The experience of growing up on a hobby farm in McLaren Vale has left an indelible impression on painter Brooke Walker.
Constantly surrounded by animals as a child, she now has a deep empathy and interest in the human–animal relationship. Her intricate and detailed paintings aim to express how animals might experience the world, and evoke a sense of connection with the viewer.
Her practice working in oils is slow and meticulous, and she can often spend weeks on a painting. So it may come as a surprise that Walker looked to Melbourne-based street artist Rone to mentor her as she explored street art through a Guildhouse Catapult Mentorship.
She selected Rone because she admires his large-scale figurative work and his use of paint and brushes instead of aerosols. She also wanted to learn how Rone operates as a creative professional. “Rone is shifting,” she says. “His practice is moving to [be] more experience based. He took an old house and painted his imagery all over the inside and people paid to walk through. I was interested to see that progression.”
Rone offered Walker a short masterclass in January 2020 and she arrived in Melbourne just as the bushfires were at their peak. Melbourne was covered in smoke and Walker knew that many animals would be suffering as the fires burned out of control.
It was an intense mentorship week with many informative conversations, leading Rone to organise a wall on the exterior of an electric substation for Walker to paint. The wall was covered in tags and graffiti, which Walker used as a backdrop to paint two kangaroos. “Passers-by asked me if I was going to paint over it, but I wanted to leave the wall as it was, to talk about how animals adapt to their environments.”
Walker is now working from home having moved out of her studio at Fleurieu Arthouse in response to COVID-19. Another impact has been the cancellation of the Other Art Fair in Sydney where she was due to exhibit several of her large horse portraits. Due to the restrictions, she has stopped her regular charcoal drawing classes, but is using this time to film her classes and put them online.
She says though, “This is a silver lining of COVID – I’m finding the time to learn new things, it’s an opportunity to focus on my practice in down time.”