springs” in Florida.
Eric learned to transfer the dazzling images he saw while diving, to paper, creating award – winning artistic maps. Today Eric is focusing more and more on his other true love…creating works of art based on beauty he sees – and continues to explore- underwater.
I started drawing as a child of 8 or 10 years when my retiring grandfather wanted one on his grandsons to continue his path. He designed a lot of downtown Miami in the 1930s and 40s. In my teens and early 20s I was more involved in outdoor fun than art. This is how I found my love for caves and geology. While mapping caves I referred to my grandfather’s work to create a unique style of cartography.
How much of an impact did your surroundings as a child have on the type of art work you do today?
Florida has had the greatest impact on my art. The nature of geology, combined with my grandfather’s will has pointed me in this direction. Everything I’ve experienced seems to have fallen into place to keep me going.
Tell me about your work – what you are trying to do in your work?
I look at my art as historical documents. The environment I work in is constantly mined and developed or polluted, so I’m capturing a small piece of earth that most people would never see or even know about in any other way, like my grandfather’s work in Miami. Most of his subjects have since been destroyed or bulldozed for progress.
Do people understand what it is you are trying to say with your art?
A lot of people I meet do understand my work. When someone doesn’t seem to get it I’ll simply refer to it as ‘scenes from the mind of an explorer’ and then they look at me totally confused and say, ‘Oh yeah, I saw you on TV’.
How has your style evolved since you began creating art? What influenced your choice of media?
For 10 years, all my maps and images were produced in pencil lead and black ink. I really enjoyed taking one color and creating depth. I started using pastels for my fine art to give the viewer as dramatic an effect as I had when the scene was inspired. The pastels recreate the geology, kind of like the Natives creating their own earth tones.
What is the most difficult aspect of what you do?
By far the most difficult aspect of my work is life support. A lot of the cave dives and expeditions are extremely dangerous. After a difficult project, the art studio is a safe and warm place to hang out.
What are your future plans for your art work?
The future is definitely unknown and the reality is, I’m not getting any younger. I’m sure that someday the risk in the field will outweigh my desire to push the end of the line. When that day comes I’ll probably create my best piece.
What direction do you see your work taking in the future?
For now I’m planning to continue producing an art series from each of my expeditions and make them more accessible for the collector.
What is your greatest artistic achievement?
Some of my greatest achievements are the maps and illustrations of virgin environments [historical documents], but by far the greatest achievement is simply continuing, following the path laid out for me and leaving a positive trail for generations to enjoy.
Finally Eric, where do you think creativity comes from?
The exploration of virgin environments leaves your mind filled with unforgettable images. The sites I’m experiencing are nature’s artwork. After an expedition I’ll go in the studio and transfer these powerful experiences into art, this is where my creativity comes from. I have no desire to paint a bowl of apples, my creativity is inspired by powerful experiences. Usually life threatening explorations.