Will Sutton
Painting & Drawing

As a teenager Will Sutton (American, b. 1999) Will found a connection between himself and family in the form of shared mental health problems, leading him to pursue positive outlets to place difficult feelings and tendencies. Through countercultural expression like skateboarding and punk rock, Will developed a passion for the visual culture of skateboard graphics, cartooning, and album covers. These interests led him to developing an art practice centered around drawing.  Will Sutton’s studio and curatorial practice centered around finding connections in the community, friendship, and counterculture based on mental struggle.

Using the language of drawing, Will has developed a narrative universe of characters he calls Critters. Sutton has shown in several group exhibitions in Chattanooga, he will be attending residency at Stoveworks in the summer of 2022.

Images of Death of Hatboy, 2022

Artist Statement:

Over the last two years, I have developed the body of work I call CritterWorld. This cultivated universe created through drawings, paintings, collages, and sculpture is inspired by my teen years living with a family member on the weekends who experienced severe symptoms of mental illness. This time pushed me to consider how struggling individuals take up tactics or habits to reduce their pain.

Watching television was a key activity in spending time with them during their recovery. In reflecting on my lifelong love for animation, I realized that cartoon characters have the potential to reflect real-life experience alongside the imaginary and intangible. In these qualities, I found a conceptual connection for the need to escape the negatives of one's mind, while still resembling the body in form. By developing a consistent character look and style, I aimed to create a body of work that provided me with a positive alternative to replicating addictive strategies and obsessions.

The recurring creatures, cleverly named by my mom as Critters, are visually inspired by the styles and approaches of American cartoonists and animators. By using illustrative softness and humor, I can work through challenging material without directly showing everything. I use text in relation to these figures to lead the viewer through broken sentences and phrases that build to the meaning of each work and greater conclusion of the body. Through the process of creating text and repetitive occurrences of these characters, I found that I can use the qualities of drawing and painting to bring my audience into a controlled, fictitious visual universe. DEATH OF HATBOY follows the character HATBOY’s entrapment in the Critterworld leading to the subsequent battle against CRITTAMAN, the evil master of the universe.

DEATH OF HATBOY sets the stage for the emergence of a new character named Hatboy, and his struggle against an evil spirit named CRITTAMAN who aims to make him wound himself.


Scene 1

Late afternoon behind a gas station in the southern suburb, Redbankbank. The smell from a nearby dumpster is sour and makes Hatboy’s eyes sting. The waxed yellow curb behind the store made for the ideal skateboarding spot. Nearby Two rats fight over a discarded piece of pizza crust. A siren blares as a car full of cops with buzzcuts surges past.

Hatboy, to himself: This shit is starting to suck. Shoulda knew what was coming, a mysterious joint on the ground. I have no clue what was in it.

Crittaman: Sometimes things fall apart. Sometimes new things form in the rubble.

Hatboy, wincing: Fuck you, goofy ass rabbit man!

Hatboy, to himself: I really shouldn’t have smoked that shit.

Crittaman: Shoulda knew It Worser Done bad

Hatboy, pushes his wool hat back onto his face to cover the sun from his eyes. He stares indiscretely, he hears Crittaman but has yet to see ever him.

Hatboy, to himself: I need to draw, its been too long. My head hurts.

A dark, thunderous cloud quickly raises above the landscape. It begins to rain over the city of Redbankbank.