Denver is full of awesome opportunities for local artists. From the vibrant mural scene spearheaded by CRUSH in the RiNo neighborhood to all the gorgeous galleries in the Santa Fe art district, there is tons of support for local artists like David Brookton.
Queer artist Brookton is a software engineer and interdisciplinary media artist who graduated with a BFA from the University of Colorado Boulder. His signature pieces are created by using sharpie and watercolor on canvas, two opposing media types. He hopes his paintings change throughout history, just as he would. Brookton works out of his Denver studio and enjoys recontextualizing classical sculpture in contemporary media.
OUT FRONT had the pleasure of chatting more with Brookton about his upcoming exhibit at the Millers & Rossi in the RiNo neighborhood. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @davidbrookton to explore more of his work.
Hi, David! Thank you so much for chatting with me today! How does it feel to have your art displayed at Millers & Rossi?
Of course! And it is such an honor. I am incredibly humbled. I have been out as gay since I was 16, so it is very cool to feel supported by the LGBTQ community where I grew up.
What can attendees expect to see at this exhibit?
A lot of colorful ink, sharpie, and watercolor canvases.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your art?
To me, art communicates the human experience. Beauty anchors me to the world, so I honor it through painting. I paint in permanent marker and watercolor to render my own lens in a more poetic way. Permanent, black marks on canvas are enduring and everlasting, while watercolor is ephemeral and inevitably fades or dulls with the passage of time.
For me, color is my clever language of abstracted feelings. I use it to mask hidden gray, gloomy, black and white drawings with bright, joyful, vibrant, and saturated, pastel rainbow paintings. Color is my act of rebellion; it liberates me from my narrative and grants me control to define what I observe in a more personal way.
Rainbow hues bring me great joy. I find harmony in the full spectrum of the color wheel. Painting in this way also celebrates my identity as a gay man. It signifies freedom to love, and not only brings me deep satisfaction, but is essential to my life and my process. In some works, I favor the black sharpie by itself. There is an undeniable minimalism and sophistication to the contrast of black lines, and I use them to communicate my experience as well.
Have you always had a passion for artistry?
Yes. I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was a little kid, and I kind of relentlessly fought against everything telling me not to do it. I love being creative.
And in addition to painting, you also dabble in design and photography?
Yes. I did some design for Anna Kendrick and did a big photo series in L.A. for a while. I moved out there after I got my BFA at Boulder.
What is your favorite thing to paint? Landscapes, people, abstract, what?
I really like to paint statues. More like ancient statues, historic statues, busts of people. I find landscapes to be very peaceful to paint as well.
Who would you say are some of your biggest artistic influences?
Actually, you have interviewed quite a few of them. RuPaul’s Drag Race. I would say that drag queens are a huge influence in a lot of ways. Maybe not so literally, but Alaska has been huge. Yvie Oddly, Katya, but as far as, like, formal, visual artists, I guess I would say I am influenced by some contemporary, queer artists that I connect with on Instagram, like Scott Young, Jonathan Saiz, and Haley Dixon. And there’s Patrick Church in New York. He greatly inspires me.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
Hopefully just, like, a new understanding or appreciation for imagination, like understanding a landscape or an artifact differently. And hopefully an appreciation for a lot of different colors and certainly just a lot of color usage.
Do you like your work to comment on current social or political issues?
I do hope to get a lot more into that. I certainly want to use art as a platform to comment on political issues. I think it is just one of those things that you can do easily once you have solid backing. Like, once you have established your voice as an artist, I think it’s easier to do that. I certainly value artists who do so.
How would you say your art is unique and stands out from the million other artists in the world?
I tend to think that the use of sharpies and watercolors are not a very common practice. So, I think my media kind of stands out as well as, like, my sort of scribble approach to figure.
Will any of the proceeds from this exhibition be donated?
Twenty percent of the proceeds will be donated to Wildlife Protection Solutions. Essentially, they have cameras strapped around trees all around Africa, and they, in real time, prevent poaching, and they send images using artificial intelligence to local authorities across the different countries in Africa when they detect poaching. It just protects wildlife across the globe. It’s an organization that I heavily support.
What is the local art scene in Denver like? Have you encountered any backlashes for being an openly gay artist?
I find the local art scene to be super accepting. I think maybe, separate from my identity, being a new artist in general is a little tricky, and it can be hard to get your foot in the door and in the right places. Overall, I would say that the queer community is super supportive, and I am thankful that I identify as gay, because it certainly gives a better sense of community. There are many more like-minded individuals in the Denver community.
Do you follow any artistic trends, or do you tend to do your own thing?
That’s a great question. I tend to do my own thing, but I am heavily influenced by visual art throughout time. So, maybe not so much trends, but pop culture for sure.
What advice would you give those who wish to pursue an art career?
I think the best advice I have seen lately came from Lizzo. She did an Instagram post recently where she said she felt like she was just making music and sending it into the ether, and nobody cared or listened or paid attention. Then, suddenly, it all kind of worked out for her. For me, I think my advice would be along those lines. Patience is the name of the game, and failure and rejection are incredibly common. So, just be patient and kind to yourself, but don’t give up.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
It’s cliché, but just to be myself. Being an artist, the only thing that you have that makes you unique is your story and experience of the world. So, the more honest you are and the truer you are to yourself, it will come through in your work.
Follow Brookton on Instagram and Twitter @davidbrookton to explore more of his work.
Art provided by David Brookton