Weaving worlds together, Brooke Sutton is finding her feet as an established contemporary Aboriginal artist.
From Bundaberg, Queensland, the 16-year-old Kalkadoon woman is the younger sister of renowned Indigenous artist Chern’ee Sutton. With her sister’s influence, Sutton has been painting since six-years-old.
“My mob is from Mount Isa but I’ve lived all of my life in Bundaberg, a sweet little coastal town which gives me a lot of inspiration for my seaside paintings,” Sutton said.
Sutton recalled the first painting she ever did, with sister Chern’ee sitting at “the big painters’ table”.
“I really, really wanted to have a go but I couldn’t help with her big, important person painting so I grabbed a small canvas and sat on the floor right underneath the table and painted,” she said.
“It looked like what my sister was painting, it was a big sun in the middle, with two Spirit men throwing spears at each other with birds and plants. They didn’t look the greatest as it was my first painting.”
Since that moment, Sutton has won local art shows, been commissioned for major projects and sold her artwork privately. The sisters have collaborated on major projects as well.
“We’ve worked on big commissions together and projects. We work off one another’s ideas. We painted at Woorabinda where we worked with the kids at the high school and created paintings with them … we also worked on a painting together that has been put in the Mount Isa Court House,” Sutton said.
Sutton did a solo mural at Hinkler Central, the local shopping centre in Bundaberg.
“It is a bit weird to see something that I’ve made. I’m so proud to see my work reflected at Hinkler [Central] … I left my mark at such a big place, everyone goes there and sees that artwork,” she said.
Despite being inspired by her sister, Sutton has developed her own style unique to her identity.
“I always wanted my style to be different from Chern’ee so that people could see mine and know I painted it … I have been painting for a while and it’s taken me time to develop a style that is uniquely mine,” she said.
“I am a contemporary Aboriginal artist, so I mix two worlds together.”
“I like to take the bright vibrant colours and pastel colours, and mix them with the traditional art style and that makes my art unique to me. Some artists use those vibrant colours and others use the more traditional colours, but I’m somewhere in the middle.”
Sutton describes painting as her personal therapy.
“Painting is so relaxing for me, I drift off into my own world when I’m painting,” she said.
“When I have my music in and I’m painting, literally no one can disturb me.
“I’m in my own little bubble and it’s like my own therapy.”
Finding her feet with commissions, Sutton connects deeply with each work she creates.
“You get so caught up in this one person’s story and you want to do it so perfectly that you do get taken away with it. All of a sudden, you’re done the piece and you have to give it away,” she said.
“Sometimes it is tricky to move from one project to the next. But what I love is after some time painting for one person you feel like you really know them, I think that’s so cool.
“When they get their painting and they send me photos of it hanging in their home — it makes me so happy to know that I was able to help capture their story.”
Sutton creates artwork that reflects the subject, herself and her culture.
“I’m just so proud to share my artwork and my culture with people around me. We are in a time of Reconciliation so it is good that my style can combine those very different worlds into one piece so everyone can enjoy them,” she said.
“You can combine people together with their stories and have your own little twist on them too. My art style is about Reconciliation and it’s about bringing everyone together within art.”
With commissions and exhibitions already booked in, Sutton is an emerging artist to watch in 2021.
By Rachael Knowles