We catch up with Jason Butler, a Jersey based painter producing some outstanding realistic and conceptual paintings. We chat to him about his background and new exhibition plans for 2015.
Where are you from?
I was born in Nottingham but came here as a baby as my family is from Jersey. My dad was playing professional football for Birmingham City and returned to the island shortly after I was born.
When did you first get into art?
As a child, when I wasn’t playing football, I was drawing, mainly cartoon characters and footballers! I was always being told by teachers and friends I had artistic talent but it didn’t ever really register that it could be something I could do in life. Then when I was 13 and showing no sign of any interest in school or academic studies, Mark Blanchard became the art teacher at De La Salle. That was when everything changed.
He is one of the main reasons I am doing what I do now. He encouraged me to come in to the art room and draw whenever I wanted, which very quickly became all of the time. I would stay behind after school, listening to Mark’s music and being educated by him in a very subtle way about life outside of Jersey and the fact I could think about being an artist. I also learned very early on through Mark’s influence about the old masters. To this day, this was invaluable guidance.
I think the key to understanding any discipline is to know it’s history so I look at all genres
Where did you study your craft?
I went to Bristol for my Foundation Course and then Cheltenham for my degree. I actually think I have learned my craft from working very hard at it and making a lot of mistakes in my studio rather than anything in particular at college. I had very little technical advice at university. It was more beneficial in terms of intellectual and conceptual input. There is so much to learn as a painter. This is the most exciting thing about it.
WHICH ARTISTS HAVE INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST?
There really are too many to mention. I think the key to understanding any discipline is to know it’s history so I look at all genres. My ‘Premier’ painters would have to be the likes of Rembrandt, Goya, Titian, Velazquez, Manet and Van Dycke. They never fail to amaze me every time I see their work, particularly when I visit the National Gallery in London. Much of the time it is also artists who are not painters working in different disciplines who also stimulate ideas and opinions.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR STYLE OF WORK:
I really try not to think in terms of ‘style’. In my portrait based work I try to ensure the paintings are not just successful in terms of creating a likeness but also exist as paintings in their own right where anyone can appreciate them without needing to know the sitter. My conceptual paintings are research-based and develop over a long period of time. My current body of work ‘Seekers and Speakers’ has been ongoing for several years and has evolved over that time.
WHAT PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE COMING UP?
I will at some point in 2015 be exhibiting ‘Seekers and Speakers’. This will be both on and off island. I also have a number of commissions I will be working on over the coming months. I tend not to work on specific projects, as long as I am in the studio developing the work that is all that matters.
IF YOU HAD TO PASS ON ONE TIP TO AN ASPIRING ARTIST, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
My advice to any aspiring artist would be to be very very careful about taking advice…