Meet Stu

I’ve always struggled with what I wanted to be when I grew up. At kindy, I wanted to be a cop.

Stuart Sutherland

Written by Stu Sutherland

10 July 2020 | 5 Minute(s) to read

I’ve always struggled with what I wanted to be when I grew up. At kindy, I wanted to be a cop. Then for a long time I wanted to be a stop-go man which then turned to becoming a viticulturist, then a pilot, then towards the end of high school, settling on being a designer. I don’t know why it took me so long to realise that’s what I should be. My love, passion and skill for art and design was a constant growing up. So, when it came to actually deciding on what I was going to do at Uni, I landed on studying at the College of Creative Arts at Massey, Wellington.


Mum and Dad were supportive and excited with a hint of scepticism. They were in agreement I could handle the course, but none of us were totally sure what kind of job was waiting for me out the other end. I had 4 years to figure that one out, so it was all good. Uni was fun, a lot of work and late nights which would set me up well for my first job in the industry. I ended up gravitating towards the graphic design and Illustration papers. Graphic design was going to get me the job and Illustration was for fun and the two skills complimented each other. My final project was based on getting young adults to prepare for disaster. It was an excuse to illustrate 5 posters with apocalyptic New Zealand imagery which my wife was nice enough to model for. All the people in the posters are variations of the two of us. My illustration style was a mix of realistic and comic book. I do the majority of my personal work on the computer. Not a huge fan of paints or watercolour, too permanent. I need ctrl-z.

New Zealand Apocalypse. My final project at University, a mock campaign encouraging young adults to prepare for disaster.

University project. The assignment? Choose a movie and re-design the poster using digital illustration techniques.


My wife and I decided after finishing Uni that Wellington was going to be in short supply of design jobs. Everyone in our year were planning on staying so we decided we would try our luck in Auckland which worked out for the best. I was offered a job at one of the leading advertising agencies in the country, Colenso BBDO. Famous for many of New Zealand’s favourite adverts. Tip Top’s “Togs, Togs, undies” BASF’s “Dear John” and the Crunchie bar train. Working with Colenso gave me the opportunity to work on some of the biggest brands in New Zealand. Every day I would spend my time working on adverts for Spark, BNZ, Fonterra, VW, Burger King and Samsung just to name a few.

Working in advertising gave me a great perspective on the process of creating campaigns for clients and keeping those campaigns consistent across a wide range of media. I worked in the studio, first as a Junior then as the Co-ordinator. We would work with the creative department to finalise the artwork for the campaign and roll it out across all its media placements. It was awesome to see the artwork we had worked on all over Auckland. My wife found it very exhausting driving around Auckland hearing “I worked on that” at every second bus stop we passed. It was not uncommon to see 4-5 adverts I had worked on driving to work.

I loved my time in advertising. I’ll never forget the work, the culture, and the close friends I made along the way. But, after 6 years, my wife and I both decided it was time to relocate back to Taranaki. Both being from smaller towns, we wanted to be closer to family, and to start our own. 

Illustrations I've done over the last few years. The first two were part of 'Craft Club'. Each month we did a project based around a theme. These themes here were 'Pirates' and 'Space'. The 3rd image is a gift for my wife or Yosemite National Park USA.


Moving back to New Plymouth was a great call, and I was very lucky to get in touch with Mandy and start at Smokeylemon. The last two years feel like they have flown by (even during lock down). I’ve always wanted to get back into illustration or painting, however the recent arrival of my daughter has put those plans back on hold. Now I’m starting to get into Photography, being lucky enough to shoot some of the recent regattas for the New Plymouth Yacht Club. I’ve also dipped my toe into video production. Making some over-the top-travel videos for the family when we go away overseas. They aren’t so keen on having a GoPro follow them around when they are trying to enjoy their holiday, but they appreciate being able to re-watch it afterwards, especially with no overseas travel on the horizon anytime soon. 

At Smokeylemon I enjoy everything design. From big rebrands to business cards, I apply the skills and knowledge I developed in Auckland and apply it to the work here in New Plymouth. 


Out on the water photographing the 2020 Laser Nationals in New Plymouth. Photo by Emma Hatch



I have no shortage of motivation to get back into illustration and artwork, also taking my photography, video and animation skills further. I just need to figure out where to start and set some time aside each weekend to work away on it. Maybe I’ll start this weekend.