Miner or artist? – Curious bedfellows pave way to promising new career

4 August 2017

Jacob Sarra is a skilled mining truck operator at New Acland Mine but outside of work hours has a real talent in Aboriginal art.

With a fascination for astronomy, Jacob’s paintings explore a contemporary take on traditional Aboriginal art.

"The Dreamtime is full of stories about the stars and space and Aboriginal people have been using the night sky to navigate the land and track the tides for thousands of years," Jacob said.

"My paintings allow me to explore astronomy and these Dreamtime stories visually.

"I’m a descendant of the Goreng Goreng people near Bundaberg and it was my father who first taught to me paint and gave me a real appreciation for Aboriginal art.

"Dad paints too and his art tell stories about the different paths people take in life."

New Acland Mine rosters have come in handy for Jacob as demand for his paintings grow.

"My roster gives me blocks of 4 or 5 days off in a row and I’ve been able to use that time to really hone in on my art and growing my business," Jacob said.

"I get a few hours of painting in after work but on my days off I usually can paint for anywhere between 6 to 8 hours."

Jacob’s first introduction to the art scene started young during his childhood years when his favourite cartoon introduced him to the great Renaissance artists.

"I was a real Ninja Turtles fan growing up and all of the characters are named after the Renaissance greats like Michelangelo and Donatello," Jacob said.

"It sounds funny but because I loved the cartoon I started researching who all the characters were named after and it introduced me to all of the amazing Renaissance artists.

"That started my love affair with art and got me interested in sketching and painting and different things like that.

"As I grew older and connected more deeply with my Aboriginal heritage, I transitioned into Aboriginal art and really found my niche."

Well versed in the natural affinity children have with art, Jacob has also started bringing Aboriginal art to primary school students.

"I’ve really enjoyed visiting schools and introducing young kids to Aboriginal art and the Dreamtime," Jacob said.

"During my visit we’ll explore a Dreamtime story, like the story of Tiddalik the frog, and I help the kids understand how the story is reflected in Aboriginal paintings.

"Encouraging students to pick up their paintbrushes and have a go on their own has been a real hit and it’s a great way to introduce them to Aboriginal culture."

But art isn’t Jacob’s only passion. Another is reading – and he’s found a way to combine the two.

After successfully ticking 60 books off his reading list over the past 12 months, Jacob uses his Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation ‘hat’ to bring them together.

"As an ambassador I spread awareness about the Foundation and ten percent of my painting sales are donated to their important work.

"Growing up I took being able to read for granted but as I got older I began to understand how important reading is and how big a difference it can make to your life.

"The Foundation does a lot of great work in literacy with children in remote Indigenous communities across Australia and I feel really privileged to play a small role in supporting them."

You can learn more about Jacob’s artwork on his Facebook and Instagram pages @JacobSarraArt and @jacobsarra_art.