HomeCinnaminson News'Art teaches you to keep on pushing'

‘Art teaches you to keep on pushing’

Eastern grad is an award-winning animator, screenwriter and voice actor

Albert J. Countryman Jr./The Sun
Artist Ben Sutherland and his mother, Natalie Sutherland, display the poster promoting his first animated film, “Kythera Zero,” during his talk on filmmaking and screenwriting at the Cinnaminson library.

As a child Ben Sutherland, an award-winning animator, screenwriter and voice actor, faced many obstacles.

“I was born with severe health issues,” the Gibbsboro resident recalled. “I had food allergies, I couldn’t move my right hand and as a child I had to wear a leg brace.”

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Now at 27, his animated film “Kythera Zero” has won awards and is a hit with the younger generation on social media.

“Those impairments haven’t slowed me down. Instead, they made me stronger,” said Sutherland, a 2015 Eastern High School graduate.

The award-winning animator made a recent presentation about filmmaking at the Cinnaminson library that was sponsored by the Willingboro Art Alliance and the Burlington County Art Guild.

“I can run now. I never thought I would be able to do that. Art teaches you to keep on pushing,” noted Sutherland, who credited his parents, John and Natalie Sutherland, and his grandfather, John La Torre, for inspiring him to become an artist.

“I had an early fascination for animation watching Saturday morning cartoons, and have a strong love for “Looney Tunes,” he remembered. “My mother has been an art teacher for years. My parents had owned a family frame shop in Voorhees for 15 plus years.”

That family recently opened the Sutherland Arts Studio and Gallery at Cooper Corner, on Kresson-Gibbsboro Road in Voorhees, where Sutherland has set up his animation studio, YGKrow.

“When I was 12, I was working at the frame shop,” said Sutherland, who attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia after graduating from Eastern. “I learned what was appealing in a color sense. I remember when my dad framed a David Akers jersey. I was excited, even though I was not a football fan.

“It was stunning the type of artwork I was exposed to at the frame shop.”

Sutherland majored in animation and minored in screenwriting, earning a bachelor of fine arts degree. Ironically, his mom attended the Moore College of Art – also in Philadelphia – before graduating from Rowan University with a degree in art history and education.

“I am very proud of Ben. I am his biggest fan,” said Natalie Sutherland, who helped her son set up his library presentation. “He is the assistant director at the studio and keeps everything going.”

Besides his parents, the young artist also credited his grandfather for giving him an appreciation for art and music.

“My grandfather was a heavy inspiration for me. His band was called John La Torre and the Rhythm Rockets,” said Sutherland, adding that LaTorre was the first of his family born in the U.S.

“Twice they were supposed to be on national television, but they got bumped by Elvis Presley,” he continued. “He wrote a children’s book, and I will illustrate it. I have a great respect for grandpop.”

Sutherland is currently working on a new film that will come out in late March. His ideas for his fast-moving, action-packed animated movies come from old-style cartoons, comic books and Japanese anime.

Lisa Hendrickson of the Willingboro Art Alliance said of the library presentation, “We try to offer a wide variety of mediums for our monthly free presentations. This is the first time we have had an animation artist. We are very excited to have Ben here today.”

In conjunction with the Burlington County Art Guild, the art programs are held every fourth Saturday of every month either at the Cinnaminson library or the Burlington County branch in Southampton. They are simultaneously broadcast via Zoom.

The alliance is the oldest arts nonprofit in South Jersey, having been founded in 1964. It strives to help local artists through exhibits at galleries and monthly presentations. For information, go to bcls.org.

The Burlington County Art Guild promotes the growth of visual art and artists through workshops, exhibitions, competitions and peer awareness, and gives their members a chance to exhibit and sell their art.

For information, go to burlcoartguild.com. For more on Ben Sutherland’s new film and upcoming projects, visit www.studioygkrow.com.

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