‘Artists can give a voice to the voiceless’
Brooke Walker is an Australian artist, working from a studio in the beautiful McLaren Vale wine region, South Australia. She has a passionate commitment to conservation and the protection of voiceless ’non-human animals', using her art to both draw attention to issues and also donating a percentage of her sales to reputable wildlife charities. Brooke employs realist techniques to build her narratives in surreal contexts, with symbolism and deliberately chosen elements that urge the viewer to look a little deeper and realise the underlying message.
Where is your current studio? What would be your dream studio?
I am very fortunate to have had a studio within the Fleurieu Arthouse in McLaren Vale, South Australia for over 3 years. This space allows for 9 individual studios, retail, and a gallery space allowing them to sell and exhibit their work to the public. Unlike many artist collective studios, the public is welcome to wander past and ask questions while you work. It has been a wonderful way to meet other artists, art lovers, and potential collectors.
My dream studio would be nestled amongst the rainforest surrounded by nature and wildlife. I prefer to work under controlled lighting with enough space to not feel too crowded but still somewhat cosy. I adore listening to the birds go about their day so a quiet space is a must!
Do you prefer to work in silence or does certain music inspire you?
For a long time now I have worked listening to podcasts. I am an insatiable learner so I am always looking for new ideas, theories, and inspiration. My podcast playlist ranges anywhere from art, true crime, animal science, and deep dives into the human condition.
I find music too emotional to listen to whilst I paint, my works have their own emotions and meanings and I don’t want outside influences like music to affect this. Recently I have been trying to paint in silence as a form of meditation but it’s tricky!
Studio life can lead to isolation, how do you address this/ keep a balance?
Having a studio space away from home, in a collective environment, has really helped in dealing with the isolation associated with being an artist working from home. If I do need to work from home for extended periods I really feel the effects, and don’t want to leave the house, so forcing myself outside is definitely required for my mental health. I also try to attend exhibition openings and festivals when I can, just to break up the long hours in front of the easel.
Describe a moment you had an epiphany concerning your creative life.
Small epiphanies regarding my art practice can appear often in the form of ideas or sparks of inspiration, generally when I am in the shower (showerpiphanies). In my day-to-day life, I’m not one to have big swings of emotion so if something causes a strong reaction within me I take note. The first pull towards knowing I wanted to be an artist as a career was after a charcoal drawing workshop with David Kassan in 2013. Over the 3 day course I learned so much and was excited to be surrounded by like minded people that on the final drive home I was so overcome with emotion I cried. This has happened a couple of times since then and always in reference to my art practice so I take it as a sign I’m on the right path.
What is your favourite/ least favourite part of the creative process?
I both love and loathe most of the creative process equally, there is a real duality at play. I love it when inspiration strikes and I can start researching and planning new works but it is also frustrating if an idea doesn’t quite come together. It is the same whilst I’m painting, one minute I’m loving it and everything is falling in place and the next I can’t mix the right colour and everything is going wrong. It was harder to manage this emotionally at the beginning of my journey as a painter but now I try to stay calm and know it is all just part of the process.
Nature versus nurture- do you believe you have inherited abilities from creative parents, do you have creative siblings? Can you identify environmental factors or influences which led to your choices or directions?
In speaking from my own experience I do have family members that are quite creative so I do think there is an element of nature involved but I also think these abilities need to be nurtured and cultivated. I liken it to any professional field, generally, people have an aptitude for a certain skill and it is up to them on how they nurture it. Mine just happens to be in the arts.
Having a creative mother meant art supplies were readily available within the home and creativity was always encouraged. I was fortunate to grow up on a hobby farm surrounded by animals which has also influenced the choice of subjects I predominantly paint.
Detail a moment that was the highlight for you, thus far.
The first major piece of recognition I received was being juried into the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards in London in 2017. From over 1000 entries worldwide, and a crowdfunding effort to get over to London for the opening, my piece won a category prize and sold on opening night. I was also fortunate enough to meet David Shepherd himself, who sadly passed away 12 weeks later. His passion for art and saving our wildlife is a legacy that continues to thrive within his foundation.
In 2019 I had an opportunity to work as a studio assistant for Robin Eley in Los Angeles for 8 weeks. I had never travelled alone internationally before and it was a time of great personal and artistic growth for me. I loved the independence and just immersing myself in the whirlwind life of the city. I have so many treasured memories from that time and it is these opportunities I find paramount to cultivating a career in the arts.
If you could time travel, what advice would you give the younger you, regarding pursuing your artmaking?
Stop overthinking and just do it! I spent a lot of time listening to people tell me I couldn’t make a living as an artist and to find a commercial venture. This advice led me to study Illustration and graphic design at University instead of Fine Art. Whilst I don’t regret this path, as it allowed me to make some amazing connections and develop different skills, I often wonder how my journey would have been different if I had gone to a Fine Art School. This is, however, the wonderful thing about being an artist, there is no ‘right’ way if you have the desire to create, make the most of every opportunity and just do it.
What do you hope to convey through your work?
My artworks strive to give a voice to the voiceless. I have a passion for wildlife conservation and desire to understand the intricate nuances of the human/non-human animal relationship. Inspiration comes from historical research and symbolism, current environmental issues such as climate change and urban sprawl, and my interest in animal social sciences. Recently I have been reading a lot about how non-human animals communicate both within their own species and in the broader environment. It is my hope that the artworks are intertwined with deep empathy and emotion that is hard to conceive in the written word. Above all, it is my goal to create beautiful, thought-provoking imagery to encourage empathy and discussion in order to entice change in human attitudes towards non-human animals.