2 February 2018

February Profile - THE ARTIST

Back in January I kick-started my wonderful new monthly profile series.

Over the course of twelve months, I am interviewing a range of creative, enthusiastic and dedicated professionals, passionate about their respective areas of expertise and willing to share the love for their subject with you all.

I hope that these interviews will be inspiring, helpful for those wishing to pursue similar careers, and most importantly, an interesting and insightful read.

The response we've had so far has been fantastic! I am therefore really excited to introduce you all to my February profile, Sarah Elizabeth Butler - artist, illustrator, and creator of utterly beautiful things.

T H E  A R T I S T 

Sarah Elizabeth Butler, Freelance Artist

How did you initially become interested in art and drawing? 

I have had a strong passion for art for as long as I can remember, and was always drawing and making things as a young child. In fact, I spent little time doing anything else according to my family! When I was about 7, I would spend hours and hours creating tiny intricate hand drawn maps of imagined magical lands.

I remember when I was about 14, I was in a restaurant on a family trip to Bruges and the owner noticed me sketching away in my journal. He came over with his wife and their new baby, and asked if I would mind doing a sketch of their baby! I was thrilled that someone I’d never met had asked me to draw for them so, of course, I said yes. They seemed pleased with the drawing and, much to my surprise, gave me 10€ as a thank-you - that was my first ever commission!

How did you go about pursuing your interest in art? What did you study at school and university?

It was never really a conscious choice; art was my main passion and I just knew that I had to pursue it. Throughout my time at school (from age 10 to 18), I was asked to design various posters, tickets and programmes for events such as school productions, concerts and RAG week, and I also received two art scholarships. It wasn’t until during A Levels that I began taking on various commissions for portraits, including my first ever horse painting.

I owe a lot to my art teachers who taught me through GCSE and A Level Art; they really pushed me to my limits and made me the best I could be. It’s so important to break out of your comfort zone creatively, as it’s often then that you find the most exciting, and unexpected, results. They also supported me through university applications, which led on to me studying a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at University College Falmouth, later followed by BA (Hons) Drawing at Falmouth University. This was a brand-new course (in fact I entered the second ever year group!)

Sarah Elizabeth Butler, Freelance Artist

How would you describe your work? Are there certain places or topics which inspire you?

Weirdly, I sometimes have to stop and think when I am asked to describe my work! There are so many areas within ‘Fine Art’ that interest me, that I find it hard to pigeonhole myself into any one category. I often have a few side-line projects on the go, where I explore new art forms and processes (lino printing, illustrative commissions etc.)

Landscape Painting/Drawing - My main practice (where I am at my most expressive) is about the landscape and all its hidden treasures; from the ever-changing colours, to the intricate patterns and textures found in the tiniest of things. With quirky fun little details (such as tiny birds or little castles on the horizon), my work depicts an amalgamation that lies somewhere between the ‘real world’ and whispers of a half-remembered, half-imagined landscape. I often seek inspiration from the Quantocks, Exmoor and coastal walks around the South West.

More Illustrative Work - I also have a more illustrative side to my work, where I can satisfy my need for insane detail. Typical works include ink and watercolour drawings of animals (mostly chickens and game birds), fine pen work illustrations and drawings (either from life or from my mind), as well as various commissions such as pet portraits and wedding invitations.

Are there any role models or artists who you look up to?

My grandad was an exceptional artist and he gave me all of his works when I was about 11, once his eyesight was too poor to see them properly. He really inspired me to follow my dreams and to pursue drawing. Tina Stokes, my uncle’s partner, is also an inspirational artist who I admire greatly and often look to for guidance and inspiration.

I often look to various other artists for inspiration. For landscape painting, to name just a few, I particularly enjoy the works of Stewart Edmondson, Kurt Jackson, Amanda Hoskin, Ann Blockley, Michael Morgan RI & David A Parfitt RI. They all have extremely varied, but exciting and colourful processes and techniques.

For more general drawing, a few artists who I admire greatly include Lin Xue (fantastically detailed Venice Biennale Drawings), Käthe Kollwitz (whose museum I have visited in Berlin) and Salvador Dalí (particularly his vibrant illustrations from his ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Biblia Sacra’ works in Bruges).

Sarah Elizabeth Butler, Freelance Artist

How does drawing feature in your everyday life? What does a typical day working on your pieces look like?

No two days are the same! It depends what I am working on and how creative I am feeling. Generally, for a studio day, I will get up around 7:30am, grab a coffee and start making a plan for the day. It takes me a while to get in the zone and usually I won’t actually start any artwork until late morning/midday. I work much better in the afternoon and even into the early hours of the night if I’m on a roll! I work best when listening to music or the radio and I will get through copious amounts of coffee!

On non-studio days, I might go for walks to take photos, look for ideas, do sketches etc. If I’m not working, then I am often thinking about it (how to tackle a painting that’s just not working, or new ideas I want to try). Sometimes I even dream about a painting and I have to frantically scribble down the idea when I wake up, before I forget it. I usually have journals and sketchbooks on the go so that I can jot down any project ideas and sketches wherever I am.

What are the best bits about drawing for a living? 

It’s my absolute favourite thing to do! The fact I can make some income from it just means I can afford to dedicate more time to it, which is great. I am also my own boss! I have freedom in what I work on and when I work.

And the worst bits...? 

Being an artist can be quite a solitary life, so you need to make sure you put yourself out there. I also suffer from artistic block, which can last for days, weeks or sometimes even months! Once I am in this rut, it can be very hard to bring myself back. Although sometimes, all it will take is something really simple like watching the sunset and suddenly an idea will spark and it’s like that part of my brain has come out of sleep mode!

Sarah Elizabeth Butler, Freelance Artist

Where would you like to see yourself and your art in a few years' time?

Ultimately, I would love to become more recognised and to make my art into a sustainable career. Money isn’t the reason I paint or draw, but if I was in the position where I could paint and draw everyday of the week, that would be living the dream!

Finally, do you have any advice for others looking to pursue an interest or a career in drawing? 

If anyone wants to pursue drawing as a career, firstly I would highly recommend the BA (Hons) Drawing course at Falmouth University. It’s intensive and it really pushes the boundaries of drawing, covering a wide range of ‘Drawing’ uses, processes and techniques.

More generally, anyone can draw – it’s not about how good you are! If you enjoy drawing then just keep doing it! Draw everyday and don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things. For years I was afraid of working on a large scale and my GCSE/A Level Art teacher kept pushing me to go bigger and bigger. My final degree piece consisted of two 11ft long ink drawings! With hard work, patience and an open mind it’s amazing what you can achieve.

Sarah Elizabeth Butler is a freelance artist based in Somerset. For further examples of her work, or for more information about commissions, visit her website www.sebutler.co.uk or her Facebook page. Her next exhibition is ‘Whispers of a Landscape’ at the Corinium Museum in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, running from Thursday 12th April {private view} to Sunday 6th May 2018.

Take a look at the other monthly profiles here:
January Profile - THE THEATRE MAKER

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