Aaron Sutton — South Walton’s colorblind artist
April 15, 2011 1:26 PM
By Deborah Wheeler at The Walton Sun
Aaron Sutton says he has been an artist since he was a little kid and spent his time drawing pictures of his classmates.
That little kid is now 30 and makes his living as an artist along the beaches of South Walton.
When he is not doing graphic design for a local real estate company, Sutton can probably be found outdoors — on the beaches of one of the state parks or in one of the local resort’s parks doing what he loves to do — paint.
What he paints is whatever he sees, whether it’s people, the beach, the gulf, the local wildlife, or Seaside Chapel.
Sutton’s ability to pick up on his surroundings is astounding, unless you consider, as he says, “When you have a disability, your other senses are heightened.”
Sutton’s disability is that he is color blind.
When asked how he knows what colors to put on his canvases, he jokes, “The names of the colors are on the tubes.”
“I learned how to work with it — and to my advantage. Some people are overly concerned about color. But people see color combinations in my paintings they wouldn’t have expected but that turned out cool,” he said.
Surprisingly, however, Sutton’s use of color combinations seems to mesh perfectly, or they appear to have been purposely mis-matched to create an outstandingly mesmerizing scene that captures a viewer’s attention.
Painting mostly on canvas with acrylics, Sutton stretches the canvas himself.
“I build everything that I can myself,” he said.
The artist moved to South Walton 3 and a half years ago from Lubbock, Texas, with no real ties to the area.
“My wife and I met at Texas Tech and when we got married we decided to go somewhere different and came here,” he says nonchalantly.
His main goal in choosing the beach was to be inspired and do more painting, he says.
Sutton was familiar with the area as he had vacationed here previously, and had even lived here for a summer. In addition, he got engaged here.
“I moved here right after college and surfed for a while,” he said.
Sutton’s artwork is carried by the Blue Giraffe at WaterColor, where the artist sometimes does painting demos and paints onsite.
Aaron Sutton: Paint it Like You See It
the Thirty- A Review | May / June 2010
by Lauren Gall
The oldest known paintings in the world are located in France and claimed, by some historians, to be about 32,000 years old. They depict horses, rhinoceros, lions, buffalo, mammoth or humans often hunting, which was the primary “pastime” of the day. Aaron Sutton, the artist, doesn’t exactly paint these types of things. Instead, he paints what he sees throughout the beautiful beach communities along Highway 30-A. Whether the pastime of the day is surfing, swimming, biking, or simply a family vacationing and basking in the golden sun, Sutton is painting it…daily.
The 28-year-old artist was born and raised deep in the heart of San Antonio, Texas, as the oldest of four children. Throughout his childhood, he moved around a lot, as his father was a pastor, which helped develop his awareness of the world around him. His mother recognized his creative abilities at an early age and encouraged him to develop his talents.
“My parents recognized that I had a knack for drawing when I was young and always encouraged me in it. I guess my first real excitement came when I won ‘best of show’ out of all the third graders in Houston, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. They had a big art contest at the rodeo, so I drew a Western scene with horses, gunfighters and mountains and won the contest. I got this massive trophy and free tickets to the rodeo…. I will never forget that. I still have the drawing. It’s dusty and full of cobwebs, but I still have it! That definitely made a huge impression on me,” says Sutton.
Throughout his elementary, junior high and high school days, Sutton entered and won just about every art contest that was available to him. His senior year of high school, he was awarded a Gold Key Portfolio for the best high school portfolio in all of West Texas and received an exclusive scholarship to Texas Tech University for being one of the top local high school artists in 1999.
While at Texas Tech, Sutton discovered painting and, needless to say, has been “hooked” ever since. Upon graduation, with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Sutton was offered an MFA program. He and his wife, Emily, turned down the offer and ultimately decided to, instead, move to the quaint area of Northwest Florida, known as 30-A. When asked what makes this area so artistically inspirational to him, he quickly responds, “When you come to 30-A, there are certainly a variety of people that live here and vacation here. However, the groups that stand out to me the most are the families. Certainly, it helps that we have sparkling waters, white beaches, picture-perfect villages and landscape… but I always come back to the people I see. When you combine the elements of family, friends and the surroundings, it provides a wealth of inspiration to create from. When you paint about family, friends and romance, you add a story to the work… it’s no longer just about form and color.”
…he paints what he sees throughout the beautiful
beach communities along Highway 30-A.
What most people don’t know is that Sutton is redgreen and blue-violet colorblind. When asked how he overcomes this challenge while creating, he responds, “I always love to joke around with people and say ‘you know I am just thankful they put the color name on the tube so that I know what it is.’ In reality, that helps a lot, but it is a small part of what I have to do. I have done tons of memorization. I also try not to worry about colo rand paint only by what I feel is ‘warm’ or ‘cool.’ If I can paint feeling this, most of the time the painting is believable because temperature and value is more important than color. Also I try to go back to what my painting mentor, Ken Dixon, used to tell me back at Texas Tech… don’t worry about color, just paint it the way you see it.”
Judging from his work, Sutton is doing just that…and more. “I want to inspire people with my paintings, encourage them and help them remember what is really important in life. God has blessed us very much. I believe, as an artist, I have a responsibility to remind people of the simple blessings God gives us in our lives… and that might come in a symbol of our freedom, a sunrise or a smile from a person who has been with you your entire life. As a Christian, I believe in God and that this time on earth is just a glimpse. I’ve got a reason to live and paint because this is not the end. It’s only a beginning.”
World far from black and white for color-blind artist
May 11, 2009 2:08 PM, The Destin Log
by Fraser Sherman
Color blindness isn’t stopping South Walton’s Aaron Sutton from painting daily scenes of life on C.R. 30-A.
“It is a challenge and it has caused me to mess up a few paintings,” Sutton, who’s blind to both red/green and violet/blue differences, told The Log. “I remember accidentally painting a face of a person green … It’s interesting to think that what I paint may look completely different to me than to someone else.”
Sutton said he’s been painting and sketching as long as he can remember, whether drawing on his parents’ walls while growing up in Texas, or winning elementary school art contests, starting with a Best of Show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in third grade.
After graduating college, Sutton said, he wanted to become a professional artist, but had no idea how to start. The influence and inspiration of Texas artists John White and Greg Goodnight changed that; Sutton said working in Goodnight’s studio for a year was a better art education than four years of college.
A year ago, Sutton — who’d become familiar with 30-A through vacationing there — decided that the natural beauty and the family atmosphere made it a perfect source of artistic inspiration. He and his wife made the move, and he now works as marketing director for Beach Properties of Florida in Grayton Beach and owns a Web and graphic design business, Pure White Design.
Despite his color-blindness, he said, “I can still feel what ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ colors are. I also work with a lot of neutral and gray colors early in the process of a painting. That helps me to get the values right.”
Sutton said his method is similar to grisaille, a Renaissance painting technique in which images were executed first in gray, then layered over with color. He said he also asks his wife’s input as to whether a color choice works.
Since moving to 30-A, Sutton has adopted the practices of the “daily painting” movement, where artists commit to produce a painting at least five days out of the week; Sutton said he hasn’t been able to maintain that pace, but he’s painting more in South Walton than he has since college, and posting the results to his blog.
“I thought that by having a daily blog, it would motivate me to paint more often and really soak in all the great local color,” Sutton said.
“Another goal of the daily painting movement is to create quick paintings that are more affordable. If someone subscribes to my daily painting e-mail list they get paintings in their e-mail to enjoy every time I post a new one to the blog. I have had some great feedback from a few 30-A locals, and out-of-towners as well.”
Sutton said he works with heavy body acrylics, usually over canvas or boards covered with layers of a primer called gesso to make the painting smooth. He said he also does woodworking with pieces of local driftwood and mesquite and juniper from Texas.
His long-term goals, Sutton said, are to keep improving, to see how God blesses his career and to promote family values through art: “I want to point people to what truly matters. Life is simple and fulfilling when we get to know God and when we invest our time in the people that matter most, our family.”
If that doesn’t lead to a full-time artistic career, Sutton said, he’s still satisfied as long as he’s painting: “No matter what I do, I can’t fight the bug to create with my mind and with my hands. I have to do it or things just aren’t right!”